Private-event dining can represent a boon to any restaurant’s business. That’s especially the case at Sage Restaurant Group, a nine-concept, 12-unit company that operates celebrated brands adjacent to its hotels—among them the popular Urban Farmer, which has locations in Portland, Oregon, Cleveland, and most recently, Philadelphia.
Christina Teran, Sage’s corporate director of sales and marketing, had positive memories of Gather, a Cloud-based private dining and events management software, from a previous role, and immediately saw its fit in the company’s unique structure. In December, Sage established Gather at 10 of its locations. “With private dining playing an important role in our business, it is essential that our teams are provided with an intuitive system that allows seamless communication with their management teams and clients,” she explains.
In the world of private-event dining, managing clients can be a cluttered affair. Details ranging from menu selection to beverage rates are often fluid and require a strong bridge of communication. This also typically leads to a lot of paper work. Gather’s goal to is to manage the process from sale to execution, while allowing operators the flexibility of using a mobile or digital device. “From an operational perspective, it eliminates the busy work,” Teran says. “It used to be paper contracts, building [banquet event orders] from scratch and ensuring your operations team had the most current document to reference. Through Gather, sales managers are able to send contracts, menus, and BEOs within minutes. All changes are updated in real time ensuring our operations teams are consistently provided with accurate information as they coordinate staffing, prepping, and the event execution.”
Some of the features include: using mobile notifications to streamline the process. The restaurant can stay updated through one mode of conversation. The platform also guarantees compliance with PCI and IRS standards, including auto-gratuities, which prevent employees from incorrectly storing credit card info. The app connects the restaurant with its client easier as well, resulting in better response times and shorter paths to contract. The lead-routing technology helps generate event inquiries.
“Clients are looking for a seamless, turn-key experience and Gather allows us to provide that for them. Our event process and procedures have been streamlined and simplified, providing increased visibility to productivity and private dining revenue’s impact on overall sales,” Teran says. “Our conversion rate from leads into bookings has increased and administrative work has been dramatically reduced. With enhanced communication tools there is less ambiguity among the front-of-the-house/back-of-the-house regarding upcoming events, as they are guaranteed to have access to the most current BEO, allowing us to ensure the event is executed flawlessly.”
Teran notes five features that she believes stand out. One is Daily Digest, a communication tool that alerts the team of what the day and week ahead look like for private events. Each event has a link to the event’s details and documents.
Another is the Dashboard, a new addition to Gather that provides a snapshot of Sage’s private dining leads both converted and unread for the week, bookings, and payments. Teran uses the Bookings Filter when pulling sales projections for the month—a helpful tool since Sage’s locations require food and beverage minimums. This allows Teran to access confirmed and tentative revenue for the months ahead.
“From a strategy perspective, this is key to understanding where we might need to focus each month and if we are trending to reach our goals for the month, quarter, year,” she says.
Teran adds that the Event/Proposal/Payment Processing is a hit with clients. It provides an image of the space as well as a financial breakdown. An alert pops up when the proposal has been signed and the deposit received.
Lastly, Gather captures information from each client, which helps with future bookings and helps Sage “better understand their business as well as to provide exceptional hospitality to our repeat and loyal clients. From a global perspective, this allows for me to identify potential national accounts and opportunities.”
Teran says the platform is easy to use and provides its own training program.
“From a managerial standpoint, Gather allows for us to identify development and growth opportunities for both our sales managers and our private dining segment,” she says. “Sales managers are now more mobile. As Sage Restaurant Group continues to grow, it provides our sales professionals with an opportunity oversee more than one location, without it hindering operations or the client experience. Sales managers have increased engagement with their clients, and time to spend networking outside the four walls. We can now quantify how many of those visits resulted in bookings as we build our accounts page.”