January 28, 2019
How to win big selling tickets on your restaurant website
The Super Bowl is a big deal for any sports bar, but when your hometown team is playing, it’s more than a big deal—it’s an event. Last year, Toll Man Joe’s in Philadelphia took advantage of the Eagles being in the championship to host an event in the form of a tailgate-themed viewing party that over 200 people attended. Out of the many ways to boost sales on Super Bowl Sunday, selling tickets online in advance helped the bar score big, attendance and revenue-wise. We sat down with co-owner Sean Penrose to find out how they did it.
We hosted the Ultimate Super Bowl Tailgate at our location in Philadelphia. We showed the game on TVs throughout the restaurant, but the main event was held in the giant metal building that’s about 300 feet away from the restaurant (we call it “The Barn”), with big projector screens. Each $75 ticket included an open bar, plus an all-you-can-eat buffet with Philly tailgate classics like chicken wings, cheesesteak spring rolls, and soft pretzels.
We sold about 230 tickets in advance. The event was completely sold out online. The beautiful thing about using the ticketing feature on our website is that it helps us plan ahead of time. We knew how many people to expect based on the ticket sales, making it easy for us to set up reserved seating and divide the tables between servers evenly. It also helped us order our booze, beer, and food ingredients.
We sold tickets on our website for about two weeks before the event. We were paid automatically for each order. But the BentoBox backend of our website also makes it super easy to refund someone— I can do it right from my phone, and it’s easy to show my managers how to do it, too. Had it not been for the ticketing feature, it would’ve been very difficult for us to plan and manage the event. As you can imagine, a room full of 230 Philly fans can get a little rowdy!
You can’t really sell tickets from the phone. You can lose a slip of paper when someone calls in for an order, but when it’s on our website, we have that list and can export it for event check-in.
I recommend promoting the event on all of your channels. We posted about our event on the website with consistent homepage alerts and on our social media channels. We made it so everyone in our network knew about the event.
We offered advanced Super Bowl wing orders for pickup, but sold them as tickets on our website. Our business doesn’t do much catering regularly and on the rare occasion that we do, the orders come in through the phone or email. I was already familiar with setting up ticketed events because BentoBox makes it so easy, so I brainstormed a way to use the ticketing feature to sell the wing packages right on our website.
Toll Man Joe's gets creative pre-selling Super Bowl wings through their restaurant website's ticketing feature.
We sold about 800 wings through the website, which was awesome for us. Our wings are time and labor-intensive to make. Our chef soaks them in a tomato paste mix, hits them with some cilantro, then lets them sit overnight before roasting them. It’s a long process, so knowing the number of wings that we needed to make 4 or 5 days ahead of time allowed us to purchase ingredients in advance and prep on time, all without impacting the service to our in-house folks.
We’ve had a ton of other events both at our Philadelphia and Bayside location where we’ve sold tickets on the website for entry. We do weekly luaus in Bayside, which are a huge success. We’ve also sold tickets to our New Year’s Eve gala, Drag Queen Bingo, Mother’s Day Brunch Buffet, Country Nights, charity events, and more. The Mother’s Day Brunch Buffet was super popular. We sold tickets by time slots so that we could control the seating, and ended up selling around 150 tickets. The year before, when we didn't have our BentoBox website, we had people just come in and grab a table, but that was too hard to manage and resulted in utter chaos. We wouldn’t have ever done it again without our new website.
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