Understanding the Magician’s Role at a Restaurant

Understanding the Magician's Role at a Restaurant: Restaurant Gigs for Kids Entertainers Part 2

In part 1 of the Restaurant Gigs for Kids Entertainers series, long-time restaurant manager Andrew Cox gave tips on how to get hired as a strolling performer at restaurants and hotels. Here in part 2, he shares more about the restaurant setting and the magician’s role in it, as well as advice on how to get a smooth working experience. See his answers below.

What is a restaurant’s service process?

At a full-service restaurant, you walk up to a front desk to ask for a table. The person at the front desk acts like a host or hostess. They tell you a bit about the restaurant and the price range of the menu, as well as give you recommendations, get an initial drink or bread order, or offer water.

When the customers are settled at their table, they are presented with the menu and are given some time to choose their order. A waiter then comes up and takes their order, and sometimes comes back to make cutlery changes as necessary.

Top Tip: Grab 10 minutes with the maître d’ or the manager at the start to talk about the restaurant. The information you will get from this short talk will benefit you in your entertaining.

How important is the relationship between the entertainer and the wait staff?

It’s important to be on good terms with them, but you don’t have to be best friends as they also have a job to do. Especially during busy service periods that can last for 2-3 hours, the wait staff don’t have time for friendly banter as the customers are pouring in and they have to focus. Keep things to a minimum at this time, but still a good relationship with them is important.

Top Tip: You can also approach the staff who’s assigned to a particular section of the restaurant. When they are not busy, you can have a quick word with them and ask them to give you a nod when it’s a good time to approach the customers (to make the approach feel unobtrusive) and provide the entertainment.

What could get you fired?

Using profanity, dealing with subjects that may be controversial to customers like those involving politics and religion, and having an attitude. Don’t get political or put your own agenda across. Make light-hearted jokes and general banter. If you have materials that you’re not sure of, maybe you can test them on your family and friends first just to see if they don’t offend anyone or inspire negative reactions.

Also, it’s never always going to be perfect scenarios—occasionally you might overstay your welcome or miss a signal from the service staff or read the signs wrong. This is okay. Just know how to backpedal quickly and have an exit strategy so your exit doesn’t seem abrupt.

What does a magician provide in a restaurant setting?

The entertainment you provide adds value to the dining experience and to that hotel’s or restaurant’s business. Entertainment is not the area that hotels and restaurants are experts in; they brought you in to be the expert—their expert.

What is expected of a restaurant entertainer?

Like in any profession, you are expected to be professional. Don’t be assuming and expect that things will be the way you want them to be.

If you haven’t been to the restaurant before, try to visit it or make a courtesy call prior your first time entertaining there to learn what you need to learn about it and prepare yourself. You will get a friendlier reception when you’ve done your homework and show up in the restaurant prepared, instead of asking about where’s the change room or where can you put your case when you turn up at quarter to 7 at night and things are starting to hum in the restaurant. You can call at 4 that afternoon and speak to the manager or staff and you will get the information you need at a time that’s convenient for them.

Also, be accommodating and flexible at times. Restaurants and hotels make money out of the people business, and people are unpredictable. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan; be flexible with the venue to go whichever way as needed. When you do that and add value to the restaurant’s product and keep the people smiling, you will get repeat business from that venue.

How does someone negotiate a rate?

Look at what other performers similar to you charge. This will give you a ballpark figure.

Also, many restaurants and hotels get entertainers from an agency as a protection. The agency guarantees that when an entertainer can’t show up, they can provide another for them. Usually these agencies are made up of people who are or were entertainers themselves, so these are very good places to start. They can give you an idea of what to expect in the field and what restaurants and hotels are prepared to pay.

Usually restaurants and hotels set aside a budget per week for entertainment. It would be difficult to convince them to hire you when you charge more than their budget, so be sure to ask around and do your assignment.

That’s another batch of useful information for anyone who’s thinking about going into restaurant entertaining… and there’s more coming. Next time, we will look into how entertainers can help a restaurant run smoothly. Stay tuned for that one.