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How to Turn Your Empty Space into an Event Venue

Turn-Property-Into-VenueYour perfect event venue awaits … but you might have to use your imagination to see it. Warehouses, restaurants, community centers, hair salons and even old farmhouses and barns can be transformed into beautiful concert halls, theaters, and meeting spaces.

If you own a space like this, you have to pay utilities and other expenses to keep it open. Special events and alternative venues are a good way to boost income during slow times and create a side revenue stream. All it takes is a little elbow grease and imagination.

Before we go any further, I invite you to sign up for the ‘Turn Your Empty Space into an Event Space’ webinar on September 10 at 11:00 am PST. The webinar will teach you how to take advantage of your space by turning it into an event venue. There will be a Q and A, so bring your questions.

Step 1: Pick the Event Type

Consider some of the following types of events as a jumping off point.

Chop, dice, blend. Just as there are tricks to making the perfect bisque, casserole or grilled cheese, there are methods to making your class rewarding for both student and teacher. Have a lesson plan and start small – teach basic dishes with limited ingredients. Read my past post on how to teach cooking classes.

Throw some new stuff out there. Pop-ups allow you to bring in fresh faces. If you have a restaurant, consider a night with a well-known specialty chef or even a secret supper. Transform your restaurant for the day and try something new and exciting. If you have a retail space, a pop-up sale or meet and greet with a designer could be fun. There are all kinds of popups.

Community Meetings
Offer to let community groups host meetings and functions in your establishment. Hold an appreciation event for one or more of these groups.

Wine and cheese. Beer and bacon. Tequila and tacos. Whatever pairing party you choose, it’s a great way to partner and cross-promote with local distilleries, breweries and wineries.

Release Party
Many micro-breweries and wineries do not have commercial kitchens. When it’s time to release their newest creation, they may want to step it up on the food. Host their events in your restaurant and create a special menu to complement their product.

Internal Training
Show newbies the ropes. Hold training sessions on food safety, etiquette, procedure and anything else employees need to know in your space.

Step 2: Take Inventory

Once you have a good idea of what type of event will work, take inventory of what your team and space have to offer. Brainstorm a list of possible partnerships—this is a great way to find talent, resources, or a sponsor. There are loads of opportunities externally and within your team.

If there’s a talented bartender on staff, ask them to teach a mixology class. Partner with a farmer to source local ingredients or have a renowned chef over for a pop-up night. Talent and product is one part of the equation, but you will also want to consider guest accommodations, equipment needs, and a few other logistics.

Take inventory of all equipment needed to pull off your event—tables, chairs, plates, anything else needed to accommodate your guests and the event.

Keep your budget low to ensure your event is economically viable and will allow you to maximize profit.

Step 3: Select a Date

The date and time that you select for your event can really affect the turnout. Check local listings, online ticketing companies, and community calendars for any major events or happenings in your area.

Your draw will be better if you pick the right date. Also, look into construction that may affect traffic, parking and public transportation.

When you avoid planning your event on the same day as something major goings on, holidays, or an events your potential draw will most likely be better. Try to also be aware of construction that may affect traffic, parking, and public transportation needs and limitations.

Much like other businesses, events have a ‘break even point’ that equates to a certain number of guests in attendance. The more guests attending beyond that number, the higher your profit margin will be.

Step 4: Have a Happy Event

A happy team is a productive team that passes their genuine enjoyment on to your guests. This is one of those intangible factors that really make an event special. The energy of a well-prepared and happy team can keep people coming back to just about any event.

Cutting cost where you can, is necessary with any event, but the staff is not the place to do it. The service, not the food and drink are at the core of the event and make it all work.

Thinking of setting up an event and need some help? Get in touch.

Event Tips >

Your Complete Guide to Event Appetizers

Appetizers, Hors d'oeuvres, Canapes for Events Tasty, unique hors d’oeuvres set the right impression at the beginning of your event.  But doing them well takes some work. From budget to staff to timing, here’s everything you need to know to create amazing hors d’oeuvres and appetizers.


Before you decide on your menu, determine your budget. Be realistic and flexible. Local, fresh, and simple is always best. Form friendships with area food producers. If you have a relationship with a beet farmer for example, borscht shots could make a nice bite (err… sip).

The general rule for light appetizers is two to three bites per person, per item, and two beverages each.  This means if you have 100 guests you will need 300 of each bite-sized appetizer (usually at least three different items).  Not every item will be super popular, so mix and match quantities.

Event Staff

Depending on the complexity, you can usually get away with one person doing the food prep for up to fifty people, so you are looking at a team of four to five. Plan to have at least one person serve each item you offer.

Appetizer Menu Tips

The menu for an event with hors d’oeuvres can be challenging. Seek ingredients that can be prepared in bulk ahead of time that will retain their flavor and freshness. Consider putting them together in batches to ensure quality.

Keeping the recipes simple will not only help cut your prep and labor time, it will reflect in your food costs as you’ll need less. Make sure your servers know about what they’re offering so they can explain where you sourced the ingredients.

Other tips:

1. The timing for your event will determine food and beverage needs. If you’re only serving appetizers, plan the event at least an hour after a typical meal period, so guests have a chance to fill up first. Your attendees will get to hang out a little longer and savor your appetizers rather than try to make a meal of them.

2. Bulk up on your appetizers if you are serving alcohol. Also, limit the size of each alcoholic beverage to ensure pacing for your guests.  Over ordering and over pouring are top event planning mistakes. Over ordering increases costs dramatically and over pouring can increase the amount of inebriated and obnoxious guests.

3. Dress the part, and set clear attire rules for staff.  The service staff should dress in a uniform manner to make it obvious that they are there to serve the guests. No need to go super fancy; if your event is casual, a black t-shirt, jeans and name tag works well.

4. Educate your staff on the preparation and ingredients of each bite. The more your servers know, the more accommodated your guests will feel should they have allergies, dietary preferences, or are just curious.  It’s also impressive for your staff to be knowledgeable about the food and wine.

5. Pace your trays and rotate the items on them regularly. Create paths or walkways with tape for your servers to follow. This ensures that there is even coverage throughout the venue, and you can rotate the different appetizers, one on each path.  If you assign a specific person to each path it will be easier for them to rotate trays on their own.

6. Set clear expectations for attendees regarding the style of service. Spend time “on the floor” at your event to chat up your guests and alleviate any frustrations.

7. Place receptacles for napkins and other refuse in obvious locations throughout your venue.  There is nothing worse than carrying around a piece of trash while you are trying to mingle and participate in an event. Receptacles should be plentiful and clearly marked for your guests.

8. Be a ringleader. When you are hosting an event with passed appetizers, you’re directing traffic and hosting at the same time–unless you have hired a catering company, and even in that case, you still need to keep an eye on the food. Set reminders on your phone and stay organized.

9. Work with your team to talk, taste, and teach in an open and friendly manner.

In the midst of planning an event? We’ve got great event tips and resources for every type of event, from classes to festivals.

Event Tips >

10 Steps to a Better Restaurant Event, Just in Time for Mother’s Day Brunch

Mothers-Day-BrunchValentine’s Day dinner. Mother’s Day brunch. New Year’s Eve. Pop-up night.

If you’re in the restaurant industry, you know these days are all about efficiency. You need to get as many diners in and away from their tables as possible without a hitch.

Look at your tables as well-planned events and you can increase profits substantially. Ticketing your tables as events allows you to slot out times diners will be seated and served.


You can also determine:

  • How many heads to expect
  • What they want to eat and drink
  • A specific refund policy to eliminate costly no-shows

Don’t do all of your tables at once. Start with one section, so the rest of your staff can operate as they normally would and you don’t have to reorganize everything. Select your strongest servers for the ticketed tables and make sure they are good clock-watchers.

Inform the kitchen of the time-sensitive aspect of turning these tables and see if you can work with the chef to prioritize those.

1. Create Your Event Page

Once you have your team excited and on board, it’s time to set up your event page.  There are lots of ways that you can customize your Brown Paper Tickets event page, however, simple and clean always works best. If you set it up in a way that’s too complicated, the page will confuse potential customers.

Here’s an example event page for a Valentine’s Pre-Fixe dinner. Trouble setting it up? Email me for a consultation.

2. Set Up Specific Table Sizes

You don’t want to discourage larger groups, but set your floor in advance and have a clear section created. Even if you create a clear section, you can still make it flexible.

For example, if you are hosting a Mother’s Day brunch and want to keep things fluid, create a variety of various-sized tables as options. If you get a special request, you can always direct them to the general seating portion of your restaurant.

3. Develop a Pre-Fixe Menu

Develop a pre-fixe menu with a few options for each course, and include a dessert, such as chocolate-covered strawberries or mousse. Make the dishes simple to modify (diners will want to modify them) and to help the kitchen out with the volume, be clear there is no splitting.

4. Have a Few Pre-Selected Wine Options

Make sure they are good options and that you have plenty. The price point should be reasonable, since you are charging more for the pre-fixe and other aspects of the service. Emphasize the time slot ending to your servers so they can manage lingering slow pokes.

If you allot the proper amount of time based on your service style, it should work out well. Don’t make anyone wait more than a minute or two to be seated.

5. Set Clear Policies

Set up clear policies for lateness, no-shows, cancellations, and up charges.

This way your staff and customers are all on the same page.  In my opinion, gratuity should be separate and up to the customer, but speak to your team and find out what works best.

You can always add the gratuity to the registration price on Brown Paper Tickets and cash your servers out later.

The refund policy language should relay the worst-case scenario such as, “absolutely no refunds.” You can still have mercy and refund someone, but this phrase covers your bases in case of a blatant no-show.

6. Check Local Calendars for Events

If there is a play, musical, or other event, use the show times to set your schedule. For example, if the first showing is at 6:45, your first time slot should end around 6:15, thus giving your customers enough time to get to the show. You can reach out to the theaters and offer to cross promote as well, maybe even bundle the show tickets with your meal to create a “dinner and a show” price level.

7.  Keep It Fun and Stay Positive

Special nights are slammin’ busy.  Keep your staff happy and it will transfer to guests. Buy your helpers some chocolate or prepare a staff meal, and project the good vibes yourself.  Keeping the energy level and morale up will pay off when your customers leave happy and on-time. There is no substitute for genuine positivity–it is the heart and soul of good service.

8. Remember, Scoop and Serve is Your Friend

Ask servers to scoop ice cream, ladle soup, garnish desserts, plate chocolate-covered strawberries, and perform other tasks to help them control the flow of their sections.  This also takes pressure off of the kitchen staff, which is always a good idea.  Provide a little training for your service staff, and watch in wonderment when they are garnishing beautifully presented dishes for your guests.

9.  Leave a Lasting Impression

Ticketing your tables is not just a good way to increase efficiency during a special event date.  If you can really pull it off and make a lasting impression, your guests will come back.

Every aspect of the restaurant is pushed to perform at its peak to provide the optimal event experience. Keep the expectations realistic and stay true to your goals, the organization and pre-planning will do the rest.

10. Test All Your Options

When planning your big night, it’s important to account for every possible issue that may arise.  Ensure that the set-up is right for your restaurant’s flow and service style.  Try a soft opening or trial run before the big day—that way, you can gather feedback and make adjustments ahead of time.

Have questions, tips or thoughts? Comment below. Or email me and I’ll help you you get started.

Food & Drink >

How to Take Your (Boring) Corporate Snack Table to the Next Level

food-catering-eventsYou’ve seen this setup at everything from networking events to author readings to workshops: a table with platters of cheese, crackers, crudités, and other assorted munchies.

If you’re lucky, hot water for tea and coffee. If you’re really lucky, cheap wine or beer.

As long as the vegetables are crisp and the coffee, caffeinated, there’s nothing wrong with this setup. But a next-level snack table creates positive memories of your event and keeps guests mingling and occupied while your staff works on all the behind-the-scenes stuff.

There’s a big difference between an event starting 10 minutes behind schedule with a snack table and an event starting 10 minutes behind schedule without one.

To Cater or Not to Cater?

If you are going to make your own snacks you can potentially save cash, but only if you have the time. Forgo the caterer and you’ll spend precious hours shopping and planning.

You can always order a few bulk items from a restaurant and fill in the rest on your own.

Whatever you decide, to keep your attendees satiated, focus on protein-rich foods like hummus, cheese, cured meats, smoked or cured seafood, and whole grain breads and crackers. Offer a wide range and make sure to accommodate dietary restrictions.

Don’t settle for under-ripe melon and rubbery Crudités—select high quality, local and fresh. Go to the Farmer’s Market late in the day and ask vendors for deals on “ugly produce.” Once prepared, funny-shaped vegetables still look and taste fantastic.

Add Your Own Twist to Classic Party Snacks

Chex Mix is ubiquitous at snack tables. Take it to the next level with Thai curry paste, chili powder or miso. The same flavorful twist concept can be done with other “retro snacks,” like deviled eggs, smoke salmon or the classic cheese ball.

Avoid cookies, chips, soda and other types of processed junk food (except the Chex Mix). Not only does it run up costs, it takes away from your style and originality. Make your own popcorn, chips or trail mix instead—whatever you create will taste and look better than the packaged stuff.

Keep the table tidy. Arrange serving vessels, utensils, napkins, cups, and serving implements. Expect to be extra busy the day of your event, so perhaps delegate snack table cleanup to another team member. And don’t forget to place clearly labeled recycling, compost and trash bins around the venue.

Go Lux with a Local Chef

If you have the budget for it, consider hiring a local chef to create next-level eats. Many restaurants have catering options—reach out to the ones you like. If you offer it up as a sponsorship, you may even get a discount rate.

Before you approach a chef or catering company, consider the following:

  • Make sure the timing of your event doesn’t clash with their busy days, typically Thursday through Saturday
  • Plan far in advance. Busy season or not, the restaurant will appreciate having a solid lead on filling your catering request. 

Set realistic expectations for what you would like to have made, especially if you are on a tight budget.  This will allow the chef to relax and focus on what they do best, rather than work off a complicated list.
  • Focus on quality.  Remember that many event organizers aren’t putting the thought in care into their snack tables as you are.  A nice spread will help you stand out and get your guests’ attention, which creates return attendees.

Whatever your idea of the perfect snack table is, eating socially creates a sense of comfort and community. When you genuinely want to impress people through food, it shows.

What’s your favorite event snack? Ring in below and our food and beverage specialist may give you a few ideas on how to prepare it at your next event.

Event Tips >

Farming Events: Getting Started

As a small farm owner I can tell you that the struggle is real, and you need to hustle to make ends meet. More and more farmers are turning to events to add another revenue stream while marketing their brand and engaging the community. If you are getting started with your farm events – or maybe just trying to refresh your current efforts – you should take a few steps into consideration.

Going it alone with Special Meal Events

If you have the knowledge, skills and resources you can consider hosting your own on-site special food events. You may still need a hand with the dishes, but at least you will be in the drivers seat. It may be difficult to get the buzz out about these types of events at first so don’t get discouraged. Stick to what you know and keep your number of guests where you can handle it – cooking for 6 people is very different from 12. Try finding events that are similar to what you want to do and attend a couple. Think of it as market research that involves delicious food, drink, and event some new friends. This is a great way to meet people that like to attend farm to table dinners and that is good for your budding new endeavor.

Power in Numbers, Collaborating Farm to Table

Pair with local restaurants and chefs to do exclusive farm to dinner events. You can start by researching the various dining establishments in your area. Research the different restaurants that host special events and try them out. Having a meal and drink at the place to get a feel for the style and quality is an important part of the vetting process. It far better to realize this earlier on in the game since it takes time to build regular event attendees and it can be rough to rebuild if the partnership ends. Talk to the chef and offer to provide some food for a special farm to table dinner at their place. Chefs obviously love food so make sure you select the best of what your farm has to offer for this meal. You can turn this event into a pairing dinner with a local.

Classes and Workshops

Many people want to learn how to farm – and the more small farms out there the better! Everyone is good at something, what are you/your farm exceptional at? Turn this into a lecturing farm tour, class, workshop, or demonstration. Perhaps you are exceptional at baking bread, or making wine? It’s crucial that you are extremely organized and prepare yourself well in advance for this. Once you have decided what you might be good at you can turn it into an event. If teaching is something you haven’t done before you should attend some different workshops, classes, or other educational events to get an idea of what you are up against. Teaching is in our basic human nature, but it may take some real soul searching for you to figure out if it’s for you. Brown Paper Tickets has many resources for putting together classes if you have any questions.

Think Outside the Box

Maybe mealtime events or teaching classes isn’t for you. The fact remains you still have some pretty exciting things happening on the farm. Hosting other unique events can still help build community and grow your farm business. Hayrides, pumpkin hurling, sack races, and corn mazes are also great options. Do you have a big open field and love the wind in your hair? Maybe a lawnmower race fits. Before you start busing droves of kids out to pick their own pumpkin, sit down and plan it out. Similar to the other event ideas shared in this post, you will want to go through the logistics of what you plan to do. Seeing your ideas on paper might help you get an idea of what specifically you are prepared for event wise.


Now you have an idea of how to get started. Remember if at first you don’t succeed give our resident event experts a call and let them help you get things going. Our friendly and knowledgeable staff is available 24 hours a day to assist you with every step of the process. From start to finish; from event creation to promotions, we’ve got you covered.

Contact our 24/7 Support Staff if you have any questions about creating your Farm event or class: 800-838-3006×4 or

Event Tips >