A special-occasion dinner at a restaurant is made even more special by the fact that you don’t have to clean up when the party is over. However, it can require almost as much planning as hosting at home. Many restaurants offer private dining rooms, and many more will create a special menu for the group.
• Call the restaurant at least 30 days in advance to inquire about private dining rooms and the possibility of a custom-made menu. Visit the restaurant before booking and speak with the manager and/or chef. Ask about the minimum number of guests and the cost of a private room with dedicated servers, service fees and gratuities.
• For larger groups, many restaurants will serve a prix-fixe dinner, allowing the guest to select an appetizer, a meat, a seafood or pasta entrée and a dessert. Know in advance exactly what is included. Inform the chef in
advance of any guests’ specific dietary needs or allergies.
• Be clear on what the restaurant’s responsibilities are and what you will provide. Are you bringing your own cake, or is the pastry chef baking it? Who prints the menus?
• If you are planning to open some special bottles of wine, find out the restaurant’s corkage policy. If the restaurant does not permit corkage, speak with the sommelier to help choose the best wines to match the food and suit your budget.
• Ask about decorations, and make sure whatever you bring to the
restaurant is appropriate for the atmosphere. Mylar balloons are out of place in a fine-dining establishment, while tasteful, low-to-the-table floral arrangements are at home most anywhere.
• Printed invitations delivered to your guests by old-fashioned mail signify the importance of the occasion. Follow up with e-mail, if necessary.
• Decide beforehand whether your early arrivals will have a drink at the main bar, or if you will offer wine in a private area.