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Topic: Why Do Restuarants Book Entertainers?
Message: Posted by: Mindpro (Aug 3, 2013 03:18PM)
Although I've been in entertainment for many years there are still a few markets I have not gained more than a little experience in such as daycares, libraries, and restaurants. Last night we dined at a restaurant that had several types of entertainers several different nights a week.

So my question is, in trying to better understand this, why do restaurants hire or book entertainers? I mean what are the top reasons and benefits that make them spend the money? I'm guessing they probably only spend a couple hundred dollars per night, as we have booked a few acts in restaurants when we've been contacted, but we never marketed to them.

I was trying to figure out who they were there for - the kids, the adults? This wasn't really what I'd consider a family restaurant (it was a steakhouse) and it wasn't on like a Tuesday night "kids night" or "family night". They have a caricature artist one night, a psychic another and a magician on the other. Just trying to get a better understanding from those of you that do this and are in the know.
Message: Posted by: Robin4Kids (Aug 3, 2013 03:59PM)
I think that's a great question. I owned a restaurant in the 70s and I know that on busy nights we would try to turn the tables as quick as we could to avoid long waits. The only time it makes sense is on slow nights to hopefully bring in more business or possibly to keep customers distracted to cover for slow service. Unless you have someone that attracts business, you are just adding to your overhead. Now don't get me wrong, I am glad that restaurants hire magicians and I enjoy seeing them do their work. But normally they avoid my table if they know me to avoid the scrutiny.
Message: Posted by: Eldon (Aug 3, 2013 10:40PM)
I've worked several restaurants over the years. One of my purposes was to fill the void between salad and main course. Like Robin said "cover for slow service". The other thing was I think they just wanted to have something the competition didn't.
Message: Posted by: Jesse Lewis (Aug 4, 2013 01:47AM)

Here are my thoughts having years ago worked in the restaurant/bar industry for 6 years working my way up. (thank goodness that is over)

1. They "bring in" entertainers to bring people through the doors.
2. They bring them in to fill time for food deliveries/service.
3. They bring them in to be different than other places.
4. The entertainer is working for tips so why not. (Sad but true)
5. In bars the longer a person stays the more they drink. Say you have 100 people drinking 2 drinks per hour and keep them 1 hour you sell 200 drinks but if the entertainment keeps them .5 hours extra you make 3 drinks. That can be a whack of cash over time.
6. To bring people in on traditionally slow nights.
7. The entertainer brings his own crowd and thus sales.

And the only reason a restaurant or bar should ever bring entertainment paid or unpaid in my opinion is to make profit. with Bars its about selling drinks with restaurants it is about selling food anything other than that is not going to the goal of the venue and should be considered with prejudice. If it don't make money, or improve profit do not do it.

Message: Posted by: Eldon (Aug 4, 2013 09:30AM)
I think Jesse is right on except I don't think there are to many restaurant magicians out there that work for just tips.
Message: Posted by: Al Angello (Aug 4, 2013 09:56AM)
Restaurants are where card mechanics work because there is not a lot of call for close up magician at parties.

Restaurants hire entertainers to sell food on off nights, and magicians who work in restaurants do it because they can't get booked in the larger venues.

A close up magician is a lot like a jazz musician.

"A real jazz musician will put a $5,000 horn into a $500 car and drive 50 miles to do a $10 gig" because he loves his art.
Message: Posted by: InstantMagicBen (Aug 4, 2013 10:06AM)
From my experience Bars, clubs and restaurants want magicians to fill, and great a new line to attract kinds and familes
Message: Posted by: Jesse Lewis (Aug 4, 2013 10:21AM)
Not every restaurant magician works for tips that is true but I have met a number of them that do. Some in the "better venues" even share their tips with the owner.

Al is also partially right that these magicians cannot usually get booked in larger venues, we all have to start somewhere right.

Message: Posted by: G. Batson (Aug 5, 2013 12:03PM)
If you consider a bar and grill a restaurant, I was booked to increase liquor sales, primarily at the bar. The handful of these venues I worked over the years were booked with a trial night. If I could show a good ROI on that trial night I was booked for a weekly gig. In all but one case I was booked after a trial. I really believe the gig I did not get was because the GM could not provide a baseline number (liquor sales) for me to compare.
Message: Posted by: Mindpro (Aug 5, 2013 12:14PM)
I get why bars, pubs and nightclubs hire entertainers, that not what I'm talking about. I also know why family restaurants have clowns, ballonists or magicians for kids or family nights. That's also not what I'm talking about.

As I said this was a steakhouse on a Friday night, few kids if any, which is why I was asking. Tips were not involved or accepted, so they must have been getting straight pay. These were professionals, not card or closeup workers that couldn't get better or other work or up and comers, as mentioned above.

I guess it could be to offer something to cover wait time, but was curious if there was more to it, other reasons or benefits or something I was missing?
Message: Posted by: Keith Raygor (Aug 5, 2013 12:55PM)
In my experience, the restaurant's perspective is to offer [b]something unique[/b] that has the potential of increasing heads through the door.

There can be additional advantages, such as covering a wait time, etc. but they have more to do with the situation AFTER being being hired, and can be determined by the restaurant, market and magician. But at the decision-making moment, I believe the owners are doing what we do ourselves - identifying and then marketing something unique about the product or service being offered.
Message: Posted by: eatonmagic (Aug 5, 2013 08:07PM)
On 2013-08-05 13:03, G. Batson wrote:
If you consider a bar and grill a restaurant, I was booked to increase liquor sales, primarily at the bar. The handful of these venues I worked over the years were booked with a trial night. If I could show a good ROI on that trial night I was booked for a weekly gig. In all but one case I was booked after a trial. I really believe the gig I did not get was because the GM could not provide a baseline number (liquor sales) for me to compare.

What do you think you could have done to track the results?
Message: Posted by: G. Batson (Aug 6, 2013 11:29AM)
>>>> What do you think you could have done to track the results?

If you're talking about the gig I did *not land, probably not much. Most GMs know their average price per ticket, number of tables turned, avg liquor ticket amt, etc per night. This guy did not. He pretty much ran his biz by the "seat of his pants". I didn't have a baseline to compare results to before/after using entertainment. To answer your question I really don't know.
Message: Posted by: Eldon (Aug 7, 2013 04:46AM)
I'm going to ask Dan Fleshman. When he gets back to me I'll post it here.
Message: Posted by: Eldon (Aug 9, 2013 11:17AM)
I'm going to have breakfast with Dan to get his input. I think what Mindpro might be getting at is, if you really know why restaurants hire entertainer then you would know how to approach them and what to offer when your trying to get booked. Mindpro, is this research for your new book? Which by the way, I can't wait till it is out. Put me on the list, I want one.

This is off subject but I asked a friend of mine that used to work with me in an upper class restaurant why they hire magicians and I think he hit the nail on the head Restaurants hire magicians because the owner or manager like magic. In my case this has held true. When I've worked in privately owned restaurants, I worked there for years and passed the work on to other magicians when I quit to pursue other thing. That was because the ownership and management never changed. I've worked in several national chains and when they switched managers a lot of times I was gone a few weeks later. I think this was because the manager wasn't a big magic fan or it wasn't his idea to hire me. This only applies to magic and really doesn't answer Mindpro's question.
Message: Posted by: TomBoleware (Aug 9, 2013 12:29PM)
If I wanted to book a restaurant as a magician, I would sell the owner on the idea that it would promote value for the restaurant.
That it would create a lot of word of mouth advertising. And that there was a good chance it would get Free local newspaper/magazine
coverage. Then I would go out of my way to see that it did.

If I could give him smiling customers. Get them to return. Do all the leg work for him to get hundreds of dollars in free local advertising.
Why wouldn't he hire me? :)

A restaurant hires you for one reason, to help the business.

Message: Posted by: Eldon (Aug 10, 2013 10:28PM)
That's good stuff Tom.
Message: Posted by: ChrisC (Aug 11, 2013 10:39AM)
Recently I approached a nice restaurant and asked if they had entertainment. They were paying a musician who, in there words "Brought in a bunch of his friends, who filled up table space making it hard to flip tables, and bought one or two drinks if anything. A magician who eliminates perceived wait time and can keep the lobby entertained so they don't leave and go to the competition seems like a great deal compared to the musician who they were already paying.

On an unrelated note the manager at that restaurant who "hired me" for a tryout night quit, and the new manager said he had to talk to the owners first and never got back to me. Any tips on re-approaching? Should I go to the owner directly? Sorry to hijack your thread, but if you are writing a book this question and answer might help some other people who run into the same problem down the road.
Message: Posted by: Jesse Lewis (Aug 11, 2013 01:50PM)
One thing about managers is that they keep the status quo. I say go to the owner.

Message: Posted by: Eldon (Sep 22, 2013 10:52PM)
I Had dinner with Dan Fleshman tonight. He said that one reason restaurants hire entertainment is to increase business. He says he will stay away from these because they are usually in trouble and probably won't be around to long. He said he thought the biggest reason they hire magicians is because the person doing the hiring really likes magic. This is the case at the gig he is working in Vale Colorado.
Message: Posted by: Mindpro (Sep 23, 2013 10:36AM)
Eldon and everyone, thanks for your thoughts and input. Since starting this thread I've been doing some informal surveying and it seems to be along the lines of some of what's being expressed here.

Unlike many entertainment venues, seems there is no real cut and dry, concrete reasons restaurants have an entertainer. Now my question was specifically regarding just restaurants, not pubs, restaurants with bars, etc., but simply dine-in restaurants.

I has 150 respondents to my questionaire and it's funny how undefined it really is compared to other entertainment markets. The top two answers were 1. to attract kids and families on a slower non-prime weeknight, Tuesday being the most popular followed by Wednesday and Thursday. 2. To minimize wait time either in a waiting/reception area or once orders have been taken before the food arrives.

Length of appearance ranged from 90 minutes to 2-1/2 hours.

The biggest thing I that seem to show any signs of consistency...was the inconsistency. Most approached teh idea of having magic (almost all of them with just a few exceptions) because someone (a magician) approached them in person. They usually liked the person and "were willing to try it". I heard the "willing to try it" over and over again. Ultimately 3/4 dropped it within the first 6 weeks, saying while it was fun and some liked it, there was no way to allow it to pay for itself directly. Most were glad they did try it, some received complaints. The biggest complaints were it was invasive, and the magician directly tried to promote himself directly to the customers too much. They thought this might have been more acceptable if they were working for free and that was part of the arrangement, but other than signage and tabletents, they didn't expect such direct "sales" type of promotion.

Several, actually quite a few, specifically said and compared it to classic car shows. As they are both events that allowed the restaurant to promote, but the car shows could directly pay for itself through direct sales to the car owners and the audience they would generate.

Most seemed to piggyback the magic appearance with a kids eat free/discount night special. Very few branded anything related to the magician, which surprised me quite a bit. Most said they never thought of that or the magician never offered such ideas.

We (my agencies) don't book this market much at all, but the several times we did we always branded our apprarances with the restaurant, and always had pretty decent long-term relationships, some using magicians, but also with face painters, caricature artists, balloon artists, psychics, etc.

There were several managers that stated they tried a magician specifically because they came from another restaurant where they had a successful family night that featured a magician, and due to it's success they wanted to try it at their current location too. However it was the justification of the costs, and the willingness to do it long enough and consistent enough to allow such a theme night to become established that they had problems with. Most owners and some of the managers didn't want to deal with the costs for a long enough period to establish such an event or theme night.

Most of the problems always seemed to be justifying the cost. Residual benefits were nice but they all seemed to be seeking direct, immediate benefits, more quickly.

There also seemded to be some conflicting or confusing thoughts on the magician's themselves. Many seemed approached by "younger" or "beginner" magician's which they complained didn't seem to understand or care for their business or larger picture objectives. At the same time they seemed intimidated by the older, seasoned magician that seemed to be a smooth-talker making all kinds of promised and ideas that bordered on them (the magician) trying to tell them (the manager) how to run their business. Several also mentioned and expressed a serious concern for "the creep factor" of some of the adult magicians. They seemed to speak highly of the older, "grandpa-like" magician which I found interesting.

In the end most seemed to try it because they've heard of or knew someone that had done it before with varying degrees of success. But there was no apparent direct, measurable benefits to justify the cost in their eyes, and many expressed that once they agreed to "try it" the magician seemed to only focus on their magic performance, not all of the goals and things they claimed they (the magician and the manger) could try to achieve together.

In the end, it was nothing I really hadn't known or thought anyhow. There were a few surprises in managements and the public's perception of it, but my original question was more about the "why" as it pertained to the restaurants, and I was having trouble understanding why in the magic world it such a common or popular area or market with magicians. So I thought perhaps maybe there was more to it than I understood. From what I've learned there really wasn't. Other than the entertainment factor, which I was reminded over and over again "we're really not an entertainment venue" the anticipated results of how it could benefit their business never fully materialized, so they often ceased it, perceiving it as an unnecessary expense.

I think this, in my opinion comes down to magician's being lousy business people. They seemed to have created a market, seem to talk themselves into an opportunity or chance, but then dropped the ball at that point only choosing to focus on their magic, rather than the true promotional aspect of the arrangement which sees to be the main interest of the management. Kind of seems like maybe the magician's tend to ruin it for themselves. They put all their efforts into getting the account, and little into maintaining and sustaining it.

Anyway, just wanted to update everyone, thank them for their thoughts and share some of the perspectives I received. Now where's my food?
Message: Posted by: charliecheckers (Sep 23, 2013 09:08PM)
Thanks for sharing your survey results and thoughts. I have not pursued this market, but the subject interests me. We're you able to get any break down on the type of restaurant that was more likely to be able to benefit from magicians. One reason I have not pursued this market is because those that appeal to kids/families tend to be a bit lower priced menus meaning they have less to pay entertainers. Perhaps those that choose to work these restaurants do so at lower fees and over promote to justify their time.
I would think that magicians that provide entertainment for adults would be more able to find opportunities at upscale restaurants where they can be paid more in line with what they normally charge - so it works out better for both sides. I would be interested to see if your survey was able to address these different types of restaurants and areas of magic.
Message: Posted by: Eldon (Sep 23, 2013 10:22PM)
Mindpro, Thanks for sharing. Looking back, most of the restaurants I have worked over the years were Tuesday and Wednesday Nights with a family night tie-in.
Message: Posted by: Ken Northridge (Sep 24, 2013 06:34AM)
I would think the restaurant is trying to separate itself from the competition by giving their patrons personal attention. It is a very classy idea, as is the strolling violinist. Trouble is most restaurants are not classy enough to afford it, and if they do try it they will resort to having someone who will work for tips only. This turns this wonderful idea into a horrible idea. Instead of providing their clients with personalized entertainment they end up fleecing them for extra change!

In other words, having a magician in a restaurant can be a really good idea, but it takes the right combination of a manager/owner and magician. It takes a magician the not only knows his craft well, but most importantly has a pleasing personality and knows how to work as a team player. And it takes a manager/owner that can see the big picture and realize its more than just serving good food. In my experience, this is a rare combination.
Message: Posted by: Michael Messing (Sep 24, 2013 08:39AM)
I've worked in a couple of restaurants doing table side magic and balloons and the problem I ran into was the restaurant not promoting it at all. I was brought in to increase the family business for the restaurants on slow nights. I created table tent cards for the restaurants to advertise the night and the specials (they didn't do free kids meals but they did reduced pricing.) Neither restaurant did not put my table tents up during the week. They put them on the tables about 30 minutes before I got there. (I figured it out when I got there early and they were just pulling them out.) The owner and manager completely failed to understand the point. (If you don't put them out on other nights, people won't know to come in on the special night!)

Both restaurants had signs with removable/changeable lettering so they could put up messages. Neither of them posted that their was a "Magic Night", even after I discussed it with them. I posted my appearances on Facebook, sent postcards to customers, etc. but the restaurants did nothing. Then, they were disappointed with the results! (The second restaurant did regular radio commercials advertising the bands that would be appearing there. I asked the owner if he could just mention the Magic Night but he never did.)

The thing is I had several families that started going to the restaurants I was performing at on a regular basis but it wasn't a large enough group. I'm sure it would have been more successful if the owner/manager had put in just a little more marketing effort. (Most of the suggestions I had for them did not have any extra cost for them!)
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Sep 25, 2013 04:20AM)
I doubt it would have had as large an impact as you think. Magicians often overestimate the drawing power they possess.
Message: Posted by: Michael Messing (Sep 25, 2013 07:43AM)
I didn't expect the restaurants to be full because of me but it would have been nice to know if the tiniest of efforts would have had much of an effect.
Message: Posted by: themagicguy (Sep 25, 2013 08:26AM)
I find the only reason I have my gigs is because the bosses like me and they are already successful restaurants. If they are expecting you to draw more customers on a weekly basis you're screwed!
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Sep 25, 2013 04:54PM)
Well that is the truth. The worst part is that often that is part of the pitch magicians use to sell themselves.