A Guide to the Best Restaurant Event Management Software & Tools

If you’ve ever met an event planner — be they professional Bridezilla-wranglers with their own network TV shows, or merely your Aunt Phyllis in the months leading up to your uncle’s retirement party — you know that they’re big fans of juggling, at least metaphorically. Just like the preferred sport of clowns, event management is harder than it looks (and it looks pretty hard). When it goes smoothly, delight abounds, and everybody comes away feeling like they’ve just witnessed magic. But when a proverbial ball (or four) goes awry, somebody could lose an eye.

Taking on a spectacular event while also handling the daily operations of a restaurant, well, that’s its own circus. But the payoff of hosting private parties, corporate shindigs, or general-admissions bashes can be huge. As Covid restrictions gradually ease, people are itching to gather at their favorite spots, eager to make up for months’ worth of special occasions deferred. This could be the year that people double or triple up on blowout birthday parties they've deferred.

Technically speaking, you could start booking events armed with only a careworn daybook weighed down with the volume of ballpoint pen ink it takes to schedule and reschedule a gaggle of Bar Mitzvahs. The chances you’ll screw something up that way are … high. Luckily, we are well into the 21st century, and the market is chockablock with restaurant software solutions that simplify the process. That goes for advertising your venue to the right audiences, for creating a seamless booking experience, for collaborating with guests to make the night memorable, and for eliciting their feedback afterwards. And for collaborating with your team along the way, to keep from burning out your staff.

Here are some of the industry’s best event management software and tools.

Tools for Planning Events

Delegate calendaring and communication to a software, and focus your time on offering your guests that human touch on the big day, whatever that might be. Here's what to use to get organized and throw the bash of the century.

An event platform for rapid-fire communication: Tripleseat

While Tripleseat counts sophisticated CRM tools among its list of features, booking and planning are the core of this industry favorite. By streamlining the process into one platform, Tripleseat shrinks the risk of event-sinking errors like double-booking or under-staffing. A digital calendar is standard fare with event management software (remember, you’re looking to rid yourself of that ancient Filofax), and Tripleseat’s calendar lets you toggle between month, week, and day views, plus a room-by-room timeline breakdown for bigger venues. You can manage and assign staff tasks and keep tabs on your operations when you sort by completion status. Tripleseat is built around the understanding that successful planning thrives on constant communication. When anyone edits event details, guests get updates, sign off on proposals, and make payments, while staffers receive real-time notifications regarding changes to their assigned tasks. 

An event platform that also runs a wait list: Hostme

Looking for a reservation management software to do double duty on special event days? Born of the founders’ hatred for toting around clunky buzzers while waiting for tables, Hostme has branched out from its origins as a waitlisting app to become a major platform for omnichannel reservation booking and management. In the eventosphere, Hostme stands out for restaurants putting on their own events — holiday parties, special tastings, grand openings, baby luaus, the works. Hostme makes it easy to create an event, manage cover pacing, lay out floor plans, set table turnover times, control visibility (especially useful if you’re targeting a select group of guests), and track deposits.  

An event platform for ticketing and check-in: Tock

Tock is another one-stop shop, bringing you tons of elegant event planning tools alongside standard reservation management capabilities. Tock makes it easy to create any kind of event (think brand activations, pop-ups, or just a holiday dinner) and lets you also sell tickets via the platform. Tock’s mobile app makes for a seamless guest check-in experience, and the guest directory allows you to get granular with notes and tags about particular attendees, so you don’t have to worry about missing a VIP or haplessly triggering a shellfish allergy again.

Tools for Marketing Events

You've turned the last few birthdays and graduation soirees into epic events. Maybe this is turning into a new source of revenue, and it's time to advertise. Pick a platform that finds people who are looking for just that special flair that you've perfected at your restaurant.

An event marketing platform for free: Cvent

Cvent is one of the top venue-scouting platforms for professional event planners, generating billions of dollars a year in buyer spend. The Cvent Supplier Network is free to join. Venues pay for increased exposure and additional advertising tools like Cvent Microsites, a self-service application that lets you create an elegant planner-facing website in mere minutes using templates and drag-and-drop widgets. 

An event marketing platform that runs reservations: OpenTable

OpenTable is one of the biggest names in the reservation system game, but did you know that it can be used to generate event leads as well? The rumors are true: OpenTable has a special Private Dining marketplace in addition to its regular directory. Listing with OpenTable lets you showcase your space to an audience of millions of would-be hosts, and is an SEO no-brainer, as its algorithm virtually guarantees that your event space will be among the first to reach a googler. OpenTable’s seasonal emails tend to feature exceptional venues, good for gangbusters graduation, wedding, or Christmas blowout. 

An event marketing platform with elite reach: Resy

Resy, like OpenTable, is best known as a general reservation platform, and makes it easy to create general-admission and assigned-seating events. Resy really shines, though, as a marketing engine. Via its partnership with American Express, Resy attracts repeat customers to its platform, which means the leads you capture become regulars — exactly the kind of guests who will look to your restaurant when it’s time for a birthday party or a baby shower. With post-service private guest surveys and sophisticated CRM analytics and reporting, Resy also helps you hone your event marketing strategies, ensuring an increased ROI over time. 

An event marketing platform for city fine dining: SixPlus

Happen to be a fine dining establishment in the New York, DC, Boston, San Francisco, or LA metropolitan area? You’ll want to partner with SixPlus for your leads. SixPlus serves a particular clientele — corporate groups of (you guessed it) six or more people looking for premium dining experiences for board dinners, team lunches, Dundies-type award ceremonies, etc. SixPlus is a pay-per-performance platform, meaning that it markets your business on its exclusive marketplace and via its event concierge service for free, taking a 10% success fee on the food, beverage, and room costs along with a 2.5% processing fee on the back end. Clients send their proposals to you directly through the SixPlus app, which features a messaging tool that you can use to hammer out final details and make changes as needed.

[Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash]