That’s Entertainment! -12 Event Ideas to Attract Customers

By: Joanne Sasvari

A pub is more than somewhere to enjoy a pint and a plate of chicken wings or nachos. It is where people connect, catch up, and share a laugh. Neighbourhood pubs act as what sociologists call the ‘third place,’ the first place being home and the second work. Pubs and other third places are crucial for building community and fostering creativity, and at a time when loneliness is epidemic in our society, we need them more than ever.

But these past few years, consumers have been glued to their screens, trapped at home by pandemic restrictions, or dazzled by the Michelin stars of trendy restaurants. They sometimes forget the value of a place where they can just hang out and have fun.

And that’s why as a publican, offering entertainment might just be the best thing you can do for your business.

A Great Marketing Opportunity

For one thing, entertainment is a great marketing opportunity. According to Bizzabo, a management, marketing, and interaction platform for event professionals, a whopping 95% of marketers say that in-person events help achieve business goals; and 41% of marketers rate in-person events as the single most effective marketing channel.

For another, as the folks at TouchBistro point out, events are a good way to bring in customers, especially new ones and during slower times. Events are also a good way to make your business stand out in a competitive industry, and maybe even give the local press something to report on for some added publicity.

However, for your event to be successful there are some guidelines to follow.

Guidelines for Events

According to the online event-planning platform Evey Events, before you add entertainment to your establishment’s offerings, you need to know who your customer base is and align your programming with their interests.

Are your customers mainly college students, families with young children, mid-career professionals, or retirees? Do they prefer watching TV sports, rocking out to live music, or something a bit more chill, like “wine tasting? Do a little research and tailor your events to what your customers enjoy most.

“Your regulars are your best promoters.”

Once you’ve decided on your event, whether it’s a weekly trivia night or one-time gala charity fundraiser, market it through social media and other channels. Don’t forget that your regulars are your best promoters; get them to share the news through word of mouth.

Take time to create partnerships with other people in your community, such as artists, musicians, winemakers, craft brewers, shopkeepers, and hoteliers. They can spread the word, feature you in future events, and even send customers your way.

Most importantly, be sure to comply with any liquor laws, local bylaws, and restrictions under your insurance policy.

The entertainment you offer could be a regular event or a one-off, high tech or low, involve the whole bar or just part of it, be ticketed or not. Here are 12 ideas to consider:

Board Game Nights

In case you haven’t noticed, board games are having a moment. Stock a few for anyone who wants to play, but consider a special evening for the Clue or Monopoly aficionados in the crowd.

TV Viewing Parties

Is there a big, televised event like the Oscars, FIFA World Cup Final, or The Last of Us season finale coming up? Don’t just put it on the big screen, build an event around it with food and drink specials, giveaways, and themed merchandise.

“Customers can’t get enough of pub quizzes and trivia games.”

Trivia Nights

Customers can’t get enough of pub quizzes and trivia games, so adding them to your bar’s lineup practically guarantees a packed room. Plus a plethora of customizable trivia software (BuzzTime, Quiz Runners, PubStumpers) makes it easy for you.

Tasting and Sampling Events

Bring in an expert to lead a whisky tasting, craft beer sampling, or artisanal cheese seminar—even better if it’s a local producer. Or have your bartender lead a cocktail-making workshop.

Themed Food and Drink Nights

Tantalize your patrons’ tastebuds and give them a reason to come back again and again, especially on slower nights of the week. Think: Gourmet Burger-and-a-Pint Mondays; Taco Tuesdays, featuring fancy flavoured Margaritas; or Wine Wednesdays, with cheese-and -charcuterie boards as well as interesting wines and/or half-price bottles. These are also great opportunities for more community building through collaborations with chefs or bartenders from other bars or restaurants.

Live Music

Live music creates instant energy and supports local talent; a weekly show can make your pub a destination, especially on a quieter night. What’s even more fun? Host open mic nights where budding singers can belt it out.

Karaoke Night

Globally, the karaoke market is valued at over US $5 billion. For even a small share of that kind of money, you can probably put up with some off-key Dancing Queen.

Stand-up Comedy

We could all use a good laugh right about now. Make your pub the place where people can enjoy a good stand-up comedy routine, whether it’s a regular gig or just a one-time thing. Or consider having a local improv troupe put on a show.

Charity Events

Is the local soccer team heading to the regional or national finals? Is there a volunteer group in the community that could use a little help? Is one of your regulars trying to finance a bucket-list ascent of Mount Everest or cross-country bike ride for cancer research? Offer your space for a fundraising event and cement your reputation as an essential member of the community.

Seasonal Shindigs

Oktoberfest, St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween, New Year’s Eve—go beyond the ho-hum green beer and sad tinsel and really lean into these annual events with themed food, drink, music, decorations, costumes, and games with prizes.

Theme Nights

Almost anything can be cause for a social gathering—a summer solstice party, winter icewine festival, Christmas in July, or ’80s dance party. Get your guests to dress up and offer appropriately themed food, drink, music, and décor.

After Party

Is there a big event in your town, such as a major sporting competition, rock concert, or awards ceremony? With a little marketing, you can make your place the unofficial afterparty destination for attendees to come when it’s over.