by Greg McGuire,
A common misconception in the food service business is that booking live music takes more time and effort than it’s worth. The process of finding bands, paying them, and providing enough space for them to perform can be a distraction at best and a downright money loser at worst, or so the theory goes.
Yet many establishments have proven time and again over the years that bringing in local bands is a great way to connect with local customers, and if done right, live music can become a lucrative marketing technique for any restaurant.
Denver based Smashburger, an emerging fast casual chain, has shown just how effective tapping into the local music scene can be for a new restaurant. The company’s Rock Your City program encourages local bands to submit their videos via YouTube prior to the grand opening of a new location. Smashburger then selects the best applicants and posts their videos to the company website so that fans can vote on the best one. The winners get to play at the new location on opening day in exchange for free burgers, plus a local radio broadcast.
Free burgers may not draw the next U2, but Rock Your City events definitely do draw crowds of young people coming out to see their favorite bands. And because Smashburger engages this audience beforehand by encouraging votes for the winning gig, they ensure a dedicated and reliable local audience on opening day.
Boosting engagement among younger customers is a goal any restaurant would like to accomplish. If you’ve got the space and an inclination for live music, keep these tips in mind before you rock out your own establishment:
Take advantage of the band’s existing marketing efforts. A good band plays good music, obviously. But in an age of social media and the internet, any band even remotely serious about their prospects will have at least a preliminary marketing effort online. And since both you and the band want people to show up for their gig in your restaurant, this is a great opportunity for you to advertise to the band’s fans through their existing marketing infrastructure.
Have the band post a link to your website on their site, their Facebook, and their Twitter account, and get them to email their fan list about the gig with some more information about your business.
Let your customers tell you who they want to hear. Smashburger’s strategy of taking submissions then allowing fans to vote for the winning gig is the perfect way to get the most mileage out of a live music gig before the band ever steps foot on the stage. Besides, you don’t want to trust your personal music tastes, which may or may not jibe with those of your customers.
Incorporate live music into your own marketing efforts. Include links to YouTube clips of the bands that are going to perform in your establishment on your website. Post live music schedules throughout your restaurant and email your customers when their favorite bands have a gig. If you’ve got a newer band playing, promote drink specials to get people in the door, where (hopefully) they’ll turn into new fans.
Live music is a great way to connect with your customers and turn them into regulars. It doesn’t take nearly as much work as you might think, and the payoff in new business can make it more than a worthwhile endeavor.