Eyeing that restaurant in your area as your next client but not sure how to offer your magic services or apply for strolling work?
In this new series on how to land restaurant gigs for children’s and family entertainers, we talk with Andrew Cox, a restaurant manager with over 20 years’ experience in the industry, about tips on how to get hired to perform strolling magic. In this first post, we ask Andrew about what managers want to hear when a magician enquires about doing strolling work, when best to call, and what magicians should consider when performing for restaurant goers. We condense and share his answers below.
If an entertainer phones you out of the blue to ask if they can perform strolling magic in your restaurant, what would increase their chances of getting a yes?
First, the primary consideration is of course does that sort of entertainment fit our business. Will strolling magic fit in with the ‘personality’ or vibe of the place, and will it add more value to the whole dining experience that the restaurant sells?
This is important because we need to know if you can indeed delight our customers. At the end of the day, an entertainer—be they a magician, musician, or comedian—must be entertaining. There’s nothing more awkward for the performer, as well as the host venue, when the entertainment is not engaging or no good and there’s 200-300 people just trying to look sideways and avoiding eye contact. So if you have satisfied clients that will rave about you or put in a good word for you, please let us know.
When should someone ring you to enquire about a possible restaurant gig?
Lunchtime and dinnertime are busy hours for restaurant managers and staff. Avoid calling at 11:30-2:30 and 5:30-8:30 (or even later for some restaurants). If you call outside those hours, you would likely get a friendlier, more accommodating response from the person at the other end of the line.
What does a restaurant need that strolling magicians can actually help them with?
We are looking for value-added benefits for the customers of the restaurant. Great-quality food cooked to perfection by qualified chefs—this is a given. But the entertainment side and the people side of the business, including the service and interaction of the restaurant staff with the customers, these are the X factors that can turn just a good dining experience into a memorable one. These are what would hopefully keep the customers coming back and make them talk about the restaurant to their friends. If you can help deliver that word-of-mouth advertising and positive feedback, which is more valuable than any form of advertising you can ever pay for, you would truly be adding value to what the restaurant offers.
An entertainer also helps ‘smooth the rough edges.’ You come across all sorts of people in a restaurant. Some want to talk and interact with each other and with the staff; some prefer not to. But with a strolling magician or entertainer present, there’s that friendly interaction that makes you feel you want to be in that person’s space. You want to be part of the audience. And this adds more to the product of the establishment as it gives the customers a more pleasant, more memorable dining experience, something that they may talk about at home or with a friend.
When should a magician approach or not approach the diners?
It’s important to understand the service process of the restaurant. It it’s a full-service restaurant where the orders are taken at the table, obviously the time you hit the table is not the time when the staff gets the customers’ orders.
Also it’s about knowing how to pick people in a table. There are some customers who just want the bare minimum and don’t want the interaction. It’s all about reading the signs, reading the people. And you can tell most of the time by simple eye contact and gestures. This is applicable not just for entertainers but for staff as well.
You should also know when to pull off a trick or treat the customers to a humorous story. For instance, it won’t do when you’re just halfway through a trick when the main course is coming to the table. The restaurant wants to ensure that the meals are at their top presentation, at the right temperature, when they are served. A few minutes of keeping the food on the stove or on the serving tray as the staff wait for the magician to finish his trick can make a big difference in the quality of the food. So just know how to read people, be conscious of timing, and be aware of how long the performance of a trick might take, and you would do great.
That’s a load of good tips, and we have to stop there for now. In the next post in this series, we’ll take a closer look at a magician’s role at a restaurant. In the meantime, do you have anything to add to the tips above that other kids entertainers may find useful when trying to apply for strolling work at restaurants and similar establishments? Do share them in the comments section.