In places like London and Edinburgh, you’ll find an almost endless list of venues to eat anything your palate can imagine. In recent years, these cities have turned into Meccas for the most demanding of foodies and event planners have taken notice.
Restaurants are some of the best places to host events at. Think about it: They know how to serve large groups of people and their staff is used to perform under pressure. That being said, not all of them are created equal and even if they were, not all restaurants work for every occasion.
So in order to help you pick out a restaurant for your event, we’ve gone from A to Z and written down the best possible tips to help you succeed in this task.
THE ABCs OF RENTING RESTAURANTS FOR EVENTS
A – Accessibility
How accessible is the location for people with a stroller or in a wheelchair? For a handicapped person, a place they can’t get access to can ruin their entire evening.
If you’re hosting someone with a disability, here’s a list of wheelchair friendly restaurants in London.
B – Budget
As a general rule, venue and catering should cost less than half of your overall budget. Keep that in mind when looking for a restaurant to host your event.
C – Cancellation policy
Most venues will have a cancellation policy. This one may include total, partial and no refunding at all — especially if you cancel close to the date of the event. Make sure you understand it before you sign anything.
D – Decorations
Restaurants already have their own decoration in place. Sometimes they pay interior designers good money for them so it’s understandable when owners don’t take it very well when someone asks them to change it.
Still, it never hurts to ask. Just make sure whatever you’re planning doesn’t involve making holes on the walls or doing too much of a mess.
E – Eating outside
If there’s nice weather then you might be tempted to plan your dinner at a restaurant with an open area. Just make sure that there’s also enough space inside for all of the guests. While weather-predicting apps keep getting more precise with time, there’s still that odd chance that a summer storm might come out of nowhere.
F – Features
As a restaurant, you can rest assured that the venue will feature everything you need when it comes to serving food, but do they have what you require to make a presentation? Are there enough energy outlets for you to connect all of the devices you must use? Do they have a screen or at least a white wall where you can project a presentation? Do they have microphones or should you bring your own?
These are all important questions you should ask the owner (or event coordinator, if they have one) before any compromise is made.
G – Garçons
Is the staff of the restaurant knowledgeable? Can they attend an event? Or are they just used to dealing with the neighbours from around the block? A great team can be the difference between a great evening and upsetting a potential client — therefore losing that deal you had been working so hard on.
Check the team’s credentials if necessary. Ask how much experience they have catering big groups in a professional setting. You can’t afford to mess this up.
H – Holding capacity
Sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised by how many events get screwed up by poor head count. The capacity changes depending on the purpose of the event, if you’re planning a dinner party for 30 people then you’ll need space for 30 chairs. If you’re having the same number of guests, but for a cocktail party instead then you can do with a smaller venue since most of the time people will be standing.
I – Investigate
While that French bistro might be very beautiful, it could also have a reputation for food poisoning. You could go to sites like Yelp where you might find user reviews, but those can be easily manipulated. Instead, what we recommend would be for you to get face-to-face information from not just the owners, but also the neighbours or next-door businesses.
Questions you should be asking are: Has the restaurant hosted events before? What is its reputation? What kind of people frequents this place?
J – Joke around
Even if you’re having a business meeting, a meal always tends to lighten up the mood. Don’t be afraid to joke here and there to take the edge off. Just try to stay away from controversial humour.
K – Knowledge
Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. Scout the location before arranging any meetings with the owner or manager. A good idea would be to visit the place, more than once, as a customer. Go during different times, when it’s rush hour and when it’s not. This will give you an unfiltered view of the place and how it performs day-to-day.
L – Lighting
Like with acoustics, this one is particularly important if there’s a person who has to speak or give a speech. If the lights are not good enough (they probably won’t be) then ask if you’re allowed to bring your own. This means, making sure there’s enough space. And not to mention, electric outlets! This is especially important if you need lights for video which require even more space and power.
M – Menu
You might be thinking: Well, it’s a restaurant, of course there’s food and beverages (duh!) and you would be right, but the point that I’m trying to make here is that you should always be careful with the type of food and the type of guests you’ll be entertaining.
Nowadays there are more people than ever who have vegetarian/vegan and gluten-free diets. Also, if you’re expecting attendees from foreign countries you should pay special attention to their customs. Depending on where they come from and what religion they follow, there might be certain things that they won’t be allowed to eat. For example, Muslims won’t eat pork or drink alcohol and Hindus usually don’t eat beef.
Most restaurants will be able to make accommodations and produce an alternate version of their menu, but in some cases, it might just be smarter to change the place. An Argentinian grill house will never be the best choice to host a group of vegetarian yogis, for example, no matter how accommodating patrons may be.
N – Number of guests
A no-brainer, I know, but when it comes to meals it is imperative to keep in mind all the time the number of guests. If it’s a cocktail party, then it shouldn’t be so much of an issue if two people show up from out of nowhere, but at a meal, the extra chair may not fit.
O – Organising the seats
Consider how many people will be coming and how the tables will be set. Do you need to rearrange them? Keep them the way they are now? Or remove some? In order to keep everyone comfortable, make sure there’s a good flow and people have easy access to the toilet and exit.
Check with the restaurant first if you plan on doing drastic changes, while they might have no problem moving the tables to a different place, they may not be able to get them out because there is no storage room to keep them.
Tools like AllSeated allow you to organise your table and sitting arrangements in an easy and painless way.
P – Place (Where it’s located)
Is it easy to access to? Does it have an easy connection to public transportation? If some of the guests are coming in their own private transportation, is there a place to park nearby?
Q – Questions, questions and more questions
Ask as many as you want and repeat them if necessary. And most importantly, ask the same questions to different people. Do not just talk to the owner, approach the staff as well. Of course, there will always be information that the bartender won’t handle but when it comes to the basics, everyone should have the same answer.
If you get different replies to the same question then this could be a red flag. An uncoordinated venue could translate into a disorganised event.
R – Rate
When hosting a large group, most restaurants will offer you a fixed menu and a flat rate per person. Most of the time these will include the entire meal (including dessert), several bottles of wine and even coffee, but other times it won’t include coffee or just the meal and you’d have to pay the drinks on the side.
Before writing any checks, make sure you understand everything that’s included and what’s not included in what you’re paying for. It would be embarrassing for one of your guests to order coffee, only to find out that they have to pay it out of their own wallet. Oops.
S – Sounds
Restaurants are not necessarily designed to have great acoustics. These could be a problem if there’s a scheduled speaker or if you’re planning to give a speech during the event.
Ask the coordinator if the venue has been designed for acoustics. If they don’t know, then chances are it is not.
T – Third party vendors
Most restaurants and venues allow you to bring your own wine (mind that there will be a ‘corkage fee’) or even cake if it’s a special occasion like a birthday or a wedding. If you’re planning on bringing products from a third party vendor, make sure to check with the patrons before.
It would be rude to just bring someone else’s food without saying anything in advance.
U – Universal
Unless you’re dealing with a very select group of people, I would always suggest you pick a restaurant with a universal appeal. Trying to keep the most amount of people happy possible is the key here!
V – Versatility
This point overlaps with other points from this list, but we’ve decided to single it out because it also has to be its own particular trait. How flexible is the restaurant in regards to times? The number of attendees? Being able to change their menu? Will they lose it if someone arrives half-an-hour late and dinner has to served later than scheduled? And what if a couple shows up that was not on the original list? Would they go out of their way to make two extra seats?
While these are less than ideal situations, we must always keep them in mind because as they say: Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.
W – WiFi
This one is self-explanatory and one we’ve covered in other posts on this blog but, it bears repeating, nowadays there is no excuse for not having WiFi at a professional event. If the restaurant doesn’t offer it, ask if they can install it just for the day and if not, then go to the next venue on your list.
It might sound like we’re exaggerating, but if there are two things that can kill an event, those are: A, no wireless internet connection and b, running out of ice.
X – XOXO
Send a thank you note at the end of it all. Especially if the day of the event was stressful, it is always nice to show your appreciation to those who supported you.
Y – Your event, your rules
It is your reputation as an event planner on the line here. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and be demanding even if the restaurant staff starts to think that you’re ‘demanding’ or ‘annoying’. You can’t afford to not do well.
Z – Zzzzz
Rest! Once the event is done and everyone has been paid, take a breather. You’ve earned it. Taking a break will give you enough energy to move on to the next great occasion.
(We know it’s a copout, but we couldn’t find anything interesting that started with a “Z”)
And this completes our list of the ABCs for everything you need to know when renting a restaurant for an event. We hoped you enjoyed it and that it will be useful to you when scouting your next venue.
If you liked this post, then you might also enjoy reading:
- The exciting and undervalued world of event styling
- What to do (and not to) when an event goes wrong
- Is a wet T-shirt contest a good way to promote your business?
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