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20 Creative Ways to Support Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday Brown Paper Tickets is big on small business—shops, restaurants, theaters, local makers, movers and shakers.  We were the first solution for small businesses to ticket events for free and we continue to offer a wealth of free resources and services to events of any size.

November 29 is Small Business Saturday. Discover what’s new in your neighborhood. Catch a band in your town. Buy gifts at a local craft fair. See what’s shakin’ at the local theater. Shop microbreweries and distilleries.

According to the Retail Merchants Association, for every $1 spent at local businesses, 45 cents is reinvested locally vs. 15 cents or less from non-local purchases. Local stores also tend to hire local people and make neighborhoods more visually appealing.

Not sure where to begin? Here are 20 creative ideas:

San Francisco
1. Take a tour

Relatives in town for the holidays? See your city with fresh eyes and support local tourism with an eclectic walking and riding tour. Learn about local architecture and explore the impact of the Gold Rush.

2. Sign up for sake class
Love sake, but aren’t sure whether it should be warm or cold or what to eat it with? Take a sake education class with friends and support a Japanese eatery at the same time.

Los Angeles
3. See, cook, learn

Fascinated by Samurais? Tour the renowned LACMA Samurai exhibit and then get schooled on Japanese cooking techniques at Surfas in Culver City.

4. Catch a Krampus fashion show
Krampus walks are now a thing here in the US. Add a devilish scare to your holiday reverie by watching locally made Krampus costumes take the runway at the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles.

5. Support local theater

There are so many great indie theaters to support; we couldn’t possibly name them all. But this one struck our nostalgic side. Revisit old favorites from the Twilight Zone Live on-stage at Theater Schmeater.

6. Enjoy craft brews + burlesque
Can’t choose if you want to support local beer or local beauties? Do both. Check out Revelry—Seattle’s only Monday night burlesque revue.

New York City
7. Take a bite
New Yorkers are serious about bagels. Explore neighborhood bagel shops and sweeteries with this unique food tour that works around your schedule.

8. Go to the Olde Grand Market
Celebrate the holidays and support a local performing arts center at the Grand Market celebration in Queens. Face painting, holiday portraits and more await.

9. Drink in “A Beer Carol”

Drinking and writing tends to go hand-in-pen. A Beer Carol at the Haymarket Brew Pub combines them both with a theatrical output from craft beer advocates. One reviewer describes it as “awesome and tasty too.”

10. Visit your local Santa
Avoid long lines at the mall to see Santa and support a local bookstore with an Evening with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

11. Pop-in to a pop-up dinner

Chef Bradley Kilgore is opening a restaurant in Wynwood named Alter. Sample an exclusive 4-course fixed menu and help support a new spot.

12. Show regional writers some love
Watch a battle of wits go down at the Laboratory Theater of Florida. In this 24-hour playwriting project, 5 playwrites are given a theme, director and actors. The audience gets to see the writers’ visions come to life when the plays are performed on stage.

Washington, DC
13. Spot the liar

Another great indie theater event in the District of Columbia. Four storytellers tell a story and only one is true. Vote and interrogate. Brace for the truth—it may be shocking.

14. Laugh locally
Need a laugh? Support the DC Arts Center by going to see local improv. Separate Beds is a senior-level improv show, so you’re practically guaranteed a few giggles.

15. Catch a cabaret show
There’s no place like home. Recapture the magic seeing this Judy Garland cabaret concert by a critically acclaimed tribute artist.

16. Get to know the North End
Boston is arguably one of the best food towns in the US. Take a neighborhood food tour and get to know the North End’s Italian fare. Find out about new restaurants and established ones you might not have heard about.

17. Go nuts

Do “The Nutcracker,” Austin-style with the Invisible Czars. Audience members are encouraged to dress up and let loose. Prizes are given out to the wearer of the best holiday costume and more.

18. Revisit a classic
Instead of big-box cinema, see a play. Bring the family out to see “Ebenezer’s Journey”—an interactive theatrical presentation in the old buildings of Pioneer Farms.

19. Sip brew made near you
Take a two-hour guided walking tour to the best local breweries in the historic LoDo. Learn the history of beer, how it’s made and maybe pick up a one-of-a-kind gift for the beer lover.

20. Brunch like a local
Forget mimosas. Drink 5 excellent Local Relic beers paired with brunched-up food at the Colorado House in Colorado Springs.

Comment below with your own ideas on shopping or supporting Small Business Saturday.

Photo 1: Shopping in Austin
Photo 2: Literary Affairs event

Event Tips >

20 Creative Ways to Use Your Restaurant Space

Restaurant High restaurant lease? Don’t fret. There’s more than one way to use your restaurant space. In fact, there are at least 20. Patrick Nelson, our Food and Beverage Specialist has helped thousands of event organizers all across the industry, from kitchens to restaurants, underground restaurants, gardens, small farms, breweries and distillers. Below, he imparts some ideas on attracting new customers and publicity with your restaurant space.

1. Teach Classes
Chop, dice, blend. Just as there are tricks to making the perfect bisque, cassoulet or grilled cheese, there are methods to making your class a rewarding experience for both student and teacher. Have a lesson plan and start small – teach basic dishes with limited ingredients. Create handouts students can take home. Be engaging and encouraging throughout the class.

2. Pop-Up or Underground Restaurants
It’s the latest thing. Chefs from all over the world are popping up shop in all sorts of places, from tiny dining rooms in Brooklyn to warehouses in Los Angeles. Eager foodies flock to these exclusive supper clubs to converse with interesting people and nosh on off-the-menu items. Many are private events and therefore, immune to the rules and regulations that normally apply to regular restaurants. Plus, they can be held anywhere with space for tables and chairs.

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

4. Mix and Mingle
Fill your restaurant with professionals by throwing a networking event. Stimulate sales with free or discounted snacks and drink specials. You may also benefit: for example, if you had a distillers’ mixer, you might meet the right folks to partner with on other events.

Tip: Talk to people you know are well-connected to help organize the event. Professional event organizers could also help. If you already have a large mailing list, start with that. After a few events, the followers will start trickling in.

5. Trivia Night
Bring out the beer-drinking brainiacs. Host a trivia night and find out who among your customers are “Cliff Claven” types. If you lined up a trivia MC, you’re in good shape. The next step is building your customer base. Consistency is the key to developing return business, so have the event at the same time every week.

6. Beer or Beverage Release Party
Spread the word about your new brew. Whether you are a budding new brewery or have been successfully crafting for a decade, throwing a release party can foster excitement, awareness and some well-deserved attention. Get the scoop on how to throw a rockin’ beer release party.

7. Cook Offs
Top Chef,” “Iron Chef,” “Chopped” and others have made competitive cooking part of the main stream television diet. Bring the competition to your restaurant. Invite local aspiring cooks to try their hand and test their skill. Pack the house. Gain exposure in the food community. Create a one-of-a-kind trophy and title for the victor. The competition will get fierce and food might just fly, but keep things light and fun.

Tip: Turn the cookoff into a fundraiser and show your love to a local charity. Giving is not only personally rewarding, there are lots of wonderful causes that need help. And as a bonus, your good deed may result in added exposure.

City Growers Farm to Table Benefit8. Tastings
Go local. Put together special tasting menus that features local products, anything from wine to craft soda pop or cider. Or host your own whenever you update your menu or wine list. Mix it up – have your patrons vote on new dishes. Use the built-in market research to keep your menu current.

9. Private Events
You might already host weddings, birthday parties, but why not make it part of your business. Boost your value to customers by offering a catering menu and event registration support.

10. Tournaments
Pool, darts, bocce ball…when it comes to bar or restaurant tournaments, the opportunities are endless. Even beer pong is in play. Register your leagues and use Brown Paper Tickets to collect the dues.

11. Internal Training
Show newbies the ropes. Hold training sessions on food safety, etiquette, procedure and anything else your employees need to know in your space. This is also a great way to update their menu knowledge.

12. Holiday Parties
Dazzle your customers with your own soiree or arrange parties for customers. Offer event registration to make organizing the night a breeze.

13. Poetry Nights/Open Mic Nights
Host an open mic night and find the best minds of your generation. (If you get that reference, you’re well on your way.) Everyone wants to be heard, so open the floor to the community. If your space is small, you might not even need the mic.

14. 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, offer food and drink specials or even a catering menu tailored to their event.

15. Customer Appreciation Night
Reward your regulars. Create a preferred customer program and show your appreciation for return business with discounts and the occasional appetizer on the house. Feature entertaining activities (trivia, bingo, raffles) and free snacks.

16. Industry Shindig
Get familiar with fellow associates in the food and drink industry by holding special functions for restaurant industry workers. Provide free snacks and drink deals with a valid food handler’s card or liquor license.

17. Singles Mingles
Fan the flames of love. Register attendees for your single’s night. Give out name tags and have plenty of pens and paper available for phone number exchanges. Create aphrodisiac-themed food and drink specials (Cupid Cocktail, anyone?) or line up tables and chairs to turn the evening into a speed dating event.

18. Game Nights
Drinking and gaming go together like beer and pretzels. Pictionary, Outburst, Apples to Apples, Jenga are all perfect choices for group games over drinks or snacks. Organize a large tournament and register players ahead of time.

19. Fundraisers
Pancake breakfast. Spaghetti dinner. Lobster lunch. Throw a charity dinner to raise funds for a good cause. Chat with your purveyors and ask if they will donate some of the food so you can maximize the funds raised.

20. Farm to Table

Go Green Acres. Invite local farms to show off their lovingly grown products with a special menu featuring their ingredients.

Whew. Got more creative uses for your restaurant space? Or have a question about food industry events? Comment below.

Photo credit, 1st photo: Martin Abegglen

Food & Drink >