Getting a Restaurant to Work for You

So you want a black tie and cocktail dress dinner party without the Prada price tag, do ya? We get it. It’s hard to keep up with the Joneses of the world.

There’s no way to get around spending money for a quality restaurant dinner party, but there is a way to get around taking out a second mortgage! All you need to do is believe in yourself!

Okay, maybe a little more than that.

First, set a budget. Second, make a guest list based on said budget, but wait to send out invitations till you’re sure you can afford each seat. Third, pick your place of partying – central to your guests and easily accessible. Finally, set several dates that you can run by your restaurant of choice.

Which brings us to the tough part: actually picking the restaurant! Ask friends, ask Yelp, ask Jeeves. Then open up your Dora and explore them! How’s the ambience? The lighting? Is there parking?

Then, once you’ve got the spot that suits your mood and the vibe you want, reach for your wallet. But before showing your financial cards, negotiate with these questions:

  • Is there a value-priced menu with enough variety? Some restaurants create limited menu packages for large groups while others offer large-party buffets – Jimmy Buffet not included.
  • Can I print my own menus with the preferred food options? More work for you? Yes. Cheaper? Abso-food-ly?
  • Is there a private room for the party? Nothing says class like exclusivity.
  • Is it cheaper to have a party on Tuesday as compared to a Saturday? Throwing parties on off-peak days generally equals better service and better prices.
  • Can I order in bulk? Like, if everyone wants to try the cocktail shrimp appetizer, it just makes sense to order one large portion than three or four plates – it’s easier for the kitchen to prepare, too!
  • BYO-decorations or music? Maybe you like scented candles or Grandma wants Frank Sinatra. See how tailored your party can be.
  • BYO-menu? No, not a crockpot of chili. We mean you should ask to bring wine or dessert. They may charge a corkage fee, but it’s still typically less than buying a marked-up bottle off their list.
  • Is there a restaurant liaison to help out for free? The restaurant owner often steps in here. If so, schmooze away. It never hurts to have friends in the biz.
  • How do I pay for the party? Maybe you can cut a deal by paying with cash! Maybe your credit card offers cash back or even extra cash back at restaurants during certain months. Only show your hand when you’re sure you’ve saved in every way.

If your restaurant of choice doesn’t fit your bill or wishes, expand your search, not your budget. In the end, it will be worth every penny!