Restaurant owners spend most of their energy trying to provide daily patrons with the best possible meal and service. But many establishments are thinking bigger – marketing themselves as special event or restaurant wedding venues. If you have ample space to accommodate a large party, the right décor, and ambiance, and a suitable menu, you can get in on the trend of couples choosing to have restaurant wedding receptions.
Because of today’s foodie culture and skyrocketing wedding reception costs, many couples are seeking alternatives to giant catering hall extravaganzas. They are looking for higher quality food, a more intimate setting, and a unique experience for their guests – all of which restaurant wedding venues are offering.
According to Gather, hosting events at your restaurant is a great way to drive increased margins compared to your average Friday night. “With events, everything is more predictable — including food ordering, service scheduling, etc. — and higher-margin items like liquor and dessert comprise a larger portion of the check,” writes Gather CEO Nick Miller. A typical reservation brings in 3.5-8% profit margins at a standard full-service restaurant vs. a special event at 15-25% profit margins.
So how do you know if you should get into the wedding business with your restaurant? If you think that you have space and the perfect food to help couples celebrate their big day, here are some of the considerations that can help you decide to move forward.
Can you handle the reception?
Most restaurants do try to accommodate parties and large groups, so if you’re already doing that, expanding into a wedding venue might not be a far stretch. However, you have to consider how many guests you can comfortably accommodate.
It’s not just about the actual size of your room. You also have to think about if your kitchen can handle preparing a full wedding reception menu. Do you have an efficient kitchen layout with enough equipment, cooks, and wait staff to get out several courses to a large number of guests at once? What about bathrooms, a place to check coats and parking? It’s important to think through all of the logistics.
Another thing to consider is if hosting a restaurant wedding will be cost effective for you. Keep in mind that if you’re closing down your restaurant (or a large part of it), and you normally have a full dining room that turns over two or three times in one night, your pricing will have to at least cover what you would have earned.
You also want to make sure that your restaurant can handle the type of wedding reception that many couples are used to, which usually includes music and dancing. Is there room to have a dance floor area? Can you find space for a DJ or live band? Brides.com suggests reserving at least a 10-by-10-foot space for dancing if you have 50 guests; 12 by 12 for 100 guests; and 15 by 15 for 150 guests. You could potentially clear some tables after dinner service to make more room, but that’s something to discuss with clients.
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Can you accommodate a restaurant wedding ceremony?
Some couples who aren’t getting married in a house of worship may prefer to exchange vows in the same venue as their reception. If you’re going to market your business as a restaurant wedding venue, you should have a good space either in the restaurant or outdoors on your property to perform the ceremony.
Many restaurants are fortunate to have an outdoor garden or rooftop space that can be transformed into a pretty backdrop for a wedding ceremony. But even if you don’t, an indoor ceremony can be just as lovely, provided you can set up seating and an “altar” of sorts so guests have a good view. If you have a separate room from the reception area, that’s ideal. Otherwise, your staff will have to do some table set up in between, which could be clunky. Or, it could work just to have guests seated at their regular tables, as long as there’s a central place for the couple to exchange vows that allows everyone to see.
What sets your establishment apart among other restaurant wedding venues?
Besides a delicious menu and lovely atmosphere, restaurant wedding receptions should give couples the opportunity to customize their event. If you decide to go all in on this aspect of your business, you should be ready to really work with couples to ensure that their every need is met.
Keep in mind, you will need to dedicate ample time to go over options that fit various budgets, as well as suggest creative ways to help each couple personalize their event. Here are some ways to do that:
- Create standard event menus, but be open to customization. The couple might be choosing your restaurant because they love a few particular dishes that are served, so you don’t want to tell them they can’t have those items for their wedding.
- Provide a “signature” cocktail. Couples love to feature signature cocktails at their wedding receptions, so have your bartender sit with clients to come up with something fun.
- Have a plan in place for dietary concerns. Encourage the couple to provide menu options for guests who might be vegan or have a food allergy.
- Be flexible on the cake situation. Unless you have an in-house pastry chef, the couple will likely want to bring in their own cake. Many restaurants tack on a cake slicing fee.
- Enhance your décor as requested. You don’t want to give your restaurant a total makeover, but work with your couples to add small décor touches to match their wedding theme, whether it’s the table centerpieces or decorating the entryway. You might also maintain one area to hang a custom backdrop for fun photo sessions.
Some of our Favorite Restaurant Wedding Venues Around the Country
If you’re leaning toward opening up your offerings to include wedding receptions, get inspired by these popular restaurants around the country that have become hot wedding venues. As you can see, while they each feature local flair and unique concepts, they all offer an elegant affair.
A favorite Brooklyn restaurant wedding venue
My Moon is a stunning restaurant located in Brooklyn, New York that can host just over 150 guests for a seated dinner. Wedding ceremonies that are performed on site are simply beautiful in the restaurant’s private outdoor courtyard.
A favorite Chicago restaurant wedding venue
For those Windy City couples looking for an “Italian villa” type wedding experience, head to Osteria Via Stato, a beautiful space with customized Italian cuisine.
A favorite Houston restaurant wedding venue
For a real Houston wedding, complete with Southern-inspired food and a rustic ambiance, Rainbow Lodge attracts couples who wish to have an intimate affair. There’s an outdoor space for the ceremony and enough seating for up to 100 guests inside.
A favorite LA Restaurant restaurant wedding venue
You simply can’t beat the view at Los Angeles restaurant, Café Pinot, which is why so many couples choose it for their nuptials. Beginning with a ceremony amidst a gorgeous metropolitan skyline view in a lush garden, guests then celebrate together and enjoy the contemporary Californian-French menu.
A favorite San Francisco restaurant wedding venue
For those seeking a charming restaurant with turn-of-the-century beauty, the Cliff House restaurant is a popular wedding spot. The fine dining options make it all the more wonderful.
A favorite Boston restaurant wedding venue
Another wedding hot spot can be found along the docks of Boston’s Long Wharf at the Chart House. For steak and seafood foodie couples, the oldest building on Long Wharf has maintained its original historic fixtures including the restaurant’s wooden beams, staircase, and red brick walls, and offers guests a spectacular view for an outdoor ceremony.