Author Topic: Party at a Restaurant  (Read 7100 times)

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WonderWoman

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Party at a Restaurant
« on: September 24, 2012, 03:12:02 PM »
DH has a milestone birthday coming up. I want to mark the event with a party, but I don't have the space to host at home. So we are planning a small gathering at a restaurant/bar. I'd love to get some suggestions on how to make this successful - I haven't done this before!

I arranged with the bar about a month ago to reserve a few tables in an upstairs area away from the main dining rooms. DH and I will purchase a variety of appetizers and some pitchers of beverages.

DH and I designed a fun invitation, sent by e-mail, inviting people for beer and munchies at Location on day date time. We are getting a good response and DH is excited.

But, I am concerned about what if people want to order something off the menu or starting ordering drinks beyond what we planned to offer (like we have pitchers of beer and soda and they want a Cosmo). How is that handled graciously? Do I simply alert the staff that all orders come through us and to tell people they can order other items separately? Or as host am I obligated to buy drinks all night?

What is appropriate?

Also, any thoughts on how many pitchers and apps would be good for 20 people? I was thinking:

Tavern (potato) chips 3 baskets
Wings 4 baskets
Toasted ravioli 2 baskets (i.e. 16 fried pasta meat/cheese pockets)
Chicken dip
Cheese garlic bread 2 baskets
Onion rings 2 baskets

Thank you!!!

Kaypeep

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Re: Party at a Restaurant
« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2012, 03:41:12 PM »
I've attended a few parties like this.  Usually the host supplies some food and pre-determined beverages (beer, wine and soda.)  This goes on for about 2 hours.  After the time is up, it's pay as you go.  As hosts, I'd make it clear to the guests about what you're covering, and set a cut off time.  Then you can tell them "We've got _____ here until 10 pm.  So eat, drink and be merry on us until then.   If you want something different before 10, the bartender can order it on your own tab through the bartender or waitress." 
As the cutoff time looms near, be sure to remind your guests that the party portion of the night is almost over, so get something before the tab is cut off. 

As long as you make things clear before the party (ie: in the invite, and before the cutoff time at the party) you shouldn't have any problems.  Just keep reminding them as much as possible "Remember, we've ordered food and drinks to cover us until 10, but after that it's separate tabs."

PastryGoddess

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Re: Party at a Restaurant
« Reply #2 on: September 24, 2012, 03:47:46 PM »
You'll probably be assigned a waitress or a couple of waitresses for the night.  Make sure you make it clear to them that anything not on the ordered menu should not be added to your tab OR you can ask them to come to you before they place the order to see if you'll cover it.  The second option is less likely since that may slow them down.

I agree with the above poster to make sure you remind people constantly what the parameters of your party are.  This will make sure you aren't stuck with an unexpected bill after the party.
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NyaChan

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Re: Party at a Restaurant
« Reply #3 on: September 24, 2012, 04:21:34 PM »
I would refer to it in front of guess as having a set menu catered by the restaurant & see that it is set up that way, i.e. if you have a menu in your hand and are ordering in front of the guests, they might think, oh! menu, let me have those cheese sticks I like that weren't already ordered.   If you have guests show up and plates of food are automatically put out and replenished, it will feel more like a dinner party with a host who has made arrangements for  the whole group.

In fact, I would let the restaurant know ahead of time that staff shouldn't take individual orders & simply respond that the menu has been pre-determined by the host (you). 

Sapphire

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Re: Party at a Restaurant
« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2012, 05:16:57 AM »
As you have reserved a private area, can you order the food prior to the party so that the bar knows what to put out? They may also be able to advise on how much food is enough - though watch out for them suggesting too much. As they let you reserve a private area, it would seem they do this on a regular basis. Similarly with the drinks you are planning to put out onto tables. In fact, I wouldn't expect there to be any type of menus available on the tables in your private area.

I would then arrange with the bar that there will be no tab, and that anyone trying to order something else will need to pay for it themselves, and waitstaff should ensure they tell them that at the point of ordering.

When talking about the party beforehand, you could also mention what you have arranged, so expectations are set up front. If, on the night, you decide you want to add to what you have pre-ordered , you can still do that.

If I am honest, I would think it rude of somebody to turn up at an event such as this, look at what had been put on the tables, decide they didn't want what the host had opted for and start trying to add to it at the host's expense.

Your party sounds fun, and I hope that you have a fabulous time with no dramas  :)

Snooks

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Re: Party at a Restaurant
« Reply #5 on: September 25, 2012, 06:03:10 AM »
Also, any thoughts on how many pitchers and apps would be good for 20 people? I was thinking:

Tavern (potato) chips 3 baskets
Wings 4 baskets
Toasted ravioli 2 baskets (i.e. 16 fried pasta meat/cheese pockets)
Chicken dip
Cheese garlic bread 2 baskets
Onion rings 2 baskets

Thank you!!!

This doesn't sound like enough food to me if you're planning on being there for a couple of hours.  Just think about how much you'd expect one person to eat then times it by 20/25.  Dividing what you're currently suggesting looks like you'll have more than six people sharing a basket of chips, five people per wings basket (so maybe one wing each), one and a bit ravioli per person, 10 people sharing cheese garlic bread and onion rings.  I'm not sure what chicken dip is so I'm not sure about quantities for that but I'd guess you want one basket between three people for most things, you don't want people leaving hungry because they've been too polite to dig into the food.

Margo

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Re: Party at a Restaurant
« Reply #6 on: September 25, 2012, 06:07:10 AM »
I agree with PPs - speak to the venue. Discuss with them the best way to manage things and make sure that they are aware that you won't be covering extra orders, and if anyone wishes to have anything which isn't part of your order they should be told when they try to order, and given a separate tab.

Your invitations were for 'beer and munchies' so people should not expect anything other than beer and munchies (and soft drinks for those who don't like beer)

I'm guessing from how you descibe it that the servers will bring out fresh pitchers of beer as needed, so I would also recommend that you discuss with them in advance a limit and ask that they let you know when that limit is reached, so you can revise it if necessary, to ensure you don't go over budget.

I hope you enjoy the party!
(PS - do you have any vegetarian guests? maybe add some guacamole or other veggie-friendly dip to yur order?)

MrsCrazyPete

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Re: Party at a Restaurant
« Reply #7 on: September 25, 2012, 06:28:55 AM »
POD to Snooks. I think you need more food. What you said is good, to start, but I think maybe order that much again once the first batch is gone. People will eat a lot more when they're drinking.

I like the idea of covering food and drinks only for a certain time. If the servers are approached by anyone asking about cheese sticks or a cosmo or whatever, I like NyaChan's wording about how the menu has been predetermined by the host and anything outside of that is that person's responsibility.

It sounds like a great party, have fun!
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Kaypeep

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Re: Party at a Restaurant
« Reply #8 on: September 25, 2012, 09:44:22 AM »
I agree that the food choices seem lacking, but I think it depends on what time you are planning this party.  If you start at 9 you might be okay because the guests probably had dinner so this is just something to nosh on while they drink. However, if it's earlier you should have something more substantial as some may think that it IS dinner.   Also, will you be having a birthday cake?  I'm not sure what age you're celebrating, either, but I will say that in my 20's this menu would be fine for a late night gathering.   If you're an older crowd or meeting earlier, I think this is not substantial enough.  I'd at least try to add in a tray of pasta or a 3 foot sandwich or something like that.

Dindrane

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Re: Party at a Restaurant
« Reply #9 on: September 25, 2012, 10:24:38 AM »
I think the variety you've got with the food is fine (as long as you have no vegetarians on your guest list), but I agree that the quantity you've set up is almost certainly not going to be enough for 20 people unless your party is very short. I also agree that the quantity is fine to start with, but you're going to need to be prepared (and probably plan) to order more as the party goes on.

I like Margo's suggestion of talking with the servers ahead of time to discuss a limit on beer, and having them check with you when you hit it so you can reevaluate if you need to. I think you should probably also do that for the food. If your party is, say, 2 hours, you could have the servers automatically replenish the food until an hour has passed or you've hit a predetermined limit (whichever comes first). The limit for both the drinks and the food can either be a set dollar amount (keep it coming until my bill is $100) or a set number of orders. Once the limit or the time has been reached, have the servers check with you.

Another way you could handle it is to just monitor the food people are eating and make new orders of things yourself as you see that they are low. However, that would make it harder for you to keep track of what you are spending, and it will make it harder for you to enjoy the party itself. I'd go with establishing a set limit and having the servers alert you if the bar is willing to do that, just because it will probably enjoy yourself more that way. If they aren't, and you have to keep track of things yourself, I'd advise figuring out how many of each item you're willing to order without thinking about it (and write that number down), and then mark each order off on a piece of paper so you don't have to do a bunch of mental arithmetic while you're trying to enjoy yourself.

For budgeting purposes, I would probably talk to the bar and see if they can give you an idea of what a group that size would normally consume. That should allow you to get an idea of the total cost, although it would be prudent to be prepared to spend more than that (you just have to decide how much more). If you have a realistic but generous budget in mind, you will hopefully not get an unpleasant surprise when you go to pay your bill at the end of the party.

In terms of hosting, I think that what you are planning sounds lovely. If you are okay with guests ordering their own drinks/food during your party, then I would just say, "X, Y, and Z are on us for the next two hours -- if you want anything else, you'll need to order it from the bar/have the server set up a tab for you."

If, on the other hand, you'd really prefer that people not order other food/drink during the party time, I would say, "We're providing the food and drink for the next two hours, so please, help yourselves to it!" In that scenario, I'd make sure the bar doesn't give menus to the guests, and that you have ordered everything in advance.


jpcher

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Re: Party at a Restaurant
« Reply #10 on: September 25, 2012, 07:50:09 PM »
I agree that time is important. If you're doing it after 8:00 p.m. you can probably assume that people have already had dinner and will be pleased with just the munchies. If you're doing at between 2-4 on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon? You'll probably be safe there, too. If you're doing it at 6:00 p.m.? People are probably looking for a dinner.

I think that your menu looks fine for after-meal-hours. However I do agree that you should think about/plan on replenishing a dish or two if it's a hot item that disappears quickly. Like the cheese/garlic bread . . . make sure you have at least 20 pieces so that everybody gets a taste.

Pay attention. If you see a basket that is empty, there's nothing wrong with asking your guests "Would anybody like some more ravioli?" especially if you've noticed that somebody didn't get any for the first go-around.


Drinks? Let the waitstaff and your guests know that if they want anything other than what you're serving will not be paid for by you.

For this type of party, I totally agree that menus should not be provided and you should be able to talk to the management about an end-of-the-line bill and especially that waitstaff ask you if it's okay that anything extra was ordered.

TheaterDiva1

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Re: Party at a Restaurant
« Reply #11 on: September 25, 2012, 07:55:04 PM »
This, especially the drinks, sounds like one of our company's holiday parties.  We get a section of a restaurant to ourselves and a buffet.  Open bar is beer, wine and soda only - anyone ordering cocktails pays for their own.  Would something like that work for you?

blarg314

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Re: Party at a Restaurant
« Reply #12 on: September 25, 2012, 08:46:45 PM »
I think you need a two pronged approach. The first is to make it clear on the invitations what the party involves - "We will be supplying beer, sodas, and an assortment of bar snacks". The second is to make arrangements with the bar staff - that you will make an initial order, and add to it as needed, but only stuff *you* order is on your tab. If someone else orders something not on the menu, they will be told that this will be on their tab. And not providing menus is good too.

For beer - a pitcher is about 4 pints in the US, if I remember correctly. So five pitchers will be one beer each. For a moderate group, and a few hours, I'd count on ten pitchers, if it's a longer gathering, or they are heavier drinkers, it'll be more.

The food sounds good for a start, but you may need more, depending on how hungry people are and the length of the event.

ETA: it will also depend on how many tables you get. I'd plan on ordering items by the number of tables - so three tables means 3 baskets of chicken wings, 3 orders of ravioli, etc.  If you have two baskets of something for three tables, one table is unlikely to get any of it.

WonderWoman

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Re: Party at a Restaurant
« Reply #13 on: October 02, 2012, 01:16:41 PM »
Thanks so much for your suggestions!

First, to answer some questions:

I have made it clear in invitations that the menu is beer and munchies. So people should not be expecting a catered dinner.

The attendees are all in their mid-30's and up. The party is from 7:00-9:00 pm on a Saturday.

Re: the food options - the venue has an eclectic range of foods. But nothing too veggie-healthy friendly. For example, they offer flash-fried spinach. It entails dropping spinach leaves into hot grease. You end up with a stiff green leaf that sort of melts in your mouth. (I was too curious and had to try it - once.) There is only one vegetarian in the group and he loves cheese bread and beer. So everyone else will dig wings, ravioli, Buffalo Chicken Dip, etc.

Thanks for the input on the food amount. I will probably start with what I outlined and then just refill as needed.

DH and I will order the food and drinks and let the servers know to only take orders from us. They will inform anyone trying to order something else, that we have provided these options, but they are free to order something else themselves.

I'll also have the servers refill food items for a two-hour period (and alert me if/when we hit a specified dollar amount so I can assess).

Thanks again for your help. I feel much more calm now that I have a plan!

Zilla

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Re: Party at a Restaurant
« Reply #14 on: October 02, 2012, 01:46:44 PM »


Also, any thoughts on how many pitchers and apps would be good for 20 people? I was thinking:

Tavern (potato) chips 3 baskets I would up this to 5 to start with and have servers top off up to 10.
Wings 4 baskets I would average 4-5 wings per person at the party.  Not sure how many is in each basket.
Toasted ravioli 2 baskets (i.e. 16 fried pasta meat/cheese pockets) I would at least average 2 per person or at bare minimum 1. 
Chicken dip I would do 2 of these
Cheese garlic bread 2 baskets Again average at least one piece per person bare minimum
Onion rings 2 baskets If they are oversized onion rings, I would do on average 2 rings per person.

Thank you!!!


Bolded above on average amounts.  As for pitchers, I believe it's about 4 beer mugs per pitcher.  If you expect most of them to drink beer, it would be about 7 pitchers which would allow some to have 2 drinks.  But if they are big drinkers, you might want to up it to 10. 


As for ordering off the menu, I would simply let people know, "Hi we have a selection of foods and drinks at that table over there.  If you want or order something else for yourselves, there are menus over there and the servers can help you with that.  Enjoy!"