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Christopher Lyle
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Quite a while ago, I had posted my formula on How to Book a Restaurant here to the Café' and then I removed it because I wanted to use it in my Sleightly Delusional Column in The Magic Menu.

Now that The Menu has reached it's conclusion, and since several on here have contacted me directly asking me to repost it, and since my pal "Sly the Magic Guy", already posted "a portion" of my post in another thread, I thought I'd go ahead and toss it back up here for my Café brothers and sisters to use as a reference tool.

I really think this should be attached as a "sticky note" to the top of our forum here, but I'll let the powers that be make that decesion.

On more than one occasion, I’ve been asked “how” I am able to walk into any restaurant I want and walk out with a gig. I will take this opportunity to share with you my formula. What you are about to read, is my strategy that is designed to “set you up for success!” while you’re out there in the trenches looking for work.


STEP 1: SCOUT OUT A LOCATION

There are people in the world of magic who believe that any restaurant “willing to pay your fee” is a good match for your services. Please trust me when I tell you that those people need to be taken out behind a woodshed and severely beaten!

I feel that all too often, magicians go on what I like to call the “cold call rampage” trying to find work without having an actual strategy. Over the years, I have heard many magicians tell me that they’ve pitched between 50 and 100 restaurants in a day’s time looking for work. Now granted, I believe those numbers may be slightly inflated, but regardless, in my opinion, that’s a lot of work considering that the return on the effort will be minimal if any.

In my ripe old age of thirty something, I’ve become very lazy in the sense that I don’t believe I should have to work that hard to land a gig. I would much rather spend the time researching the venues I'm interested in and only pitching restaurants that meet a certain criteria which in turn will increase my chance for successfully landing the gig and more importantly…keeping it!

Before you ever pitch a restaurant, always go and check it out to see if it would be a good match for your services. Visit the restaurant on two different occasions for dinner and always make sure it’s on the night of the week you wish to perform…during the time of night that you wish to work.

While at the restaurant, observe everything. The questions you need to ask yourself are:

· How busy is the restaurant on this particular night?

· How do the servers handle themselves? Do they seem friendly or overly stressed out?

· How is the restaurant laid out? How far are tables/booths spaced apart? Isle Access?

· What type of clientele frequents the establishment on this night?

At no time should you mention to anyone working what your intentions are. Avoid the temptation to try and perform for your server or other employees of the restaurant. They are there to work, not to watch you perform. Nothing will turn off a General Manager/Owner more than seeing their crew distracted by some idiot with a deck of cards.

Arrive, Order, Eat, Observe, Leave. Don’t over complicate the situation.


STEP 2: MAKE TELEPHONE CONTACT

You have now made the decision to pursue this restaurant. Now you need to do some research to figure out if it’s a place that you wish to pitch. However, before heading out for that first meet and greet, you need to find out some important information about the venue:

· Is this restaurant privately owned, franchised, or are they a corporate owned chain. My advice to you is never pitch a restaurant that is corporate owned as there is too much red tape to try and cut thru. In the corporate arena, everyone has a boss and nobody is ever empowered to make decisions, so don’t waste your time on a dead end. Only pitch franchised or privately owned venues.

· You need to find out the Owner or the GMs name (sometimes the same person) and get a feel for their demeanor and personality. Getting their name should be an easy task as many restaurants have that information posted on the door when you walk in. However, the restaurant you’re pitching may be the exception, which means you have to probe to find out that information while at the same time, not overplaying your hand. The idea is to qualify the venue without ever letting on to your intentions.

Call the restaurant and ask to speak to the General Manager/Owner. If they’re not in, then ask whomever you’re speaking with what the General Manager/Owner's name is. If they question you as to why, just state that it’s regarding a private matter and leave it at that. Usually, they will be forthcoming with this information without giving you a hassle. Write down the name and ask when the best time to call back would be so you could speak to them directly.

However, if they’re in, then ask to speak to them. Once you have the General Manager/Owner on the phone, ask who you’re speaking with. You now know who the top dog is. Write down their name and the call continues.

“My name is Christopher and I was at the restaurant with my wife a few days ago and just wanted to call and let you know how much we enjoyed our visit. Everyone was very friendly, our food came out very quickly and was delicious, and we really enjoyed ourselves. I know that many people call just to complain, but I have always felt that restaurants need to hear about when they do a good job.”

This will begin a very positive back and forth banter between the two of you. You now have them in a good mood and they’ll want to do anything and everything to keep you happy.

“I wanted to write a letter of praise to tell of my experience…do you have a corporate address I could send it to?” At this point they will either say “YES, our corporate address is…” or “NO, we don’t have a corporate office.”

If they say YES, then clarify, “so you guys are corporate owned?” If they say YES then begin your wind up as this is now considered a DEAD CALL!

But if they say “no, we’re private owned or a franchise,” then continue the call by getting their official address and whatever info about their location that you need. Wind up the call and thank them for their time.

In that 5 minute phone call, you were able to get the name of the General Manager/Owner along with learning of their status (corporate, privately owned or franchised). As I stated above…if they’re corporate owned, I walk away. Not worth the trouble.

So…do you actually send the letter? I never use to. I would simply collect the info and leave it at that. But just recently, I decided to. So I now have a form letter that I have typed out and I do send it to the restaurant. I use only my first name to protect my identity.


STEP 3: THE PITCH

It’s very important that you pitch the restaurant IN PERSON! I know that many people do this over the phone and I can tell you that it’s a bad idea. By pitching over the phone, it gives them an excuse to tell you no or just hang up on you. How many times are you bothered by a telemarkter over the phone? Do you ever listen to anything they ever say, or do you (like myself) hang up on them in mid-sentence? If you pitch restaurants over the phone, then you've become a telemarketer. Face to face interaction will always yield better results.

Wait about a week (time misdirection) from when you made the initial phone call. Dress for success by looking professional in a suit and tie even if that’s not what you wear when you perform. Walk into the restaurant and ask to speak to the General Manager/Owner. Ask for them by name. When the General Manager/Owner is in front of you, then deliver your pitch.

If the General Manager/Owner is not at the restaurant, try and find out when they’ll be back to discuss your business matter. DO NOT waste your time pitching to an Assistant Manager. They have a feather title. Their job is to make sure the restaurant doesn’t burn to the ground when the General Manager/Owner isn’t there. Always speak to the boss.

So now that you’ve done all of the above, it’s time to pitch your potential client.

The below is my ACTUAL PITCH that I have used now for over 15 years. Feel free to use it exactly as I have written or change it up to fit your own style.

“Hi, my name is Christopher Lyle and I’m here to offer you the opportunity to provide your guests a unique dining experience that no other restaurant in your market is able to match. Do I have your attention?

What’s the one drawback to going out to a restaurant? THE WAIT…right? What if I told you that I have the ability to make time fly…would you say I’m crazy? Let me explain…the art of providing quick service is to minimize the wait time…or to give the illusion that the wait time is diminished. That is achieved by the art of distraction…or misdirection in my case.

I’m here today to offer your restaurant my services as an entertainer. I’m a Magician offering table side entertainment to all of your guests…either while waiting for the delivery of the food or if you have a long wait for seating, to entertain those waiting in your lobby. Let’s face it…people can go anywhere for food…but what’s going to KEEP them coming back again and again? Something that is unique that they cannot get anywhere else.

By providing your guests entertainment, you diminish the perceived wait time making them more apt to return in the future. Would you be interested in trying me out?”


If they seem hesitant, then I say, “Let’s do this. I will come out to your restaurant next Wednesday Night and will play from 6pm to 8pm at no cost to you. It will give you the chance to see me in action. There is NO OBLIGATION. If you don’t think it’s something you’d want, then we can part ways and you’re not out anything, but have just gained a free night of entertainment for your guests. Either way, it’s a win/win for you. What do you say?”

If you can get them to say YES, then you’re 90% of the way to booking the restaurant. In all my years of performing, I have only had THREE (3) restaurants tell me to take a hike after that first free night. Sometimes, the hard sell is getting them to let you come out on that first night. Getting your foot in the door is what it’s all about.


STEP 4: STACKING THE DECK

You have now gotten approval from the General Manager/Owner to come out and perform for one evening. Now it’s time to stack the deck.

Whenever I am about to audition for a restaurant, I always call on a small group of my “non-magician” friends and invite them to the restaurant to watch me perform. This is a great way to guarantee great reactions, screams, applause, etc. The types of reactions that you need to get so you can capture the attention of the management.

Look at this step as a way to ring in a gimmicked card into your deck before beginning a routine. Your friends are your gimmick and they will assist in producing a desired effect…the effect being you booking this restaurant.

The following day, I will have my friends contact the restaurant and ask for the General Manager/Owner to compliment them on a great night and thank them for having such wonderful entertainment.


STEP 5: THE FOLLOW UP

It’s very important that you follow up with the General Manager/Owner after your audition. Do not wait for them to call you. It won’t happen. If you want this gig, then you need to close the deal yourself. But timing is everything. You need to follow up with them while your audition is still fresh in their mind while at the same time, not appearing to be over anxious or needy.

It’s very rare when I do my follow up on the same night as my audition. Some may disagree with this, but let me explain my reasoning…

First and foremost, the General Manager/Owner will usually leave before your audition shift is completed. Don’t take that as a sign that they hated you, it’s just a fact of life. Many General Managers/Owners work 60+ hours per week and they want to get home to their families. Waiting around for the magic guy to finish up isn’t top on their priority list.

If the General Manager/Owner “IS” still at the restaurant when I’m done, then here’s my routine. I will always approach them, thank them for allowing me the opportunity to come out and play their restaurant, and tell them that I’ll be in touch in a day or two. That’s it! Pack up your stuff and hit the road. Unless they invite you to the bar for a meeting, then don’t hang around.

You need to be cool, calm and collected. Be a pro! Leave them with the impression that you don’t really need this job. If it works out then that’s great…but you’re not going to beg. If you overplay your hand and seem “over anxious” then it’s very possible that you’ll talk yourself right out of the gig. They’ll either book you, or they won’t. At this point in the game, the less you speak the better.

It is “rare” for me to ask for the sale on my audition night. Why? Simple! I want a few days to pass to allow time for “the buzz” to begin. What will stick out in the mind of the General Manager/Owner is that you came out to entertain, you were a smash hit and that people are now calling to sing praises of the wonderful entertainer they saw while dining at the restaurant. It’s that buzz that will land you the gig!

That’s it! It couldn’t be any simpler. Follow this simple 5 Step Process and you’ll be well on your way to more work than you can handle. This formula has kept me gainfully employed my entire career anywhere from 4 to 7 nights a week. I hope that it finds you well and that it brings you much success in 2010 and beyond.

Now go forth…and magish, but do so ethically, because I’ll be watching...

Christopher Lyle
In Mystery,


Christopher Lyle
Magician, Comic, Daredevil, and Balloon Twisting Genius
For a Good Time...CLICK HERE!
Radmak
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"Let’s face it…people can go anywhere for food…but what’s going to KEEP them coming back again and again?"

isn't it a suggestion that the food their restaurant serves is of the average quality and doesn't stand out? Is it really the best way to approach the owner?
UK Close-up and cabaret magician based in Scotland - www.radekmakar.co.uk
DavinSimone
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Awesome write up. I am certain I will use this to my advantage in the future!
Davin L. Simone

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Above poster suffers from a severe lack of judgment and logic. Assume any points he made are wrong and baseless.
funsway
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From the business side, when the owner/partner is the Chef he is concerned with controlling food costs, delivering a consistent product, minimizing waste and managing fractious kitchen help. Quality is relative to price and presentation. He relies on the Manager for all "front end" stuff including marketing and service. The Chef will always blame the front end, and the Manager will always blame the kitchen for lack of success.

So, your selection of terms and "hot buttons" will depend on who you are talking to as to what "quality" means. If there is a very active bar you may have a third opinion to deal with. Therefore, it is wise to scout the business first and discover the dynamics of the decision making process before approaching anyone. The guy who sells wine to the restaurant is a good source of inside info.
"there is real merit in the magician who tries to be creative – from such endeavors magic sustains its life energy." Harold Rice

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Christopher Lyle
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Quote:
On 2010-11-06 05:39, Radmak wrote:
"Let’s face it…people can go anywhere for food…but what’s going to KEEP them coming back again and again?"

isn't it a suggestion that the food their restaurant serves is of the average quality and doesn't stand out? Is it really the best way to approach the owner?


Not at all! I think you may be reading into something that isn't there.

As a customer myself, I CAN go anywhere for food. But the places that I frequent on a regular basis are the places that have great service and great food and offer something that I cannot get at other places.

Truth be told, there is NO RESTAURANT on the planet that absolutely needs a magician. A restaurant will never close down because they didn't offer entertainment. People go to a restaurant for one reason...FOOD!

However...since there are so many food options out there, people also are attracted to novelty. WE are a novelty and must attempt to convince the restaurant that they DO NEED US...even tho' the reality of it all is that they don't.

So "YES!" The statement makes perfect sense and it's a great way to approach the Owner or GM.

As I stated, I think you're reading into it a tad bit too much! Perhaps it translates differently in the spoken word vs. written.

Then again...it may just be a UK thing... Smile

Christopher
In Mystery,


Christopher Lyle
Magician, Comic, Daredevil, and Balloon Twisting Genius
For a Good Time...CLICK HERE!
T_C_Magic
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That was some really great advice from someone who has been there and knows what he is talking about. Great resource and thank you for sharing it with all of us.
Toby
aalexander
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That was a great post. I decided just yesterday that I was going to take a run at the restaurant scene, and I got all excited when I was reading through your techniques. Good timing.

Speaking of naive posts, what kind of restaurants take performers? Your advice is great, but I'm not entirely sure what sorts of places to hit up with your strategy.
slyhand
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Good stuff. I copied this one to Word too.
I am getting so tired of slitting the throats of people who say that I am a violent psychopath.

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jimhlou
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Thanks for the info, Christopher. This is priceless information, which you are sharing with the Café members at NO charge. Kudos to you.

Jim
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The sales aspect of the booking is an area where most magicians are weak in. I know magicians who are terrible and yet because of their sales skills are always busy! I also know of great magicians who don't know how to market themselves and are not doing that many shows.

It's funny because you think if your a great performer the gigs will come. That is not the case as the other posts have indicated. Every successful business needs some sort of plan and sales force. Magic and magicians are no different. A full time pro magician is should split their day between practicing and doing sales, shows are usually done at night. A real full time scenario!

http://www.MagicianToronto.com
jnrussell
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Great information! Thanks so much, as I've been thinking of diving into this arena. May I ask a general question that I know depends on an unlimited number of variables? What's the going rate for this? Let's say the restaurant is suburban, family oriented (but serves alcohol), average meal ticket between $25-50 for two people?
John Russell
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gbaratta
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Great stuff.
I always got my gigs booked through an agency, so I never actually had to do it myself.
If I should start doing it from now on I would definitely follow your advice!
David Thiel
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I think this is fabulous information. Thank you for sharing it.

For those of you who are working restaurants, here's a question: What do most performers in your area charge? I know from a relatively limited exposure to restaurants that costs are key...and keeping them down very important.

Do you do a basic minimal hourly fee...and add tips?

Would be very interested in whatever you may have to share, folks....

David
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Christopher Lyle
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To both jnrussell and David Thiel,

This is a very hard question to answer...and truth be told, I don't believe that there is any right and wrong to it. You should bill what your comfortable with.

Personally, I bill an hourly rate and I also accept tips, which on average will equal what I'm paid by the restaurant on any given night.

Good luck with it...!

Christopher
In Mystery,


Christopher Lyle
Magician, Comic, Daredevil, and Balloon Twisting Genius
For a Good Time...CLICK HERE!
sleightly
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Christopher:

What is your hourly rate for restaurants? Just curious...

ajp
rockthemike
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What do you think about bringing in a list of benefits to the restaurant on paper? It's one thing to recite them, but when the GM can look at all of them I think it's hard to say no and/or dismiss them.

What do you guys think?
Michael Wong
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magic4545
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What a great article! Chris really walks the walk with his venue in Irving, Texas at Crystal's Pizza and Spaghetti. There's no doubt when you walk into the place that Chris is the headliner, and when he's going to be performing!

If he used these techniques and tips to get THIS gig, then I'm going to start using them in every aspect of advertising that I use. I'm awful at selling myself, and it's great to know someone as business savvy as Chris that can help here and there.

Way to go, and congrats on a beautifully stage product!!!

Jimmy
Hansel
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Nice Advise here!
jonathandupree
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Can you unsuccessfully book a restaurant?
Aaron Smith Magic
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Quote:
On 2010-11-17 20:39, sleightly wrote:
Christopher:

What is your hourly rate for restaurants? Just curious...

ajp


It is not proper etiquette to ask someone how much money they make. I'm sure Christopher is not going to answer that question. As a person who has worked that particular field, I can tell you that it can range from about 30/hr all the way up to 75/hr. The key is what Christopher already said, charge what you think your worth. If you think your worth 75 an hour, then ask for it. You may have to go through quite a few auditions until you find the right restaurant, but in the end you'll be happier working for what you believe your worth. That is what I learned from my mentor Jim Pace, and it has always worked for me.
jonathandupree
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Depending on the restaurant it can be far more than $75 per hour. Smile but yes you are right - you are only what you believe you are worth.
PhillipHayes
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Thank you for a great help, mostly a stage performer. Because of not knowing how to get other work. Will put into practice at once.
jimvines
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Great article- thank you, Christopher! Anyone who has not tried booking themselves in restaurants (or who have had limited success doing it their own way) will benefit hugely from this article. Nice work!
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topchange52
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Great advice from someone who's been there and done it, thanks
WalkerMagic
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Great advice! I'm sure this will help me get more restaurant gigs!
astoundyou
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Great information I feel this is the correct way to get and approach a restaurant. But please remember that your magic should be polished and professional. Please don't take a restaurant if you are not ready. It will hurt the pro that has been doing this for years and anyone else after you. You need to know when to approach a table and when not to. What are you going to say when you walk up to the table?? This comes with experience. Good luck and keep them entertained.
Philip Klipper PM(Professional Magician)
atinczor
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Great article. Thank you for sharing it with the Magic Café community.
houdini
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Christopher, at what point in your pitch do you discuss your fee for doing your walkaround gig? How do you go about presenting your cost to the manager for your entertainment?
Jim. Thats me on the left,Everyone should know the other guy!
Christopher Lyle
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Usually right after "THE PITCH" the owner/gm will ask "so how much is this going to cost me?" That's the point where my fee is discussed...

Glad to hear that so many are finding my article helpful!

Christopher
In Mystery,


Christopher Lyle
Magician, Comic, Daredevil, and Balloon Twisting Genius
For a Good Time...CLICK HERE!
donrossmagic
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Awesome article. I am certainly going to use these principles. I had always wondered what to do when approaching a restaurant. you have certainly given me food for thought.
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