“Yes, I’d like to book a private room for (10-100) people, please.” If the aforementioned applies to you, take note.
#1 Always call during “off” hours
This actually applies to any reservation, but you are more likely to speak to someone who can get results between the hours of 2 and 4 p.m.
#2 Do your research
Restaurants often post details about their private dining spaces online. Have a party of 40, but unsure if the restaurant of your dreams has the space? Check online first to see if they even have a room that can accommodate your guests. Nothing wastes a Sales Manager’s time more than useless inquiries regarding information readily available at the click of a mouse.
#4 Call for holiday parties in advance
While this may seem like a no-brainer, you would not believe the number of calls I’ve received last minute for much-coveted holiday (i.e. Christmas, New Years, Mother’s Day) and/or weekend dates. My recommendation would be a 6 months to a year beforehand, and, while that might not be realistic for some, if you want your preferred date and time, it’s essential to claim your spot early!
#5 Go in with a game plan
“How many in the party?” “Well…I really don’t know. Could be 10, could be 20.” Final counts (or at the very least, close estimates), seating style (rounds? half moons? long table?), beverages (house wine and beer only, open bar, etc.), menu budget ($65 per person, $100 per person), presentation requirements, and other details should be discussed BEFORE you call to book a room. While things might change, and most restaurants are accommodating, if you decide last minute you want a long table and the room’s dimensions will not accommodate such an arrangement…well, let’s just say, shame on you.
#6 Try before you buy
Actually visit the spaces you are considering. It’s best to visualize your event and communicate your requests to the Private Dining / Sales Manager in person. Building a relationship beforehand always leads to better results.
#7 Loyalty is the best currency
Everyone wants a good deal, I understand. A Sales or Private Dining Manager is more willing to negotiate on costs once you’re a proven patron in their establishment. Spend big bucks every month on the reg? You’re more likely to have managers blathering and blubbering all over the place to meet your requests. Repeat offender for no-shows or cancellations? Don’t expect any favors. These are the cold, hard facts.
#8 To bend the rules, you’ve got to play by the rules
If you are booking with a restaurant for the first time, follow the rules of engagement. “A $3,000 room minimum? Got it!” or “Extra 5% service charge? Done!” Don’t barter or whine, because chances are, the restaurant can get a lot more for that space if they seat it regular, a la carte for the entire evening. You’re already getting a discount, so settle down.
#9 It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it
Whatever you do, don’t piss off the gatekeeper. They’re the one person who can ultimately get you what you want, so why would you make them enemy no. 1? There is a right way and a wrong way to communicate your requests.
“I know it’s last minute, but I don’t care if the space is closed today because you don’t have the staff. Make it happen…now!” WRONG! First of all, shame on you for not confirming ahead. Most rooms are already contracted a week in advance and confirmed at least 24 hours beforehand. Secondly, last we checked, we don’t “owe” you anything. While those in the service industry ultimately must kowtow to guests, the source of our paychecks, guests do not own us. Newsflash: there are 50+ other parties whom we would be much happier to please. Be one of those people,
“I apologize for asking last minute, but would [insert special room name] be available today for Mr. So-and-so’s party? I realize we did not contract it, but we dine often and I assure you we will exceed the minimum. Would you be able to take care of us?” YES!
# 10 Party of eight or more? ALWAYS CALL AHEAD!
It’s 6 o’clock on a Saturday night. Your party of two just grew to a party of eight. What to do??!!
A) Call and ask if the restaurant can accommodate a larger group.
B) Hoof it to the nearest fast-food joint.
C) Stay in. (Wine and leftover casserole… YUMMMMMM!)
D) Do nothing and hope for the best.
Well, definitely not D, because then B and C become real possibilities. Whether the restaurant is large or small, a total dive or has a required dress code…if you have eight or more people, CALLLLLL!!!!!!!!! Restaurants typically want to accommodate larger groups because they’re actually more cost effective. It keeps managers up at night knowing we had to turn away a walk-in group of 12 simply because someone did not make the proper arrangements beforehand.
Additionally, always call and speak to an actual person battling it out on the ground floor. Never trust online reservations!
That’s all for now, folks. Stay tuned for more tips, tricks and helpful hints for dining out!