Restaurant Magic Tips?

Dec 31, 2013
5
0
West Virginia
I have been doing magic for a couple years now and want to take it to a new level with performing. I have gotten comfortable with the sleight of hand and the routines to where they are smooth, which is why I now want to entertain more people. I have performed magic for my school and for some high school parties but as a Junior in high school, I wanted to make this more of a job then just a hobby.

If anyone could give some tips on restaurant magic or magic of that sort, that would be appreciated. Just wanting to know how to approach them, knowledge on making tips and anything else you think would help. Also would appreciate some past experience on restaurant magic that could help in the future.

Thanks in advance for the feedback.

-Connor
 

Josh Burch

Elite Member
Aug 11, 2011
2,961
1,096
Utah
Make sure that all of your magic can either be performed over and over or have an instant reset. When we perform for family and friends we often set ourselves up for one trick and that is it. In a restaurant you will be performing over and over again so keep that in mind.

The classic piece of advice on what to perform is the rule of three. So 3 sets of 3 effects. Each set could be anywhere from 3-10 minutes long. Usually this is an opener (something quick, attention getting and unique) middle trick (Something longer) Closer (A powerful piece of magic that will leave them with a great impression).

As far as restaurants go I know many magicians will say to avoid chains and stick with locally owned restaurants. Personally I have seen more magicians at chains then I have local restaurants and I have been rejected by more local restaurants then chains. I know Kostya Kimlat had some type of a contract with The Melting Pot chain and have seen Magicians at Red Robin, Texas Road House and Pizza factory. The best way to get into a restaurant BAR NONE is if you know the manager/owner.
 
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RealityOne

Moderator
Nov 1, 2009
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New Jersey
Depending on what you intend to carry on you, you might want to look into custom closing or finding a tailor who can put extra pockets for what you need.

Typically, a pair of pants and a jacket / blazer have enough pockets. In the jacket, there are two inside breast pockets, one outside breast pocket and two side pockets. Pants typically have two front pockets and one back pocket. That is eight pockets. Based on what Josh said, you need 9 effects -- maybe two can share a pocket? But seriously, most walk around magic is not prop intensive.

I could easily do four sets of three effects with the only the following in my pockets:

Regular Deck (right inside breast jacket pocket)
Invisible Deck (left inside breast jacket pocket)
2 Packet Tricks (one in each inside breast jacket pocket)
4 Coins (left front pants pocket)
Free Will (left front pants pocket)
Sharpie (left front pants pocket)
Scotch and Soda (right front pants pocket)
Omni Deck (right front pants pocket)
Sponge Balls (right side jacket pocket)
Card to Wallet (back pocket)
 

Josh Burch

Elite Member
Aug 11, 2011
2,961
1,096
Utah
Depending on what you intend to carry on you, you might want to look into custom closing or finding a tailor who can put extra pockets for what you need.

More in this later

I can do a few hours with 4 coins and a deck of cards.

For official gigs though I have sponge balls, buisness cards, a deck of cards, 4 coins, 4 poker chips and some rubber bands. I just wear a normal suit jacket and always have empty pockets (Which I use to ditch stuff with).

Greg Wilson talks about coming to a gig with only a sharpie and a blank deck of cards.

If you are like Garrett Thomas though I hear that he has TONS of props on him at any point and I know that Michael Ammar has had extra pockets sewn into his jacket.

I think for most it isn't necessary. I can break down what I actually keep in my pockets later when I have more time. That might be helpful.
 
Jan 1, 2009
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3
Back in Time
Generally speaking you could do an entire gig with nothing but things like Stand up Monte, Sponge balls and Rubber bands. In fact these would end up being your best friends when starting out because your pockets would look flat and empty, they are easy to remember and don't take up any pocket space. Not to mention they get rid of the idea of people "forgetting" their card, wanting to shuffle the cards, or burning your hands and allow you to get everybody at the table involved. Plus they are a lot easier for them to remember later on. "He made the round balls/rabbits appear in my hand!" "He made the Queen change places with the four in my hand!" "He made the Rubber bands pass through each other in my hands!" You kind of get the idea here.

Once you start building confidence you can start breaking all the rules that guys on the internet rabble about and start finding your own path when it comes to performing.
 
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Josh Burch

Elite Member
Aug 11, 2011
2,961
1,096
Utah
Generally speaking you could do an entire gig with nothing but things like Stand up Monte, Sponge balls and Rubber bands. In fact these would end up being your best friends when starting out because your pockets would look flat and empty, they are easy to remember and don't take up any pocket space. Not to mention they get rid of the idea of people "forgetting" their card, wanting to shuffle the cards, or burning your hands and allow you to get everybody at the table involved. Plus they are a lot easier for them to remember later on. "He made the round balls/rabbits appear in my hand!" "He made the Queen change places with the four in my hand!" "He made the Rubber bands pass through each other in my hands!" You kind of get the idea here.

Once you start building confidence you can start breaking all the rules that guys on the internet rabble about and start finding your own path when it comes to performing.

Stand up Monte is a real work horse. It's the kind of routine you can do really quick or you can draw it out, it looks different and it doesn't need a table. Greg Wilson's Pointless comes to mind. I have a magic buddy who kills with this routine every time we perform together. He just keeps going till he had a huge group gathered, and all you need is the pen.
 
Jan 1, 2009
2,249
3
Back in Time
It's a good routine because it allows you to hit everybody in the group/table when performing and if you are doing it at a gig, people can enter and leave the group any time and you can still continue the routine without missing a beat. I think Garret Thomas mentioned that's what he does at parties. He will go around in a circle as he is performing it. Thus giving off the impression that he performed for everybody, yet didn't stand there and waste their time. Bill Malone's Sponge Ball routine does the same thing as well.
 

Justin.Morris

Moderator
Aug 31, 2007
2,729
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www.morrismagic.ca
Man it was a sad day when the Penguin Forums were closed. There were libraries of knowledge and experience posted on this topic alone in there. Paddy (who posted there) encouraged me to get started in a restaurant and it's what started getting me gigs.

I still haven't put the effort into the Stand up Monte to use it yet. Someday...

I would say that as a young guy, you need think through a couple of things. First is you need to be good. Not the best in the world (as the restaurant is where you will build your chops), but you need to be solid. If you are not, you will spoil the opportunity for other magicians. The second thing is humility. You need to be humble enough to accept the first point. Have you seen American Idol? Someone's mom or friends at school said they were great singers and they get on stage and crash. The only thing that makes it worse is when they cry foul on the judges because of their pride. Don't be that guy. Practice like crazy. Work hard to get really good at a few tricks while you learn new things. I'm a firm believer in always learning -and trying- new things, but you must master a series of strong effects. They need to be deceptive, work every time, and a good presentation (read 'entertaining').

Make your sets as mentioned above. I found that in a busy restaurant I did two effects per table. There is too much going on to do more. At a slower family restaurant that wants to build business then look at doing a bit longer.

The best way to get hired is to know someone as Josh mentioned. Otherwise, you need to write up a resume/bio and a proposal sheet that let's them know about you, your experience and/or magic work history, as well as exactly what you are proposing. Then you need to script a pitch. Write it out and practice it until you know it. Dress in a suit (or dress shirt, tie, and nice slacks at the least). And make an appointment with the manager. Some people say to just show up when it's not busy and meet them and that can work too. Personally I think it shows them more respect if you call ahead.

When you go, bring a note pad (please not on your phone) with your pitch notes on it so you don't miss any details, and offer to show them what you do, then present them the idea confidently. (try to do it in that order -otherwise they will have made up their mind before they see what you can do).

Here's what you will pitch - 'You can make them more money'. That's their bottom line: Magician => unique and better overall experience => happy customers => repeat business => telling and inviting friends (most powerful advertisement tool ever) => more customers => more business and profit for the restaurant.
Do not pitch them that you will wow their customers or make their customers happy. You must take them down the entire path to the conclusion (they will not get there themselves). Then you can also tell them about added benefits like if you perform on slow nights they will bring in more traffic, if you perform on busy nights, you can perform for those who are waiting, servers will get better tips and be happier etc) But ultimately it's about them and their values.

As far as pay goes, this is all over the map with different people and really depends on your experience, the restaurant, the manager, and the geographic location. Some people work only for tips, some minimum wage + tips, others charge $$20, 30 or $50 per hour +tips, and some forgo the tips and just charge a wage (I read one guy who said that he charged one restaurant $100 and no tips). What you do will depend on the place but you need to help them think of it in more tangible terms when you are pitching it. Lets say that you would like to charge $25/ hour. Say the restaurant has an average entree of $25 (roughly $10-$11 profit margin to pay staff and other things out of). People do not dine alone typically, so if two tables of two people each come to the restaurant that week because of you, that's four entrees that are sold with a profit of $40 which more than pays for one hour of work. If you work once a week for three hours then it only takes two tables of four to pay for your service - everything above that is gravy for them. And if you are good, then you will draw many more than that. But you need to break it down and make it tangible for them.

Tips can be tricky. I hate asking for money. I don't busk because I would starve before I would ask - my pride and discomfort get it the way. So I wouldn't work for only tips. But I certainly accept tips (my largest tip was $120, but typically they are $5-$10). I often used to urge them to tip their server well if they enjoyed the show because I was being well paid to perform already, but I find it rude to refuse someone who wants to tip you, so I had an agreement that I could accept tips if offered, but would not solicit them. This made everyone happy. But you can be creative with how you get paid - a meal, tips wage, or any combination of things that you and the owner can come up with.
Bottom line, is that it needs to work with them.

Some say that you should never work for free, and I agree in most cases except where you are. When starting out, you need to just get out and get as much experience as possible. Realistically, if you worked for just tips and only made $10 an hour, it would be worth it because of the experience you would get. In three years of doing that well, you could do larger gigs and charge much much more -something that you can't really do without the experience.

Then once you get the gig, it's all about building your chops, refining effects, trying new stuff, learning your character, and marketing and networking.
 
Dec 31, 2013
5
0
West Virginia
Thank you guys so much! I think the hardest thing for me would be to get comfortable with approaching people, after that I feel like Ive put in enough work to do fine. I'm going to have to take a look at buying Pointless and Stand Up Monte now after what you have said. I have heard good things just never found the need to perform them but that will change soon.

Hopefully I get started doing more magic gigs once I get acclimated to the school year. Thank you guys for giving so much knowledge and information for me to look back upon when I need inspiration or for some more material to wow people with.
 

Brett Hurley

Elite Member
Sep 27, 2014
2,396
1,991
Texa$, with a dollar sign
All right. I like the idea of restaurant magic because everything you carry is compact and instant reset.

I've been watching Ray Kosby's Impossible Close Up Magic and I'm taking your guys advice on just using easier to carry props (coins, rubber bands, cards, packet tricks, maybe a prop or two).

Here's my question: I know you guys are well experienced in the field, and I know I'm not going to get an exact number on this. But for a restaurant type situation, how many card different effects using a regular deck (I know I use blanks, but I'd be doing things with signed cards only) typically get used in a night. I know it's good to have a vast vocabulary for versatility; but for someone who is well behind the curve...What sort of number would be recommended (I feel like I should expect to get my teeth kick in for this).
 

Justin.Morris

Moderator
Aug 31, 2007
2,729
826
Canada
www.morrismagic.ca
I have 9 sets of three effects each that I use when performing. (I use the set per gig and mark down what I used for each one. Repeat business is easily handled because of this)

In each set I have 1-2 card effects with the exception of 3 sets: two have no card effects, and one has all card effects. (I do use effects across multiple sets - so five of the nine use Joker's Wild, three use ambitious card etc). In one night I might use 4 card effects:

Non card Opener
Card effect 1
Card effect 2

Card effect 1
Card effect 3
Non card closer

Non card opener (same as set 1)
Non card effect
Card effect 4

Depending on the table layout I will try to do set 1 and 2 as much as I can. I saves set 3 for if tables are too close, are watching me, or have drifters that follow me and watch over my shoulder.

Side note, I always have a couple of extras that I bring with in case I need to make a bigger impression and really hit it home.
 
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