In just 5 easy steps, you can have the Restaurant Magic job of your DREAMS!
Okay… it’s not quite that simple, but we DID break it down into 5 Steps to help shed some light on the process of getting booked for restaurant magic. In this post, we’ll show you how to:
* Find a good restaurant for your talents
* Meet the manager
* Close the deal
* Actually KEEP the gig once you’ve got it and…
* Set your fees for success
So Welcome to Restaurant Gigs 101!
Everyday, we get emails from magicians all over the world who want to know how to land, and keep, an ongoing ‘gig’ performing magic at a restaurant. And there’s a good reason why…
A regular gig performing magic tableside at a restaurant is one of most effective ways we magicians can share our art.
The restaurant benefits by setting itself apart from others in the industry, creating loyal clientele and always having someone on hand who can help out during service mishaps. The magician benefits from having a steady paycheck, an appropriate arena to showcase new material and a regular venue where potential clients can attend to see them in action.
And those are only some of the benefits. As you may have heard during our CC Live Event with one of the nation’s top restaurant magicians – and Magic Castle Award Winners – Suzanne, restaurants are the perfect ‘home base’ for a passionate close-up magician.
Every town, manager, and magician is a little bit different, which means there is not a one-size-fits-all formula for getting booked. However, if you combine the strategies we share here with knowledge of your local scene, your chances of getting booked increase to a near-guarantee!
If you have tips and tricks of your own, we would love to hear about them in the comment section below. Now, let’s begin our 5 Steps to Restaurant Magic Bookings!
Method A: Ninja Style
Many magicians swear by what we like to call ‘Ninja Style’. And it definitely works! It requires you to be like a ninja… with a plan. Is there a restaurant you’ve had your eye on but can’t figure out the best approach? Have you considered just visiting the restaurant, like a regular patron?
Having a meal, or a few meals, at any restaurant where you may like to work is a good idea for a few reasons. It will give you the opportunity to observe the pace, style and lay out of the restaurant, which will be to your benefit when you speak with the manager and on your first night of work. It will also allow you to check out the food and service and make sure that you feel great about working there!
It generally doesn’t take too long for employees to begin to recognize the faces (and orders!) of their regular customers. Once they know they are going to see you again, employees will be more likely to interact with you and if you’re a magician, it won’t take too long before magic ‘comes up’ in conversation. Before you know it, the servers will ask to see a trick. Of course, they may be having a busy night. But eventually, and before long, your favorite staff members will ask to see what you do.
That’s when it’s your turn to shine. Blow them away and leave them with something to talk about. On nights when the restaurant gods are smiling down upon you, you’ll hear them say something like ‘we’ve gotta get our manager over here’ and before you know it…. Boom! Your impromptu audition unfolds before your eyes!
As the wow’s and gasps die down, most folks ask ‘so where can I see more of this, where do you perform?’, and that’s your cue: ‘restaurants!’
Or, if you have never performed at a restaurant, you can say ‘mostly private events, but I come here all the time and would LOVE to bring some magic in. Is that something you might have space for?’
At this point, most managers will have something they need to get back to, so, discuss the least amount of business possible and simply find out when the best time would be for you to come back and speak with them in person.
The fact that they have already seen you perform (likely for an enthusiastic group of your friends or their own staff), means the hardest part is over. They’ve seen what you can do. All that’s left is to Seal the Deal (See Method D under Step 2).
Method B: Referral
This approach requires a little bit more planning. Phone the restaurant to see when the manager typically works. Tip: Do NOT phone/approach the restaurant on evenings or weekends, it’s highly likely no one will have time to speak to you during those hours… and you will look like an amateur for trying.
Visit the restaurant in person when you know the manager will be there and bring your portfolio (an organized collection of any reviews, appearances and professional photos you may have).
Explain to the manager that you love their place and that when you were working recently, someone suggested what you do might be a perfect fit. You’re surprised you never thought of it yourself! Ask for five minutes of their time over a quick cup of coffee and paint a picture for them of why hiring you as their in-house entertainment is a great idea!
Method A: Perform
Even if it is just you and the manager, make sure you perform at least one trick for them. Very few managers will hire you for an evening without seeing at least a little bit of what you can do. You’ll be able to tell right from the start whether they’re going to want to see just one trick, two or maybe three, so be ready for those options and plan accordingly. If you only have one shot, don’t waste any time – perform your strongest effect!
Method B: Share the Benefits of Tableside Magic
What do THEY get out of having you at the restaurant? How are you going to help them do their job? If it’s a place that normally has long wait times, tell them that when you are ‘on the floor’, people will feel like the time flew by! If it’s a place looking to fill a slow night, let them know that you have clients and friends (a large mailing list or facebook following?) who are always looking for opportunities to come out and see you perform.
Empathize with them about those nights when the kitchen gets backed up. Let them know that when something goes wrong that leaves a table impatient and hungry, you can easily approach the table and show them a great time as the kitchen gets things back on track.
Emphasize that you always perform after the order has been taken and BEFORE the food shows up, so your presence does not decrease turnaround time in any way.
Of course, if the business is looking to keep people buying drinks at the bar, you’ll take the opposite approach – and perform magic for the patrons as the happy, well-entertained guests order round after round!
If you’re in a town where there are no other restaurant magicians, highlight the fact that people are always looking for something new to do. Potential regulars are likely to come in on ‘magic night’ to enjoy the fun – and once they taste the food, they’ll be sure to return!
If the restaurant you’ve chosen hosts a lot of families, highlight the fact that parents take their kids out to eat for a break from cooking at home. Having a magician on the floor entertains both the kids and parents, giving mom and dad even more relaxation than they hoped for (there’s a reason why Boston Pizza’s all over the nation LOVE restaurant magicians)
Method C: Create Scarcity
For this approach, you’ll need to do some legwork in advance to find out when the managers of each restaurant are available. Take good notes, so that you know the name of the manager you are asking for at each restaurant you visit.
The best way to find the right person (many restaurants have different managers with different duties), is to ask who usually hires entertainment for the restaurant. That should get you pointed in the right direction.
Make your schedule of approach based on the locations of the restaurants and availability of the managers. Plan for about 1-2 weeks to get it all done. We recommend approaching as MANY restaurants as you can. Start off with the low-pressure locations. They will give you good practice in speaking with managers and ‘settling your nerves’ before it’s time to approach the restaurants you’re most excited to visit.
Bring your portfolio, show your experience, and share the benefits you can bring the restaurant with your magic. Let the manager know that even though you are speaking with other businesses, her restaurant is the one you’d most like to work with. Don’t be afraid to suggest to the manager that she book you for trial night before your availability is gone.
Of course, on request, you can also offer the restaurant a monopoly on the unique experience you provide.
Method D: Close the Deal
Whenever possible, book a night to perform before you leave the meeting! It is FAR easier for people to say ‘no’ over the phone than in person, and because restaurant magic is so unique, it can be very hard for a manager to imagine Restaurant Magic in action.
To solve this problem, many magicians offer one free night – so that the manager can experience the benefits first hand, and move forward with your regular engagement free of any doubts.
Other magicians don’t believe they should perform ‘for nothing’. If that sounds like you, you can offer a special ‘trial night fee’, and follow up by offering a special rate if the manager chooses to book you for a certain number of weeks in a row.
Not every restaurant is going to have the budget, space or desire for a magician. Do not worry! In most cases, this has nothing to do with you. Don’t be discouraged by a flood of ‘no thank you’s’ coming your way. All it takes is one great restaurant gig to completely ‘level-up’ your magic business!
Method A: Plants
That’s right. Make sure everyone you know (who loves you) and their mother comes out to that restaurant to ‘oooh’, ‘ahhhhh’ and clap wildly for your magic. They’re there to say great things to the manager, enjoy your stellar performance, and generally be on ‘Team Magic’.
Even if your biggest supporters can’t make it, you are sure to have some amazing responses at your tables. When a group is extra responsive, don’t hesitate to mention that this is your trial run, and if they’d like to see you again you’d appreciate if they could mention how much fun they’ve had to their waiter or the manager. Most tables who have enjoyed your performance will be happy to do so.
Method B: Applause-Worthy Material
This might sound strange at first, but some amazing magic might leave audiences stunned to silence. And that’s NOT going to help the manager see and hear how happy you’re making their customers.
Carefully consider what you pack in your case for your first night out on the job. In some instances, you’ll do well to sacrifice the most magical effect in favor of the most responsive effect. No matter how many nights you’ve been booked to work – your first one is ALWAYS an audition. If you pass with ‘flying colors’, the rest of the run will be smooth sailing.
Method C: Tips
Note: This section is based on the assumption you are receiving a fee for your services, and not working for tips alone.
Never neglect your fellow service men and women. If a table offers you a tip on your first night, insist that they give it to their server on your behalf. Or, accept it from them, and give it to your server on their behalf.
Do not present yourself as someone more important than any other server there because you are all on the same team.
It’s likely you’re getting paid more than every server in the restaurant, so you need the servers to be on your side. Do anything, and everything, you can to support them, and make their job easier whenever you are on the floor.
If you didn’t work out a long-term deal with the management at the start, follow up as soon as you can, preferably in person. If the manager wasn’t there in person, they will definitely check in with their staff the next day to find our how the magic ‘went over’. Providing that all the news is good news, there will be no better time to secure an ongoing gig.
If once a week seems like too much, consider a bi-weekly or even monthly engagement. It is always helpful to have a regular venue where potential clients can see you work. And in show business, reoccurring revenue always helps!
Remember that once you secure a regular gig, your job is just beginning. Treasure this booking, and care for it. Not every magician has a residency, so if you want to keep it, treat it with respect.
Consider the material you’re using – and when it’s time to change things up. Learn who the regulars are and how often they show up: make sure that you always have something new up your sleeve when they visit.
Be creative in finding ways you can support your restaurant. For example, you can call your local newspapers and ask them to do a piece that features your ‘magic night’. Anything you do in this area will be appreciated by the management – and bode well for your future relationship.
Finally, we come to the age-old question: how much do you charge?! There is no set rule, but here are the guidelines that have served us well.
- Decide on your priority.
If you want to perform as many shows as possible, your fee will need to be on the lower end of the scale. If you want to work exclusively for tips – you’ll need to perform even more to see any financial returns.
However, if you just want the occasional juicy gig, you can set your fees higher. You will exclude some people who can’t afford your services, but the customers you DO get will be worth it.
- Do Research and Find Out What the Market Will Bear.
It won’t take long to discover what restaurants in your area are willing to spend on entertainment. If your fees are flexible, you can ask the management what their budget is, and offer a performance package to match. If you have a solid idea of what you want to earn, you can bring a price sheet with you when you meet with the manager. We’ve often found that this kind of transparency is appreciated.
Remember: you can always cut deals and give special discounts at your own discretion. After all, it’s YOUR magic business!
- Decide whether or not you will accept tips.
Denying tips can be a selling point for high-end restaurants and potentially earn you a larger fee. Explain that you ask for your fee because you don’t accept tips from patrons. This serves the restaurant well – and that’s largely what you are there to do.
- Do you want to incorporate any other benefits into your fee structure?
Though some restaurants may not be able to swing your full fee, they might be able to provide you with a set amount of drink ‘credits’ and/or a meal for every shift that you work.
Securing drink tickets for each shift allows you to send drinks to the tables of regular or potential corporate clients who have come to see you perform. It’s a gesture that always goes over well!
Five drinks and a meal can be worth anything from $25-$100 depending on your location, so take this into account when working out your fee.
- Is it time for a raise?
If you have worked at a restaurant for some time, you may have started out at a fee that no longer reflects what you offer. Don’t be afraid to ask for a raise. The management can always say no, but you’ll never know until you ask.
If booking a regular restaurant gig were easy, restaurants everywhere would have a magician. But do not let that discourage you. Booking a restaurant is far from impossible.
Different tactics work in different areas and restaurant magic has been a mainstay income source for many, many magicians over the years.
We’d love to hear YOUR thoughts on this topic, so if you have experience working in restaurants, don’t hesitate to share in the comment section below!
About the Author:
Rosemary Reid is a professional magician, writer, and director and a team member at Conjuror.Community.