Functions (or ‘privately booked events’) are extremely important revenue-generators that, when organised correctly, can produce more profit than regular service periods in your venue. Functions are ‘cash cows’ – in other words, if you have a function booked, you will be guaranteed a certain income for that time period, and have the ability to plan for every element of that event. This prior planning gives you the opportunity to be completely prepared for the event. If you choose to accept function pre-payments (this is where the function is paid for days or weeks prior to the event), even better – you’ll have money in the bank already.
I can’t stress enough how important functions are to your establishment. Basically, when a function is booked, it’s possible to be prepared for every aspect of the event.
There are many benefits to booking functions. You have the ability to plan accordingly for the needs of the function: including the number of guests you’ll be catering for, the categories of drinks they will order, and the time they’ll arrive. Compare this to an evening when you don’t have any functions booked: you aren’t aware of how many guests will visit your venue and you don’t know what their drink preferences are. Which do you think will be easier to manage?
Pre-booked functions remove the ‘guess’ factor from a shift – they allow you to plan your shift with a greater degree of accuracy. It’s also difficult to roster emergency staff at the very last minute if you don’t have any functions booked (and are swamped with walk-ins). So, book a function whenever you can.
To offer functions, there are certain basic services you’ll need to offer. You’ll need to be set up with facilities like an exclusive, private bar/service area (with the ability to separate the area away from the public), the ability to offer canapés/finger food, a PA system (a microphone and speakers) with a lectern, and an AV setup (an overhead projector or large computer display with the facilities to play DVDs, slideshows) with a capable sound system. This may seem like a costly fit-out, but the expense of installing this equipment will soon be returned. It’s acceptable to charge small amounts extra if your guests wish to use your overhead projector (or any other service you offer). Another idea is to find an events company who offer extra ‘props’ (and charge 10-20% extra on top of their prices).
It’s acceptable to charge ‘room hire’ or for the hire of your equipment, or (most commonly) request a pre-paid ‘minimum spend’ amount to book the area exclusively.
I recommend organising pre-payment for as many functions as you possibly can. This way, you are guaranteed income before the event, and it also removes the ‘cash-handling’ factor between function guests and your staff. Removing the ‘cash handling’ process prevents theft or dishonest conduct involving money.
‘All you can drink’ packages can generate high amounts of profit if managed properly. ‘All you can drink’ packages can be the most profitable on week-night events, when guests normally don’t consume higher levels of alcohol (for example when they have to leave early to prepare for work the next day).
‘All you can drink’ packages are probably the most risky style of function, as you may end up with a group of people who drink very quickly. So, be careful when you offer these packages. You’ll need to set your prices to cover the cost of very thirsty groups!
Listed below are some tips and tricks to help you (a) make more money and (b) efficiently execute a function:
- If you are hosting a large function or private event which offers cocktails on a pre-set drinks list, pre-make the cocktail mix before the function begins. Add the basic spirits (and any other required ingredients, excluding carbonated drinks or sparkling wines) into a large bucket or mixing pot (clean and sanitised, or course – and make sure you cover the mix with a lid or plastic film and place it in the refrigerator). Add any required carbonated mixers or sparkling wine immediately prior to serving, and remember to stir the mix before you divide it up (remember not to shake carbonated mixes!). Pre-mixing will reduce your serving time (and means you can serve more cocktails in a shorter period of time), and it will look great if you are simultaneously serving multiple cocktails from multiple shakers (customers love bar theatrics). Pre-mixing cocktails is as simple as multiplying the number of cocktails you need by the different measurements of each ingredient that goes into the mix. Remember not to mix any sparkling ingredients or add any ice until you are ready to serve the drinks (Top secret tip: you can ‘lengthen’ your mix for some pre-mixed recipes by adding appropriately flavoured fruit juice, effectively producing more cocktails for less cost. Cranberry and apple juice are great ‘lengtheners’ due to their cross compatible flavour profile As a rough estimate, add one or two parts in ten for 10-20% extra cocktail mix).
- Pre-make any garnishes you wish to use with the above-mentioned cocktails.
- Have a ‘watering station’, where guests can pour their own water. It will save you (and them) valuable time when they wish to drink water. A neatly stacked water station looks great too.
- Always have backup glassware! Enough said. Always have backup stock too.
- Have business cards ready to give away, in case you have an inquiry for another function. Some guests may be so impressed by the way you hold a function that they will want to have their own private party at your venue.
- Create a ‘function inquiry’ form for customers to fill out in your absence. Do this so you can gather all the necessary information you need to organise the customer’s function efficiently (it makes you look professional too). A ‘function inquiry’ form means your staff don’t have to worry about the ‘right questions’ to ask the customer, and you don’t end up with a handful or scrap paper covered in customer scribbles.
- If your venue is large enough, employ a ‘functions coordinator’ purely for selling, booking, preparing for and executing functions.
- Lastly, market your function area on the internet. Have a dedicated page on your website dedicated to functions. Make sure it has information about your food and beverage packages and details of the services and props you offer. Have a clear and obvious enquiry form on the page, so website visitors can easily submit their information to your functions coordinator. See part eleven for tips on marketing your venue online.