Selecting a venue is one of the most important decisions that you will have to make if you decide to become a catalyst and host your own relationship building dinners. Your job as a host is to try to design the best experience possible from beginning to end for each of your guests, so carefully consider these 5 factors when making your choice…
First is accessibility. Depending on where the bulk of your guests are located, you don’t want to pick a restaurant that’s either in the middle of nowhere or deep in the city where they will have to fight a lot of traffic to get there. So really think about where your guests will be traveling from to attend and consider things like access to public transit or major highways, how easy is it to access parking in that area? What is the typical volume of traffic in that area in relation to the day and time that you’re planning to host your dinner? Your job, as a host, is to design an incredible experience for your guests from start to finish so take the time to consider how easily accessible a venue is in advance.
The second thing you want to think about, is value. I am always looking for restaurants that have great reviews (3.5 stars across tripadvisor, google, and yelp is a minimum). And I avoid restaurants that are pretentious or overpriced. Especially if I’m the one paying, which is something I’ll touch on more later.
Third thing is the dietary restrictions of your dinner guests. In my circles this can be a fun one to navigate because I have friends who are paleo, keto, vegan… you name it. So to err on the side of caution, I tend to use restaurants that have a wide variety of options and are willing to accommodate various restrictions or allergies. With that said, one of the easiest types of cuisines to work with is Mexican because they can generally accommodate most dietary restrictions.
The fourth thing I look for is intimacy. Especially if it’s a larger group. When you’re a table of 4 or 6 you can go almost anywhere. In a group of eight or more, you’ll most likely need to start looking into a private or semi private dining rooms. The problem with booking these rooms is that not only are they hard to come by, but they can be super costly. Which brings me to…
If you’re covering the bill, your cost per head may rise significantly because of pricey prix fix menus. You can go to a restaurant where an appetizer, entree and dessert will cost you $40 per person, however those same choices are now $70 on a prix fix menu. Now I side with the restaurants on one end because they want to limit meal selections in order to streamline service in the kitchen, which totally makes sense, however it’s also a money grab.
What I’ll often try to do is negotiate with the restaurant before I make my booking so that my guests can order right off the main menu vs the prix fix one. Now sometimes they won’t budge. If that’s the case, and the menu permits, my wife Kandis (who hosts these dinners with me from time to time), will pitch to them the idea of ordering a myriad of options for everyone to share. I love this alternative because it creates the illusion of a feast with a constant stream of food throughout the evening, while cutting your overall food cost by as much as 30 to 40%.
With food cost in mind, you will also need to navigate minimums which can kill you if left unchecked. At a recent dinner I held, their set minimum was roughly $110 per head. Doing the basic math they were accounting for 4 drinks per person plus the prix fix menu of $65. I told them if my guests are averaging 4 drinks each, I’m going to have some liabilities on my hand. I generally budget one to two drinks per person as you’ll have some who drink a little more, while some won’t drink at all. So always keep in mind that you can (and should) negotiate on minimums.
For a complete play by play of what went into the planning of one of my recent dinners, do not miss this episode of Community Made…