restaurant gigs

Post topics about the business side of magic.

Postby Guest » 11/27/03 01:47 PM

Hi it seems like all the restaurants in my area are corporate own now, even the mom and pop ones! I live in orange county (like the TV show The OC of FOX) and all the restaurants I have approached say talk to corporate headquarters. My approach is 100% business like and talks about benefits they will get. In fact here is my exact approach.

I wear a nice suit and bring a portifolo package. I ask to see the manager and this is what I say.

"Hi Sir, My name is Amir and I specialize in creating in house restaurant promotions that are designed to help increase your business. I know you are busy, may I have 5 minutes of your time. (they usually say yes). You know why people come to your restaurant is because the love the overall atmosphere. You see I am a professional magician, by having me perform close up magic table to table you can add something extra to that atmosphere. People love to see magic especially close up. You see they will go home and tell everyone they know how much fun they had at your restuarant and they will come back. Another benefit is if you get to busy and people have to be waited to be seated, I can entertain them so they won't leave to go to another restaurant. What I would like to do is come in one night and give you a free two hr trail, since you havent done this before. It wont cost you anything and there isnt any obligation. What do you think"

That is the approach that I use, I mean I believe that is 100% business like talking about benefits to his restaurant not saying how good I am. Also in the portfolio it states more benefits, other places I have worked at and testimonials. But most of them don't see it. (in my opinion a lot of restaurant owners are afraid to take a risk thats why 8/10 restaurant go under in the first five years).

So what do I have to do differently to get a gig? (I dont know think I should change anything, my approach is good, I just have to approach more restaurants I think.) How do I get pass the corporate thing? I don't want to send them my package cuz the probably wont look at it. Any advice?

Postby magicbar » 11/27/03 02:11 PM

One suggestion is in approaching restaurants that are in need of more business. Orange County is hot right now and you must be viewed as 'hotter'. You're right, corporate organizations do dominate the restaurant scene but that doesn't mean there is no room for magicians. In fact, many restaurants have budgets called 'local marketing' that are up to the discretion of the store management. You have to find a restaurant that can benefit from your services. I went to a TGIF that had a balloon twister/trixter guy just 3 weeks ago.

Your effort sounds like a new, lesser-known TV writer trying to submit scripts to the (already) top-rated shows. They think because they are already successful they are doing 'it' right and are only looking up for better talent rather than the upstart show looking for any script at all. Go to smaller markets where you can be a bigger fish. I am sure there are areas surrounding OC proper that want to tap into it's wave of popularity.

press on!
Posts: 181
Joined: 03/13/08 02:55 AM

Postby Steve V » 11/27/03 04:32 PM

There is a magician named Frank Buono (may be wrong on the last name) who wrote up a nice little introduction he emails out over a few days about how to get a restaurant job. If you email me at I'll send you his email address on Monday. Good luck.
Steve V
Steve V
Steve V
Posts: 642
Joined: 01/20/08 01:00 PM
Location: Silver Springs, NV

Postby magicbar » 11/27/03 05:09 PM

One other note: I managed a casual tropical-themed restaurant for awhile and a magician came in to pitch me for a restaurant gig. First, he came in during dinner when there was a line to get tables (not a good time to tell me he would bring me business). He was wearing a suit and tie, paisley jacket [I kid you not] which showed me he wouldn't fit in to our theme and his general approach indicated he was only doing this to land some private gigs (Why should I be in business for him?). Then he brings out his tri-fold brochure, wants to show me a trick and brought out a deck of cards. I stopped him there.

I say this not to indicate that this is anything like your pitch but when you said "you ask to see the manager" that tells you made a cold call. Dude, you blew it at the get-go. Call ahead. Any vendor that just shows up on the fly usually gets the minimal amount of my courtesy or respect. Restaurant business is a no-minutes-spared kind of business ESPECIALLY corporate restaurant business. I am usually during service where I can't talk to you or during a shift turnover where I must put my next manager's needs over your needs. You can be the f#*kin' health spa next door wanting to put in membership contest slips or some church that wants me to give them 10% off my dinner shift for their charity. We have people to answer to. Can you help me give a good answer to the people I have to answer to?

Do what many say is good advice. Call ahead. Do a free shift. Make MANY CUSTOMERS come to the manager saying they will return because you were there. And I mean meaningful customers, the ones that help both lines (top and bottom - to help you out). Entertainment is a business expense.

Do you know how much money this restaurant makes in one night let alone the night(s) you want them to hire you? Are you going to impress them by saying 10 people will return when they have 200+ covers per night? Will a '10% off' coupon be more effective than you?

2nd Note: I don't know this guy. Is he you?
Posts: 181
Joined: 03/13/08 02:55 AM

Postby Tabman » 11/27/03 08:26 PM

find a restaurant with a bar and show up on a slow night and get a seat near the end of the bar and show the bartender some magic. draw in the other folks. if you're entertaining and they like you those folks might ask you to do some magic for someone else. start showing up on the same night for a few weeks and see if folks start showing up because they think you might be there. develop a following by hitting different restaurant bars on different nights. theres something about alcohol and closeup magic that go together. you can parlay that into some gigs. this is a good way to get started and grab some turf. maybe this isnt the answer you're looking for but maybe someone else is. good luck!!!!
User avatar
Posts: 917
Joined: 03/17/09 02:25 PM
Location: TC and KOZ at the Funny Bone

Postby Guest » 11/28/03 01:27 AM

steve Jaffe,
I don't walk in cold. I go during the hours of 2-4 where no one is in the restaurant usually because they are getting ready for dinner. Also I call ahead of time and ask what time will the manager be in. My approach is 100% business and I did a free night at this one restaurant over the summer and people really liked it but the restaurant was really small, it didn't work out too good. But thanks for all the advice.

Postby Guest » 11/28/03 12:20 PM

Personally, I think your speal sounds to "cold" and "business like" - Again, thats just a personal feeling about it.

Go after the restaurants with slow nights like Tuesday nights! (I have made a mint off of Pizza Huts for years on Tuesday "Family nights"...)

Sunday Morning Church days are also overlooked days to table hop! (and I get many birthday gigs from those appearences!)

Good Luck!

Postby Guest » 11/28/03 08:03 PM

I do not wish to agree with this Bubbles person but I am afraid I reluctantly have to.

He is bubbling with good advice about the "cold" and "businesslike" nature of your spiel. I confess I thought the same when I read it.

I think you have been taking too many magic marketing courses.

Incidentally, has anyone noticed that restaurants often go broke within 3 months of hiring a magician? Something I have noticed.

It is always a sign that a restaurant is on it's last legs when the magicians arrives.

Postby Guest » 11/28/03 08:43 PM

you know I have to be honest, people saying that my approach is too business like has to be the most ridiculous thing I heard. People are not going to hire you because you can do a amazing invisible pass or a amazing double lift. All businesses ask the same question "What is in it for me." It doesn't matter if its a corporate, a restaurant, or a private party. They want benefits. The restaurants I been to who haven't hired me have actually complemented me in my approach because they have had other magicians approach them in the past and there approach was really bad. But they couldn't hire me because it isn't in their budget right now.

I have been buying magic and non magic marketing course and they are working. There is nothing wrong with my approach I believe, I just have to approach more restaurants and I will get one soon.

Postby Guest » 11/28/03 09:25 PM

Don't blame me. It was that Bubbles fellow who said it first. I am far too tactful to make critical remarks.

You have used that dreaded word "benefits". I always cringe when people use this awful word.It is always a sign that they are reading marketing books.

The bottom line is that they haven't hired you.That'll teach you not to be so high falutin'I bet you if you hadn't mentioned "benefits" they would have hired you.

I am far too important to work restaurants but I do have a couple of suggestions for you. That awful Sisti person who constantly riffles cards in a very amateurish manner wrote quite a good book on the subject. I should buy it if I were you.There is good information therein. The methods he suggested of getting restaurant gigs seem quite workable to me.I believe it has gotten Sisti work in a high class fish house or two.

Another one that I like very much is by a fellow from Yorkshire named John Hotowka. I forget the title. Something about "everything you wanted to know about restaurant magic and forgot to ask"
Full of questions and answers. I think it is very practical and explains his approach in approaching restaurants cold.

I don't know that much about getting work in restaurants but I have noticed that virtually every performer I have met that does them got their start by just walking in cold.

I am much to shy for that so I think that if I were to want to work restuarants I would send out a mailing to selected venues. You could detail your "benefits' there if you insist on doing so.
Maybe you could follow up by phone later. I wouldn't because I don't like that sort of thing.Your spiel that I and Tiny don't like would fit in well here.

Whatever you do don't send those awful Dave Dee sequential chain letters. You will only irritate the restaurants and cut off future chance of work.

If none of this works then you had better move to Toronto. Nearly every damn restaurant here has a magician. All young incompetents of course.
Still, they got in somehow.

And sooner or later in your area you will too.

Postby Guest » 11/28/03 09:45 PM

Now that I think of it I seem to remember that all the young magicians I know that got into restaurants used the "starving magician" approach.

They didn't talk about "benefits" and they didn't have portfolios. They just barged ahead and asked for a job.They looked what they were. Talented but starving magicians. Restaurant owners (always avoid managers) like starving magicians. It reminds them of their own early struggles.They like to give a kid a chance.

Free is a magic word. Tell them you will do a couple of hours for no money. They will like that.If you do well they will hire you.

I can tell you how to overcome the corporate restaurant problem. Here it is:

Do not approach corporate restaurants.

Postby Guest » 11/29/03 11:11 AM

Your approach is sound. You're right, you just have to approach more restaurants. My friend Johnny Ace Palmer has worked restaurants as a full-time living for 20 years, and tells me that you can get one restaurant for every 40 that you approach.

Unfortunately, with the economy in such bad shape over the past couple years, the percentage has gone considerably lower. I know, because I've been pitching LA and Orange County restaurants over the past couple years.

I have landed a couple restaurants since 9/11, but it's taken a lot of calling. We're in the luxury business, and with the unemployment rate so high, there are many people who just don't go out to eat anymore. In addition, the people who do go out to eat do so at a less frequent rate.

I find that restaurant general managers are getting fired at an astonishing rate. That's good and bad. It's bad because it shows how bad the economy has been. But it's good because once a new GM comes in, you can pitch him, too.

As for corporate restaurants, they're run by interchangeable nitwits who often have little or no money for real entertainment. I was talking with the GM of an Outback steakhouse in Orange County for whom I used to do walkaround magic when he was the GM of a Black Angus steakhouse. He said forget it, because his regional manager didn't believe in spending money for entertainment. But he invited me over for a free steak dinner so I could do a few tricks just for him.

When the economy is so bad for so long, you just have to work longer and harder to succeed. That's the bottom line.

Postby Guest » 11/29/03 11:43 AM

Hi David,

That one in forty seems to be realistic right about now. I recently called on about 30 restaurants and only got 1 to say yes.


It is definitely a hike to getthis done, but based on the info...I do believe you are doing the right thing. Steve Jaffe did hit on one note that I also agree with and that is to get an appt with the GM or Owner. They are the real decision makers and anyone else would be a waste of time.

Tabman says to go to different bars and restaurants on different nights of the week and repeat them weekly on the same nights. This is also a good idea for the person who is not "asking for the sale" or for the person who wants to go above and beyond to prove that magic would work in a place that others may have been turned down in. With the way the economy is right now, this is certainly not a bad idea. The bar gets used to seeing you...basically, repetition sells.
The only draw back would be that the owner or GM sees that you are doing it for free every week so why should they pay you. If that attitude does prevail, then you just need to move on to the next one.

Good luck to all the restaurant workers and more tips are always welcome.

Postby Steve V » 11/29/03 04:44 PM

Amir, I emailed you the contact info for the mini-course in restaurants. One bit of advice Frank gives, which I thought was pretty good, was to start calling on restaurants pretty much as far away as you are willing to go. Doing this you will learn how to speak to the GM's or owners and as you become more comfertable and selling yourself better you will be hitting those much closer to home and when you get one to bite, it will be closer rather than further.
Steve V
Steve V
Steve V
Posts: 642
Joined: 01/20/08 01:00 PM
Location: Silver Springs, NV

Postby Guest » 11/29/03 07:28 PM

One in forty? Then how come every virtually every magician in Toronto is working in a restaurant?

Twenty years ago Richard Lyn of Toronto ( a brilliant children's entertainer) told me that it was possible to walk into virtually any restaurant in Toronto and come out with a contract.

I think he was exaggerating but not much. I suppose it is a Toronto thing.A bit like Chicago with bars. Mind you, I don't think they get a lot of money. On the other hand most of them don't deserve it.Still, it is a breeding ground for other shows so I suppose that is why they do it.

If it really is a 1 in 40 thing I would definitely go the mail order route.It sounds a hell of a lot easier. Send out 300 pieces to the RIGHT KIND of restaurants and I bet you get 5 replies. Go to see all 5 and if you are any good you will get one job.

I suppose you will get better results if you find out the name of the owner. You might get that from a directory of some kind or alternatively go through the purgatory of calling up each place to find out who the boss is. If you don't do this you may get some busybody manager opening the mail and throwing it out.

The trouble with managers is that they have the authority to say "no" but they do not have the authority to say "yes"

Speak to the "Guvnor" Nobody else.

Postby Russell Davis » 11/29/03 11:37 PM

If you enjoy (or at least don't mind) performing for kids at restaurants, I can suggest some benefits to include in your approach to the GM. Interested? Not interested?
Russell Davis
Posts: 126
Joined: 01/20/08 01:00 PM
Location: Huntsville, AL

Postby Steve V » 11/30/03 12:18 AM

Always interested in info.
Steve V
Steve V
Steve V
Posts: 642
Joined: 01/20/08 01:00 PM
Location: Silver Springs, NV

Postby Russell Davis » 12/01/03 12:26 AM

Find out what chains in your areas currently have some type of entertainment, and approach them specifically. Also, again assuming you are at least partly a children's entertainer, find out which ones have a Kids' Night (usually with a special menu and prices, and usually Tuesday nights in these parts). Sunday brunches are good, too.

Don't know what chains you have, but TGIFriday's, Green Hills Grille, Olive Garden, Outback's, Red Lobster, and Tia's Tex-Mex have all hired or are currently employing magicians around here.

For these such restaurants, a success rate of one in forty sounds low to me. I'd put it at one in five or ten. But it probably all depends on your sales pitch, demo, and price.

IF you will be performing at a family restaurant and directing most of your table-side performances to kids, be sure to include that benefit when you have your brief prearranged appointment with the GM.

Assuming that you are already a somewhat entertaining close-up guy, and are able to deliver the following goods, say that you will make sure the kids laugh and have fun when you visit their table, and that you make balloon animals, too. (More about that if interested.) Tell the manager that the KIDS will bring the PARENTS back to the restaurant. (They will.) Tell the manager that one of your jobs as a Table-side Entertainer (I never cared for the fancy snow-job title "in-house promotions coordinator", or whatever.) is to make sure that current regular guests (customers) at the restaurant return to it even MORE often than they already do.

Perhaps now more than ever, pricing is important. Mention your usual private-party rate before mentioning your restaurant rate. And don't mention prices until the manager asks. Try to get across all your other benefits, and even get through your free demo hours, before having to mention the benefit of him/her hiring such a fun entertainer at such a reasonable price.

In fact, at your brief meeting with the GM try just to introduce yourself, give him/her a business card, mention your benefits (you don't need to use the word), set up your demo time and day, and try hard to leave and let them get back to work.

IF your primary goal is to get a regular paying gig at some price (but not at just any price), and if they say your price for a three hour shift is too high, consider offering them a two hour shift for the first six weeks until their new entertainment program catches on.

Ideally, you get a regular gig at a busy busy place that loves for you to keep the guests happy while they're waiting forty-five minutes in the lobby or bar to be seated.

Realistically, in these perhaps tougher times, here's something you might consider: tell the manager your fee for a two or three-hour evening of restaurant entertainment. Tell him/her that you will adjust that price in his/her favor on nights when there are slow spells, before word gets out that you're entertaining there on a regular basis. Say that you will just informally clock out (and have a snack or read or practice) for a while until business picks up again that night, and you will charge the restaurant accordingly for that night. You might also mention that, if you're available, on nights when the crowd is still coming in at the end of your shift you will work extra time for extra pay IF the manager okays it at that time. Upside? You may get a regular gig that you'd otherwise lose. Downside? Some nights you'll make less money (excluding tips) than others.

Many restaurant gigs do not themselves pay (all) the bills. But of course they provide other benefits.
Russell Davis
Posts: 126
Joined: 01/20/08 01:00 PM
Location: Huntsville, AL

Postby Guest » 12/01/03 10:01 AM

Thanks for the benefit of your expertise, Russell. You have the real work, as they say.

Pro-rating the slow nights is really quite a nice touch, because it quells the GM'S fears about losing money.

I would say, however, that different cities seem to have different success rates in this area. Eating out means different things in different cities.

My friend Diamond Jim Tyler says that eating out in Dallas is a big thing, and he seems to have greater success at finding walkaround gigs than do L.A. magicians. He's quite a good salesman, and that's one thing.

However, I tend to believe that it's tougher in L.A., perhaps because...I don't know...everybody's so blase about live entertainment? There are so many actors here? We have everything here, and nothing fazes us? I don't know why.

I would assume that restaurantgoers in Alabama have a good enthusiasm over guys who do miracles at your table.

Postby Guest » 12/01/03 10:58 AM

Amir writes: "There is nothing wrong with my approach I believe, I just have to approach more restaurants and I will get one soon."

There isn't.
And you will.
It just takes time, sometimes a lot of time.

But, if you know what you're doing (as you apparently do) then there should be no problem.

No advice; you're doing everything right; just keep on doing it!

Postby Tabman » 12/01/03 05:12 PM

if you havent already, pull out your copy of the magic menu - the first five years and read it again. your topic got me thinking about this and i did just that today. i spent an hour leafing through the book to see if there was any info you might be able to use. what an incredible wealth of information on your subject and a phd course in getting and keeping gigs at restaurants. and please keep us posted on your progress and good luck with it!!!
User avatar
Posts: 917
Joined: 03/17/09 02:25 PM
Location: TC and KOZ at the Funny Bone

Postby Guest » 12/01/03 10:42 PM

Russell Davis seems to have given out the most useful information on this matter so far.

I don't know why we have to spoil things by mentioning the Magic Menu. This was produced by that Sisti person who riffles cards all the time. Or so I was told by one of the intellectuals of alt.magic.

Still, I will concede that it is indeed a wonderful resource for starving magicians who wish to work in restaurants. I often wonder if the restaurants feed the magicians that work there. They should. It may be the only meal they get all day.

If Amir is going to get that Magic Menu thing he might as well go the whole hog and get the Sisti book on restaurant magic as I suggested. It does give excellent advice on how to step onto the lowest rung of the magic entertainment ladder.
Still, you have to start somewhere.

There. I always like to encourage the young.

Mark Lewis

Postby Guest » 12/03/03 02:16 PM

Ok everyone,

If you are in LA...

I will be at Mo's on Sunday Dec 7th from 11:30am-1:30 pm.
4301 Riverside Dr.
Burbank 91505
818 845 3009

I will also be at 'The Alamo' on Wednesday Dec 10th from 6pm - 8pm
2311 Orchard Rd
Newberry Park, CA
805 498 3115

Come on down and enjoy a great meal and magic.

Postby Guest » 12/03/03 04:06 PM

Hi Amir,

Another idea would be to try some of the hotels in the area that serve Sunday brunches. They can be fruitful.

Postby Guest » 12/03/03 07:39 PM

Jeff, this is totally off the subject, but you got your demo video made by mad tad right, would you recommend his services? How much did it cost?

Postby Guest » 12/03/03 11:05 PM

Hi Amir,

The cost totally depends on what you are looking for. Tad is an Emmy Award winning editor for his work on the hit TV show V.I.P. starring Pamela Anderson. He also shot and edited Dean Dills new video as well as having many others in the can. I would suggest that you contact him directly through his website.

Also, another guy in LA is named Austin Brooks. He will not cost as much as Tad but will still deliver a fine product. I have 2 promo videos on my sight. The "commercial" was done by Austin and the 6 minute version was done by TAD. Both great jobs...just depends on how fast you need it. If you want it really fast...get a hold of Austin at 818 266 2199. Tell him I referred you and he will take care of you. If you don't mind paying more and waiting a bit longer...get a hold of TAD.

No argument either way...I think they are both great. As a matter of fact, Austin is doing my new headshots soon as well as designing new business cards and postcards. This is a great service for anyone!

Good Luck on your decision.

Postby Guest » 12/03/03 11:07 PM

Originally posted by wing02:
How much did it cost?
...and I got Tad before he won his pricing will certainly vary, but worth it!

Return to Marketing & Magic Business