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How to Successfully Launch and Profit from an Event Venue Business: Expert Tips and Secrets

Opening an event venue is an exciting venture, but it requires careful planning and execution for a successful launch and long-term profitability. While there are many resources available on the basics of starting an event...

Opening an event venue is an exciting venture, but it requires careful planning and execution for a successful launch and long-term profitability. While there are many resources available on the basics of starting an event space, seasoned experts have shared valuable insights that can take your venue to the next level. In this article, we'll reveal 20 secrets from two industry pros, Dianne Kohler and Michael Hallford, to help you navigate the intricacies of launching and managing an event venue.

Prioritize Researching Your Target Audience, Competition, and Location

Understanding your target audience, competition, and location area is the first and most crucial step in opening a new venue. According to Dianne and Michael, this research should take priority over everything else. Knowing your target audience allows you to build a venue specifically tailored to their needs and preferences. However, Dianne warns against solely targeting the wealthiest clients, as they can be demanding and lead to potential PR issues. Instead, focus on the largest demographic willing to pay for your services. Dianne emphasizes the importance of thorough upfront planning and market research to meet the needs of your target market effectively.

Develop a Comprehensive Business Plan

Once you've identified your target audience, the next step is to develop a comprehensive business plan. This plan should cover all aspects of your venue, from facility and organizational structure to finances, budgets, and marketing strategies. Michael advises budgeting for covering your first six months of business expenses, including a contingency for construction overages. Alongside your business plan, having a well-defined marketing plan that outlines your branding, PR goals, and expenditures is crucial.

Determine the Right Pricing Strategy

Getting your pricing right is essential to prevent lost business and maintain healthy profit margins. Dianne suggests understanding your target audience's needs, researching competitors' price points, and considering your operational costs when setting your prices. Offering competitive pricing that aligns with market expectations will attract customers and ensure your venue's profitability. You may also consider adjusting your pricing strategy strategically over time, such as starting with lower prices to gain initial clients and gradually increasing them.

Thoroughly Plan Your Venue Space

Thoroughly planning your venue space before construction will add value for your customers and save you potential regrets. Michael advises creating a detailed plan considering storage, proper ingress and egress, fire marshal and building code requirements, office area needs, and kitchen facilities. Additionally, paying attention to high-quality elements such as washrooms and food and beverage provisions can leave a lasting impression on your clients.

Prioritize Unique and Flexible Design Elements

In a world where clients increasingly seek unique event spaces, it's essential to incorporate design elements that stand out while maintaining flexibility for different events and setups. Dianne suggests adding unique touches to your venue, such as interesting paint choices or programmable lighting. Creating a space that is both impressive and adaptable allows clients to envision their individual events and differentiates your venue from others.

Decide Between Venue Rental or Event Production

If your venue focuses on weddings or parties, you'll likely experience slower off-season periods. Dianne advises deciding early on whether to rent during these slow periods, engage in self-production to fill the space on dark nights, or consider off-premise catering to maximize revenue. The decision should align with your business plan and target audience preferences.

Communicate Clearly with Your Contractor

When working with contractors, ensure everything is done to your liking before completing payment. Michael emphasizes the importance of being picky and not settling for subpar workmanship. Thoroughly inspect the work and address any issues or inconsistencies along the way to avoid disappointing clients and potential negative word-of-mouth.

Design with Your Most Discerning Clients in Mind

Consider the preferences of your most discerning clients during the design and buildout process. Michael advises envisioning what they would expect and ensuring your venue meets those expectations. Making adjustments based on client feedback and conducting mockups can help you create a space that impresses even the most demanding customers.

Choose Between a Full Kitchen or Prep Kitchen

Decide early on whether a full-service kitchen or a prep kitchen is the best fit for your venue, audience, and bottom line. Dianne suggests considering a full kitchen only if you anticipate a high volume of catered events. However, she warns that full kitchens are costly and have narrow profit margins. Alternatively, a prep kitchen can reduce costs, offer flexibility for clients, and open up additional revenue streams.

Establish Relationships with Quality Vendors

Building relationships with quality vendors can significantly benefit your venue startup. Michael recommends finding vendors who excel in categories you don't cover in-house and establishing partnerships well before opening day. These relationships can lead to cross-referrals, superior service, and increased exposure for your venue.

Hire Flexible, Multi-Skilled Staff

Building a team of multi-talented employees who can fulfill various roles is essential for an efficient and adaptable workforce. Dianne suggests hiring staff members who are eager to learn and enjoy the fresh challenges that come with working in the event industry. Rather than relying on specialized personnel, creating a lean-and-mean team of generalists can increase productivity and reduce costs.

Start Marketing Efforts Well in Advance

Marketing your venue well in advance of opening day is crucial to secure bookings and generate revenue from the start. Michael recommends establishing an online presence through a venue website and social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Showcasing progress, vendor relationships, and architectural renderings will generate interest and build anticipation. Implementing a strategic marketing plan aligned with your business objectives will help you reach your target audience effectively.

Hire a Sales Manager Six Months Prior to Opening

Having a dedicated sales manager is invaluable for securing bookings and building relationships with clients. Michael advises hiring a sales manager at least six months before opening to give them ample time to generate leads and secure initial bookings. This allows you to focus on other critical aspects of your venue launch while ensuring a strong start.

Invest in Venue Management Software and Tools

Investing in venue management software and tools is essential for streamlining your operations and ensuring a seamless customer experience. Michael recommends utilizing Planning Pod's all-in-one platform, which offers a suite of tools to manage bookings, sales, communications, contracts, and more. Having these systems in place before hiring a sales manager enables a smooth transition and efficient management of your venue.

Prioritize Safety Measures and Insurance

Prioritizing safety measures and obtaining appropriate insurance coverage is crucial for protecting your venue and ensuring the safety of your clients and staff. Dianne recommends consulting with experts and hiring consultants to ensure compliance with safety regulations. Additionally, having comprehensive business, property, and liability insurance policies is essential for safeguarding your venue against potential risks and liabilities.

Order Furnishings, Equipment, and Supplies in Advance

Ordering all necessary furnishings, equipment, and supplies well in advance ensures they are on-hand and ready for your opening day. Michael advises having everything in place at least three months before opening to avoid last-minute stress. Investing in quality items like tables and chairs upfront can save costs in the long run compared to renting them repeatedly. Michael suggests Chivari chairs for their timeless appeal and durability.

Conduct Dry Runs and Mock-Ups

Conducting dry runs and mock-ups allows you to refine your processes, identify any operational issues, and showcase your venue to potential clients. Dianne suggests setting up different room styles and capturing photos to help clients visualize the space. These mock-ups can also be shared on social media and your website to generate interest and bookings.

Make the Most of Your Grand Opening

Your grand opening is an opportunity to make valuable industry connections while showcasing your venue's offerings. Dianne suggests hosting an open house to invite industry professionals and potential clients. Networking with local event planners and professionals is essential for building relationships and generating referrals. Michael advises sending out a press release, hiring a PR firm, and involving politicians to increase media coverage and attendance.

Become an Integral Part of Your Community

Becoming involved in your community and supporting local businesses can bring tremendous benefits to your venue. Dianne recommends participating in community organizations, donating space for nonprofit events, and promoting other businesses in your area. By immersing yourself in the community and building goodwill, you'll generate word-of-mouth referrals and establish your venue as a trusted and integral part of the community.

Seek Advice from Seasoned Professionals

Launching an event venue is a journey filled with learning curves. Seek advice and insights from experienced venue owners, join professional organizations, and hire consultants to guide you through the process. Utilizing the knowledge and expertise of industry experts can significantly contribute to your venue's success.

Remember, opening an event venue requires careful planning, attention to detail, and a dedication to providing exceptional experiences for your clients. By following these expert tips and secrets, you'll be on your way to launching a successful and profitable event space.