Sometimes going the extra mile for an event in your restaurant can make all the difference. I work very closely with one of my restaurant clients who came to me with a patron of theirs who wanted to showcase their art in the restaurant for an evening. I was brought in to help market this one-night event. What was going to be a simple evening of tray pass h’orderves and art, started to get my wheels spinning. What could I do to get more people to come to this event without spending a lot of money? What would get me to come to an event at a restaurant? Quick brainstorming led me to connect the dots in cross-promoting this event with the actual guests themselves. Here are the key elements I used to make this first Art Mixer event so successful that it is now a monthly event that has increased in attendance each time.

1) Invite a Guest Chef While it would have been easy enough for the restaurant to cook the h’orderves themselves inviting a guest chef adds an unexpected element and intices people to come out for something special. There are many foodie chef bloggers online who blog about their food and would love the opportunity to come share their food at another restaurant. After some quick research of top food bloggers in the area I was able to reach out via Twitter and line up 6 chefs who wanted to participate for free to help get their name, restaurant and blog noticed. Each of them shared the event on their site with their audience.

2) Invite a Local Acoustic MusicianWhile art shows are great on their own, adding some music can liven up the space without taking away from the show. This was actually the hardest piece to pull off, as musicians want to get paid and the restaurant was not allowed to have amplified music. The way around this was using acoustic musicians that are not well known. Finding musicians is easy but often times they are struggling to meet ends meet and want some compensation. Convincing them to play for free is not easy but what I did to convince them was explain that it is an event to support and promote local artists and that I would share their bio on our website and send out an email blast to our customers with a link to their music, which could in turn help them get more gigs. Done! To actually find these musicians I turned to our Facebook fans at the restaurant. By simply asking if anyone knew any local musician we turned up 2 immediate suggestions who were both willing to play for free. Those musicians in turn knew more musicians that wanted to play at the restaurant as well.
3) Invite a Guest Artist Customers love to see art in a restaurant, especially art that comes from the local community. We were lucky to have out first artist volunteer. What I did to find more artist was contact a couple local art bloggers and ask them to help me spread the word about the event and that I was looking for talent. This was the easiest piece to complete, artists were contacting me left and right to have a free spot to showcase their work. Once patrons from the restaurant heard about the event they too were submitting their own art to be considered.

4) Wine Tasting What is an art show without wine. By including wine in the mix we were able to charge patrons to attend the event and participate in a wine and food tasting. We asked one of the wine representatives to come in for the event and pour wine and educate the customers on what they are drinking which in turn also increased future sales of those wines. Once the other wine reps found out that one company was successful in doing that they all wanted a chance to share their wine. Setting up a wine station with the wine rep doing the work instead of a restaurant employee saved the restaurant in labor costs.

5) Throw in a Theme While the talent in this event are changing every month, changing the theme can help keep the event fresh and fun. In October we did an Oktoberfest beer tasting instead of wine, made a german influenced menu and had the musician do his own renditions of classic Oktoberfest music. Another suggestion just came from one of the artists. His art is mixed media “street” art so he wants to have food that compliments his art. What we will do for this one is challenge local aspiring chefs via our Facebook and email blast to come up with a gourmet street food menu and who ever comes up with the best menu will be chosen to come cook their items at his art show.

6) Partner with a Local Farmer’s Market If you are lucky enough to have a Farmer’s Market in your town this can be a great way to cross-promote your restaurant while supporting local farmers. I contacted the new local Farmer’s Market and they were thrilled when I offered to send them one chef every month and shoot video and photos of the shopping at the market for fresh produce for a local restaurant. This was a home run for everyone because the chef blogged about the experience, the market was able to brag about a local foodie chef making an appearance and share the chef’s blog with their Facebook fans and the restaurant got a free plug on each of their sites as well. The restaurant is now considering bringing seasonal recipes with produce from the farmer’s market to continue cross-promoting each other.

There are many moving parts to this type of event but the reason it is so successful is that each of the guest talent has their own local audience. They all come together to promote each other on a small scale which in turn draws a greater turn-out. Each artist has sold at least 5 of their pieces at each show (ranging from $200-$1000 each piece) and one was even sold to a person that was just walking by and happened to peek inside. By leveraging the restaurant customers via Facebook for suggestions we were able to find artists that the community already enjoyed and that didn’t cost us a single penny. Our new slogan: Bringing together local talent and fresh produce supporting small business and local artists!
Daniela Bolzmann is the Social Media Community Manager for Symbaloo. She graduated from California State University, Fullerton, in 2009 with a B.A. in Business Administration with a concentration in Entrepreneurship. Daniela also freelances as a social media marketer, helping restaurants and retailers in her home town of Orange County. She writes about her lessons in being a community manager, freelancing and being Gen Y on her blog and can be reached via her many social networks.