by Marcela Murad
For many years I worked four nights a week at the various locations of Chart Huts Restaurants. Once in a while, I will cover for a friend of mine who has a contract with Chick-Fil-A. Based on my experiences, I would like to share with you how I made restaurant gigs work for my benefit- using it as a tool to generate more work and gain loyal customers.
Before we get into the major “pro’s” of working for restaurants, the main con is that they are not willing or able to pay the going rate. Other than that, bartering with restaurants has a lot of perks that you can use to your advantage!
The positives of working restaurant gigs:
- These types of gigs are usually scheduled during a weekday, from 5:00pm to 8:00pm- most likely a time when we are not usually booked. This is a plus because there’s nothing to give up but dinner with the family. Even better- most restaurants offer free meals for kids- if you have a family you can bring them to work!
- The going rate for restaurants is anywhere between $25 to $75 an hour plus tips, but there’s a lot of room for negotiating. The deal I worked with Chart Hut was $100 an hour with 50% payable in food vouchers. This worked for my benefit because they have some of the best chicken wings in town so I was always the first one to get invited to parties. Working at four locations all my friends and family knew that I had enough vouchers to bring lots of wings for the party. For Chick-Fil-A I get $125 for three hours and anywhere between $20 and $40 on tips. I also get a free meal when I’m there.
- When you find a place that books you on a regular basis, you will begin to develop followers- people that come to see you frequently and will bring others to see what it is you do. These are all potential clients. If they are coming on a Family night because kids eat free, that means that all of them have children- who will eventually have parties. But you never know who you are going to be able to network with! I made a connection with the person in charge of Parks and Recreation for my city and 15 years later I’m still booking jobs for them.
- Keeping your promo material at the restaurant even when you are not there is cheaper than advertising in any Parenting Magazine. However, if you do advertise in these publications, having a place where potential clients can see you in action is a plus.
- You get to practice and try new designs.
To get the most out of restaurant work, ensure that you can leave as much promo material as possible. Here are some ideas to pitch to the restaurant:
- Provide the restaurant with one or two posters (professionally made) to promote your services. Suggest that one of them could be on the door so that everyone that comes in will know that there’s free entertainment on Wednesdays. Make sure that the poster is something that is so visually attractive to entice people to join you and make the manager happy and proud to display it.
- Have a pretty visual, but not an invasive display, that can be placed near the cash register that details when you will be at the restaurant. Make sure to include an eye catching picture of your work and your contact information.
- After working for many years at the same restaurants, eventually I provided them with a life size display of my character made out of plywood. It was placed in the children’s play area, and they even made happy meal bags and placemats with a cartoon of my character. This made the kids so excited to meet Mama Clown in real life.
- Once I got a lot of kids coming in to see me on a regular basis, I started a “Mama Clown Birthday Club” that had everything from a monthly newsletter, to contest where they could win a free party. This gave me a great mailing list and lots of bookings.
- Eventually I organized a Mama Clown Birthday Party where all of the kids were invited. It was awesome and one of the best marketing tools I ever used. I will write all about it on a separate blog.
So how do you get a steady restaurant gig? Start by doing research and compiling a list of restaurants in your area that are already advertising a Kid’s Night, but are not providing entertainment. Find out the name of the manager and reach out to them with a simple one page letter- include examples of your artwork and a short paragraph on the benefits you can bring to their family night. Mention how successful this program has been at other restaurants and end by letting them know that you will be calling to make an appointment to talk to them in person. Then make sure to do so. Don’t show up to the restaurant unannounced especially during rush hour, either mail the letter to the restaurant or politely drop off the letter to the manager before following up.
The first thing to keep in mind is to prepare an enthusiastic presentation that conveys the message that hiring you is a win-win situation for everyone involved. It won’t cost the restaurant much for your services, and in return you will not only provide entertainment on the day you are there, you will help them increase business by advertising all of your other expected visits at their place of business- inviting everyone to come see you.
Remember that this is a business meeting. Do not come dressed up as a clown, just a simple and clean look that demonstrates you are professional and reliable. Be prepared to give them one night free of charge to try it out. Make sure to beg your friends and relatives to bring their kids on that night. You only have one chance to give a good impression so be at your best, smile a lot and make it fun for everyone.
If you have another skill such as balloon twisting or simple magic, offer that as an added perk- meaning that if you are not too busy you will include the additional services at no extra charge or as an alternative to facepainting. Each week can be different.
As I mentioned before, restaurants can be a great marketing tool that has the possibility to generate a lot of residual work. Even if you were only to get paid $125 plus tips that could mean an extra $600 a month if you book yourself to be there once a week.
The best part of the experience for me has been running into adults that used to be regulars at my restaurants when they were kids. Thanks to my restaurant work I am now doing 2nd generation parties!