Rare is the restaurant that thinks of its local scientific community as a group worth marketing to. But the rise of Science Cafés—single-topic lecture/discussions conducted by experts and hosted on an ad hoc basis by restaurants and pubs—has caused some operators to rethink the possibilities. If your business could use a once-a-month boost on a Monday or Tuesday night, here’s a way to get it.
The starting-point content of a Science Café gathering is a much-condensed version of what you’d hear if you attended a scientific lecture given in an on-campus setting or maybe in the community room of your local library. While informative, these events tend to be kind of dry, not much fun and, often poorly attended. The Science Café approach is meant to inject some life into the experience and put more bodies in the seats for the lecturer.
Here’s how Pacific Science Center, organizer of Science Cafés in and around Seattle, characterizes the concept:
“Science Cafés bring scientists face-to-face with the general public in the comfortable, lively atmosphere of a neighborhood café or pub. The evening begins with a brief presentation by a scientist, which kicks off an extended discussion session between the scientist and audience. All Science Cafés are free to the public, open to all ages and no science background is required!”
There’s no formal organization guiding the process, although the group’s website — loosely associated with PBS science show NOVA — serves as a central repository of information.
A big reason the Science Café movement has caught on is because a restaurant or pub is indeed a lively setting for this kind of event. The deal for restaurants is that they provide the venue while the local Science Café organizers bring the crowd. Eating and drinking isn’t required, but the early evening start times — 6:30 or 7 p.m. is typical — strongly encourage it. A key for restaurant operators is that Science Cafés typically take place on days of the week when business is ordinarily slow.
Here’s a look at a few upcoming Science Cafés.
• Irish pub and restaurant Wilde Rover in Kirkland, WA, will host “Personal Genome Sequencing” on Monday, Feb. 11, 2013, while Tacoma’s The Swiss Restaurant & Pub is the site of the somewhat more esoteric “The Secret World of Geoduck Clam Larvae” the following day, Feb. 12.
• On Tuesday, Feb. 19, Boise, ID, restaurant-distillery Bardenay plays host to JR Simplot science and technology manager Jeff Bohlscheid ‘s presentation “How to make the perfect French fry.”
• Cleveland Market Garden Café is the venue when NASA expert Geoffrey Landis presents “Mars: Curiosity, Opportunity and Spirit of Exploration!” on Feb. 11.
• In Orlando, FL, emeritus professor Llew Erhard talks about the new national wildlife refuge being developed on Florida’s East Coast at Taste restaurant on March 6.
Science Cafés are already fixtures in many cities across the country. Learn whether one or more is already underway in your town and where those events are currently held. We’re not saying these gatherings are huge moneymakers, but they can become a solid contributor to your restaurant’s revenue if you and the local sponsoring group promote them correctly. A big group that can be counted on to show up once a month to eat and drink early on a Monday or Tuesday night? Priceless.