How Restaurants Can Join the Virtual Event Trend

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Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

The COVID-19 pandemic has shut down most in-person businesses, not just restaurants. Many offices that would regularly order catering or have office events moved to work from home setups. For many restaurants that rely on offices as regular customers, it was a devastating blow but many companies are hosting virtual events to keep morale up during isolation.

Many other people are desperate for new experiences during isolation. Many foods, alcohol, and music festivals have moved to a digital venue that includes live streaming, curated food and drink as well as personalized meet and greets. Providing experiences to people stuck at home has become a trend any restaurant can take advantage of.

Here’s how your restaurant can capitalize on experiences during the pandemic.

Entertainment

Live music isn’t dead during the pandemic. Many music and food festivals that heavily featured live music have moved to a digital platform. It is possible to pair catering with live-streamed music to create a curated experience similar to a private box concert.

Many platforms can accommodate private live streams for commercial purposes but a simple place to start is existing video platforms like Zoom, YouTube or Twitch. Coordinated food delivery should also be simple if participants are local or for a wider audience mail-in food kits are also popular options.

Cooking Classes and Food/Beverage Tastings

An easy way to increase revenue and community engagement is by offering expert cooking classes and tasting. Your staff are already trained professionals that know the ins and outs of your cuisine, this is a perfect way to show off your talents.

Coordinated food delivery kits via local delivery or by mail are easy ways for customers to get everything they need for a personalized and guided cooking lesson. DIY meal kits have exploded in popularity during the pandemic, but the extra step of a personalized professional makes what would usually be a chore into an experience.

If your customers don’t want to cook, they can learn more about what they love the most. Wines, cheeses, cured meats, liquor and so much more. There is a nearly infinite amount of food that people enjoy and would love to become an amateur expert on!

Advice

Zach Geballe is a wine educator for Tom Douglas Restaurants and the owner of Disgorged Wine. Geballe has offered a series of online wine tasting classes throughout the pandemic. He constantly experiments with the medium and has grown a reputation for excellent experiences. Here is what he had to say about virtual events.

“You have to really think about what you’re trying to accomplish,” Geballe said. “Is it entertainment, education, or promotion? All of those will require different approaches. As best as you can, try to figure out who your audience is. I knew that I had to aim at folks who were looking at quarantine as a time to explore their passions. My classes are quite reasonably priced, but they, and the wines that accompany them, are definitely more expensive than many wine drinkers would be interested in, and I’m fine with that. I feel very confident that I can deliver a class experience that makes people feel very good about the $25-$35 they’ve spent on a 90 minute class.”

Similarly, Maurice DiMarino, who is the beverage manager for Cohn Restaurant Group, has rolled out numerous classes on beer, wine and various spirits. He preaches creativity, fun and new ways to surprise and delight your customers.

“I started out during the shutdown doing Zoom classes with my staff where we covered the history of different spirits,” he said. “I realized I could repurpose them and tailor them for consumers. Sure, consumers have information at their fingertips with Google, but there is something about tasting and listening to someone talk about the product that they can’t get elsewhere. They’ve been blown away by the experience.”

Virtual events increase online business as it is an excellent way for customers who enjoyed their experience can order specific products. If they are local it also increases brand awareness and possible future business.

“Anything they tasted during the classes, I offer for retail sale afterwards,” he said. “I send everyone a simple Google form where they can place orders for the things they liked. The guests come to one of our designated restaurants to pay and pick up their orders, with many of them ending up eating on the patio or doing take out. It gives guests a reason to come see us.”

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