Waiter there’s a fly in my soup! A guide to restaurant entertaining.

Posted by Russ Kennedy on

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Have you ever worked a restaurant as an entertainer and if so was it a good experience? The world of restaurant entertainment can be difficult and not everyone can cut the mustard but we have some helpful hints and fun ideas to help get your foot in the door.

Landing a gig: Believe it or not, restaurant owners are not waiting around for some clown to walk through their doors and ask for money in order to entertain the patrons. Actually it is quite the contrary, most restaurateurs need to know their money is wisely spent on food, upkeep and employees, not spending money on a strolling clown or magician. Your first job is to convince them you would be an asset, bringing in more business or repeat business when you are working.

*Research:

1: Find out what type of clientele base the restaurant has, family style restaurants would be a great place for a clown but a more upscale restaurant catering to a mature crowd may enjoy a close up magician.

2. Patronizing the restaurant is helpful to see what type of traffic flow they have, also if you are somewhat familiar with the establishment this can help when speaking to the owner or manager about the possibility of being hired.

*Sales pitch:

3. Offer a free show as a live interview. Pick a time that is not too busy where you will be in the way or the manager is occupied with customers and unable to see you perform. Work the crowd for just about an hour with your face painting, balloon twisting or magic and let the owner know this is on the house for them and the patrons.

4. Don’t expect to sign a contract when you have finished but offer your contact information and move on with your day. If interested, they will call to discuss an opportunity. Checking back in a few days if you haven’t heard anything is fine, just don’t become a pest.

5. Have a business plan if the establishment is interested. What your rate is, what days and hours you are available, do you have a backup plan if you need to miss a day? These are all things to be prepared to discuss with the potential client.

*Working it:

Cafe' magic

Cafe’ magic

6. Getting paid. Don’t expect to make a hundred plus dollars an hour like you might for a birthday party. Most restaurants will want you for a few hours a night therefore the rate will be set lower. Often part of your compensation is meal vouchers along with your pay. A friend of mine often would use his meal vouchers to entertain a perspective client for a private party, make sure the restaurant is in agreement with this before you proceed.

7. Be kind to your the wait staff, they can view you as a potential threat to their tip money. Remember they are probably making far less an hour than you. Encourage the patrons to tip their server well before tipping you, this makes you look good to the wait staff, management and guests. If the wait staff likes you, they will encourage the guests to request you and keep you working more which is typically better than a couple dollar tip. With that being said, there is nothing at all wrong with accepting a tip.

8. Approaching the table. Make sure you stop by after the waitress has taken the order if possible and you will have a nice slot of time to work your routine before the food arrives. Patrons will be more receptive to you if they are now just waiting for food and the management will be happy as the meal will seem to arrive sooner.

9. Introduce yourself to the guests and find out if they are interested in your performance, not everyone is receptive to restaurant entertainment. If the group does not want to see your performance politely excuse yourself, don’t insist that they will love it and continue anyway, that’s a good way to be invited by the management to hit the road. Try not to interrupt during the meal but after the guests have finished eating is another great opportunity to  perform. If you are the last thing the patrons experience before leaving they are more likely to remember that and return to see you again.

10. Don’t linger too long at one table, you are an added part of the evening not the sole reason folks have come to the restaurant. Spend just a few minutes making balloons or doing magic and move on to other guests. If the people had fun, they can always ask you to stop back before they leave. If you are a face painter, most likely you will have a station to work from so the guests will come to you, keep the line moving so the guests can get back to their meal.

11. Know your place. If a patron has concerns about the food, waitstaff, etc. find a manger to help solve the situation, you don’t want to get involved in something you are not able to resolve.

*Advertisement: 

12. Most restaurants will not spring for signage or other forms of advertisement for you but most will allow you to provide a nice sign to be displayed in the lobby, at least on the night you work if not on permanent display.

13. Have business cards at the ready, this is a great place to pick up those birthday parties and other extra jobs.

14. Use your restaurant gig as a interview spot. If someone is interested in you, let them know where and when you work and invite them to stop by to see you in action. This is also a way to show the restaurant management that you are bringing in extra clientele.

15. For the face painters and balloon twisters, having printed photos of your work is helpful in assisting the patrons in their choice of balloon or face paint.

These are just a few ideas to get you on your way to working a weekly gig. Restaurant work can be very demanding yet rewarding at the same time and definitely keeps you sharp on your skills. As always keep a professional attitude about your performance and you should be rewarded for your efforts.


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