An elusive quest for many garden retailers is how to actually make money with their in-store events.
Shane Pliska, president of Planterra in the Detroit area, transforms his garden retail space to an event space during the fall and winter. Along the way, he’s learned a few hard truths about what it takes to make money.
In this video, he talks about everything from liquor licenses to controlling how caterers treat your facilities.
Shane Pliska, President, Planterra: The first thing you need to do is decide if you are going to turn your event business into a real business, or if you just want to use your events to produce more traffic for your retail store.
The truth of the matter is that the most profitable events that are out there are not really going to be shoppers. And you need to make that decision to do one or the other.
If you decide to get into the event business, you’re going to be held to similar standards to restaurants and hotels. From a service standpoint, from a culinary standpoint, and also a facilities and amenities standpoint eventually.
If you’re just renting out your building, in my opinion, it’s not worth it. Because they are going to want to use your labor, and they’re going to treat the space like they bought it, because they rented out the room.
So my recommendation is to control as many parts of it as possible, while maintaining great customers, as well.
As long as the controls you put into place guarantee the success of the event, and it’s not there to be a nuisance, it will be successful.
Greenhouse Grower RETAILING: So what are some examples of those controls?
Pliska: For us, it was key to obtain a liquor license, which allowed us to control alcohol on site. That’s a real big key.
From a liability standpoint, it’s important. It’s important from an academic standpoint, since we are able to make money on alcohol. And it’s also important from a guest perspective. Because I understand that in a lot of states, there is a thin line between what is legal and not legal in bringing alcohol on site as long as it’s not sold. But when you do that, you can’t control how much they drink easily, because it’s their alcohol, and it becomes really difficult.
So that’s really key to a higher level event.
So you have to choose where you want to be in the market place, and you have to choose what you want to control, and I also recommend controlling the food. Because you can be a doormat to caterers, and if you’re a doormat to caterers, you bringing in staff all the time, and that can be a problem.
And if the client brings in the caterer direct, and the caterers’ only incentive is to work only for the client, and not you, and they realize they might not be back on site, they might not treat your site very well. So you want to have a good partner there.
You want to limit the caterers, or find one exclusive one, or figure out a way to grow a catering business on site.
So those are the pieces of advice I have.
Greenhouse Grower RETAILING: What time of year do you push your event business?
Pliska: Our event business is from September to May. That’s because we cannot control the temperature in the summer time in the building. But it also works to our advantage, because we’re offering a garden setting, when competing venues can’t. So someone can have a garden wedding in December or January, and there really isn’t anywhere else they can do that.