The Restaurant Soft Opening Event Guide
Let’s say you have already been through the process of restaurant creation and that your dream is really close to getting true. You chose the concept, the menu is ready, you have a fully equipped kitchen, a brand manual and an ”instagram worthy” interior design and your staff is finally trained.
As the launch day is getting closer, you realise people don’t actually know lots of things about your restaurant. What do you do in this situation? Besides promoting the place on your social media accounts and on your own website, we recommend you organise a soft opening for its inauguration.
In this post, we will explain the concept behind a soft opening event, what are the perks it can bring to your business and what are the steps you must go through to make sure your event will be successful
What is a soft opening?
Unlike a Grand Opening – the day your restaurant opens for the public – a soft opening is a private event, with a defined guestlist, that takes place some days before the official inauguration.
At this type of event, you can test different elements like the menu, the serving and the restaurant logistics. We can say it’s a sort of final exam of restaurants.
Even if the soft opening is not a mandatory event, we prepared, in case you have doubts, 5 reasons that will convince you to host it.
A soft opening is a preview of the restaurant and its offer. Such an event is one of a kind in the history of each restaurant and that is why you should fully take advantage of it.
With the right customers at the right time, you will succeed in generating publicity that will only bring value to your business.
2. See if the staff is ready
The soft opening of a restaurant is a fantastic way of discovering how prepared your employees are. Through this “test” you will find out what processes and practices you must keep and what to change.
3. Checking logistics
If any of the activities from a restaurant – like taking orders, paying systems or ingredients stock managing – are not functioning at their maximum potential, this is the perfect event that can help you reorganise.
A soft opening is an ideal moment to get constructive feedback from customers. Ask them what they think about the concept, the menu and the serving procedure.
Once you got feedback, you can improve the experience your restaurant is offering, before the big opening.
5. Making customers loyal
There is a big chance that people you invited to the event will come back other times too. Therefore, you just started your own loyal customers list!
What is the right moment for a soft opening?
Most of the time, the date of a soft opening has to be before the grand opening. A thing to remember is that the hype can fade fast, so we don’t recommend a big gap between the two events.
Our two cents: the distance between the events shouldn’t be longer than a week. That way, the hype will still exist, and you have time to apply the feedback you got and to make the proper adjustments.
How do you prepare for a soft opening?
There is no complete guide you should keep in mind when you plan a soft opening, but there are elements – like menu, prices, time intervals and guests – that every restaurant should take into account when planning the event.
1. The menu
A good method to easily plan your menu is by answering these questions:
- Are we going to have a full or limited menu?
- Are we going to offer the menu for multiple days?
- What will we serve?
- How many portions will we serve?
- Do we have a signature dish?
Most people invited to a soft opening know this event is a “repetition” for the big opening, and that means they will be comfortable with a limited menu.
A limited menu means that served dishes must be chosen and prepared with a big care.
A full menu has its advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is that guests discover each dish and there is a chance to choose a favourite one so they can come back soon for it.
On the other hand, a full menu involves more elements that need to be managed, and this way, there is a growing risk of creating a mediocre culinary experience.
Our advice: no matter which one you chose, make sure the guests know what type of menu you are about to serve them.
2. Event date
A soft opening can be held in one evening or in the course of multiple days. All this considered, the date of the event depends on lots of factors, like budget or the official launching day.
After you set the menu and the date for this event, it is the moment to decide on the prices of the dishes on the menu. We propose the following alternatives:
It is the most expensive choice, but it has a powerful effect on guests. It is the right choice if the soft opening is held in just a day.
With the opposite effect on the guests, comparing it with the free menu, this option is the most cost-efficient one. Besides, the advantage is that it offers clients a full image of your business.
A menu with discounts
A halfway solution between the free menu and the full price is the option of offering discounts on your menu, a fantastic way to please customers.
No matter what you choose, our advice is to offer a “small attention” to your guests, on the house, no matter if it’s the dessert, a drink or a goodie bag to take home.
The last stop on our list and a relevant question: Who do we invite to our soft opening?
Family and friends
-Mistakes you make will not heavily impact your image.
-Feedback is guaranteed.
Even if family and friends will surely offer you feedback, there is a chance it will not be a constructive one because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. Talk with them and ask them to be honest in expressing their opinions.
-You help to build a community sense
-You grow your client network and create relationships with entrepreneurs in your industry.
Discover HERE all the PROs of promoting restaurants with help from influencers and how to do it.
On the other hand, a big minus is that, if the event doesn’t go accordingly to your plan, then you have to be ready for an honest review from an influencer, that he will share with his fans.
Therefore, if you are not sure about the capacities of your team of starting right, keep your invitation for influencers for later.
Invitation: what does it include?
– Hour, date and the address for the event
– Details on the dress code (optional)
– Details on the menu (price is optional)
– Details on the booking process