5 Things to Consider When Dining Out in Groups

Got a big celebration coming up? Finding a restaurant that will accommodate groups of 10 or more can be much more challenging than you think. Will everyone like what’s on the menu? How do we split the bill? Can we get a private room? Is the ambience right for a big group of friends or family? The good news is there are a lot of establishments that have simplified the process of dining out in big groups and offer that little bit extra in welcoming groups.

If you want to make the night out a crowd-pleaser for all, factor in these 6 things to consider when dining out in groups of 10 or more.

1. Look for set menus with set costs

You want your night out to be full of fun, good food and great conversation. The last thing you want is to be squabbling over who ate what, with smartphone calculators in hand when the bill comes. A good way to combat this is to look for restaurants with set menus for big groups, sometimes called banquet menus. This way all members of the party will know before they RSVP exactly what is on offer and the amount they will be paying. The upside, of course, is when the bill arrives there are no surprises.

2. Considering dietary factors is essential

Don’t feel restricted by the set menu, restaurants will often happily accommodate dietary preferences for those with allergies, as well as vegetarians and pescatarians. Let the restaurant know when you book so they are pre-prepared. When there is a big group and some have dietary preferences, it’s best to avoid switching seats all night as this can be a nightmare for the server. If you’d like to talk to someone at the other end of the table wait until after dessert to pull up a pew next to them.

3. Ready set, eat!

The relatively new phenomenon of seating times may make you feel rushed. You want to catch up with all of the party, not eat and run. If there are fixed sitting times in place for the restaurant you choose, make sure everyone arrives before the time allotment. It might even be an idea to meet for a drink at a nearby bar an hour before the seating to ensure everyone is there on time. That way you won’t all be waiting around outside, watching the clock, thinking you may have to skip a course before getting turfed out for the next seating. Big groups should aim for the second seating, that way you can gather, enjoy a drink and then relax in the restaurant until closing time.

4. Getting the ambience right

Not only do you have to take the food into consideration when booking for a big group, you also need to account for the service, the shape of the table and how noisy the room is. Where possible, opt for the private room and a round table. Any more than six on a long table and conversations are broken into smaller groups. A round table promotes more congeniality, even if you might be shouting across the table to be heard. On a long table, there will always be someone who is disappointed with their seat, they might be stuck at the end or next to Uncle Graham who proceeds to regale them with a blow-by-blow account of how expensive the food is and how he could make it for one tenth of the price.

5. Table manners

Rule number one: when dining in a large party, you don’t have to wait for all the meals to arrive before you tuck in. If more than half have received their meals, start! Otherwise, it will get cold!

Rule number two: put your phone away. It is considered rude to be checking it in front of company over a meal. This applies for a table for two or twenty. If you are expecting an important call put the phone on vibrate and walk away to take the call.

Do you have any restaurants to add to this list? Do share.

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