The Do’s and Don’ts of Eating Dinner out with a Large Group

A little etiquette goes a long way when you’re dining with a big group or making a big reservation. Technically you’re the restaurant’s guest when you’re eating out, but that doesn’t mean you want to be a bad guest.

From the type of restaurant you’ll eat at to the food they serve there to the logistics of where they can seat you, there’s a lot to consider when you eat dinner out with a large group.

Here are some do’s and dont’s for your next big dinner or business party. Ultimately you may find it all boils down to two things.

Do: Plan Ahead

Waiting until the last minute rarely sets you or your group up for success. As you ponder where to go for dinner, spend a whole lot of time preparing ahead of time. 

Some questions you’ll need to answer before you make a reservation include:

  • How many will be in your party
  • The allergy or special requirements of any guests (the last thing you want is to get there and realize the kitchen can’t accommodate an allergy)
  • Where in the restaurant you’ll be seated
  • Any other sort of perks or add-ons the restaurant can offer.

Have this information at your disposal so you can make a more informed choice about your private group dining options. Most places, of course, will be happy to take your money. But asking questions and taking notes helps you know which places can actually accommodate you.

Don’t: Be Vague to the Restaurant

You’re not just the organizer of the big dinner, but the liaison between all your guests and the manager or organizer at the restaurant. To set everyone up for success, you should have all the information necessary for the hosting restaurant when you call to make the reservation.

Things they will want to know include:

  • The date and time
  • Who’s name the reservation will be under
  • The exact number of people attending (number of adults and children)
  • Any special accommodations, like special seating, food allergies, or other
  • Any special celebratory foods or drinks that need to be prepared in-house.

Oh, and be sure to call if anything changes. It’s a lot to organize a dinner party, but being proactive is how you’re going to pull off a memorable event. 

Do: Get There On Time

For the sake of the restaurant and your dinner group, preach to everyone that timeliness is important. Especially if you are reserving at a busy restaurant or are in a city, the kitchen and front of the house staff will have gone out of their way for your slotted time. It’s rude to show up late, and may affect your service.

You can increase the likelihood that everyone arrives on time by sending reminder emails, sending out the address for the venue, and alerting people to any known traffic changes or special instructions for getting there.

Some restaurants with walk-in seating may take large parties, but it’s always better to plan ahead and get there on time.

Don’t: Make Reservations for More People Than You Have

It might be tempting to say your party of “twenty-ish” will be thirty and to make a reservation for that. But a difference of ten people is substantial for the venue that’s hosting, both from a logistical and financial standpoint. 

(Think about it this way: if the average meal and drink that night goes for $30, that’s a difference of $300 in revenue—a substantial difference.)

To be fair to the restaurant, get a set count ahead of time. Again, if things change let them know.

Do: Consider Limiting Meal Choices

Some restaurants simply aren’t able to cover thirty meals at one time. Often, venues will offer a “special” menu that’s limited to four or five dishes and appetizers. When you make your initial calls, ask about this and other options. 

For seriously large parties (of 20 or more), the restaurant may not be able to handle that volume of orders all at once. Remember not only do they have to cook all that food at once, but deliver it to you hot at the same time.

A limited menu makes life easier for the kitchen, which gives them a better chance of giving you great service. 

This ties back to the theme of letting the restaurant know as much as you can ahead of time.

Don’t: Be Rude to Servers Or Other Staff

Even if the restaurant is new and totally drops the ball on your reservation and you don’t get the service your party needed, try and stay positive. This may not be easy, because you want the whole group to have a good time.

If that’s true, the best thing to do is to smile and laugh about it.

If service is bad, chances are others at the table will notice. A few quips about it and some laughs are a much more constructive (and memorable in a good way) strategy for diffusing the situation.

A few months from now you’ll be laughing with coworkers, saying, “Remember how bad that place was?”

I mean, we hope it doesn’t happen like that. But if it does, keep your cool. Reaming out the wait staff or getting frustrated at the manager in front of your whole dinner party is only going to be awkward for everyone.

Dinner Out: Wrap Up

It boils down to two words when you’re eating dinner out and planning a large group dinner: reserve responsibly. Either you or an assigned point-person should keep all parties as informed as possible. This increases the chances of your guests having a great event while simultaneously increasing the restaurant’s ability to deliver.

Oh, and don’t forget to enjoy the night!