Transform a beloved eatery into a venue for your next soiree.

July 10, 2019

If you lack the time or the talent, or live in a small pad, it can be hard to host a dinner party at home. Luckily, cities are full of fabulous restaurants and hip bars, meaning a savvy host can transform a beloved eatery into a venue for their next soirée.

You can host any kind of party, says in a recent article, from a small intimate dinner to a milestone birthday bash or anniversary lunch in honour of your parents’ 30 years together—at a restaurant or bar. Below are some of the popular digital lifestyle publication’s best tips – that we wholeheartedly agree with. Read more, ‘How To Host A Sparkling Dinner Party.’

And you can do it without spending a fortune. Planning a party just got easier.

Plan Ahead

Any successful party should be planned in advance, but since you don’t have control over every aspect of the venue (as it’s an establishment that you don’t own), there are certain logistics to organise. 

Start by asking yourself what type of event you want to have. What are you envisioning? Will it be a sit-down dinner in a private room on a Saturday night at 7 p.m.? Or do you want everyone to get together after work for a happy hour that extends into dinner with dancing afterwards. Choose a date for the event and narrow down a theme. Read more, ’20 Party Ideas That Will Make You Want to Send Out Invitations Immediately.’

Scout it out

Once you’ve figured out the basic details, get online and research possible restaurants and bars to host your event. Alternatively, if you have a good relationship with a certain restaurant – start there. If you want it in a private room, seek out great restaurants that have them as an option. If you want to host a less-casual event, like a brunch, search for restaurants that have large communal tables. If you want it in a bar, search for bars that have multiple rooms and separate drinking areas.

Make a list of five possible venues, grab a friend, and scout them out. Want to have a party on a Friday at 8pm? Go to the bar on that day and time to see what it’s like. This way you’ll get a good feel for the space and clientele. Narrow down your selection to one spot and move into the next phase of planning.

Hotel Centennial,

Befriend the Bartender

Okay, so you’ve got your venue picked out; now you have to reach out to the space’s team and make it all happen. Go to the restaurant alone during a less-busy time, like a weeknight evening.

Get to know the bartender and waitstaff. Bring a friend and go again the next night. Ask to speak with the manager and explain your proposed party plan. Tell the manager everything. If it’s an upscale restaurant, they may refer you to the venue’s event planner. If it’s a bar, they may refer you to the owner. Initiate contact with the key players and build a positive relationship with them; then ask if you can host a party at their restaurant or bar.

Discuss Details

Set up a meeting with the owner during normal business hours to discuss all of the details of the event. Ask permission to bring in any outside food like a cake (but check on cake cutting prices) and decorations. Can you bring in your own flowers. If so, what time can you get them there?

A restaurant might not let you bring in your own taper candles, but may not allow you to tie balloons to the back of each of the chairs, so be prepared to compromise. Don’t assume you can do anything—restaurants and bars have to abide by the laws of the city and fire codes. You don’t want your new favourite restaurant to be fined. Tell the team how many people you expect to come well in advance so they can staff an extra bartender, if necessary. Read more, ‘The Last Minute Hostess: How To Fake The Perfect Holiday Party.’

Send Transparent Invitations

Some people like to host a party in a restaurant and expect their guests to chip in and pay for their portion of the bill. If you want it to be like this—more of a group dinner where the guests chip in—send a casual email rather than a formal invitation. Explain that “a bunch of us are going out to dinner for [your friend’s] birthday. Do you want to come?”

Send transparent invitations and no one will be confused. Make it clear from the get-go that you want your guests to pay. On the other hand, a more formal invite that’s printed or sent over Paperless Post implies that you’re hosting the party.

Hosting means you should pay for the guests who attend your event.

Private Event at Apollo Sydney, image via @montarnamcdonald Instagram

Curate the Menu

If you’re doing a dinner at a restaurant, work with the chef to come up with a smaller curated menu. The kitchen staff will appreciate this, as they won’t have to make 20 different dishes all at once. Have a few appetizers served family style; then let guests select from three salad/soup, entree, and dessert options. 

Print out menus, or ask your contact at the restaurant if they can print them for you. 

Personalize the Space

It’s a party, so make the space feel festive and fun. Arrive early if need be to set things up. Decorate the table with flowers like you would in your own house. Read more, ‘Easy and Affordable Ways to Class Up a Dinner Party.’

Keep Staff Informed

The day of the party, keep the restaurant staff informed of any changes. Your vegan friend surprised you by flying in? Let the kitchen know they’ll need a vegan dish. Your parents stopping by for a drink? Tell the staff to keep an eye out for them and point them in the direction of your table. Good communication is key.

Be the Best Host

Even though the party isn’t in your personal home, don’t forget you’re the host, and it’s your responsibility to ensure everything runs smoothly. Read more, ‘The Politics of the Dinner Party Seating Plan.’

Don’t get drunk before the salad has been served.

Introduce people who may not know each other. Make your guests feel comfortable. When they arrive, point them to a glass of champagne or their seat at the table where they can place their bag and jacket. Let your friends know where the bathroom is. If there is an after-party, provide the details to all guests in attendance.

Tip Generously

If the party is a fabulous success, reward the staff who served you with a generous tip. Pay your bill in a timely and private manner. Send a handwritten thank-you note to the restaurant—specifically thanking all of the people involved in your event—a few days after the party. In many cities, bar and restaurant owners have more than one establishment, and if you develop a good relationship with the team, you could host your next event at one of their other locations. 

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