Celebrating Events at Restaurants

It’s that time of year again… my birthday is just around the corner! 😉

A lovely Layered Carrot Cake from The Dessert Tray

I know, I know… the holidays are coming and there are a ton of inspiring holiday centered posts coming along soon. But, I’m a December baby which means I’ve had years of people smashing Christmas and my birthday into one lump sum of an event. So, as soon as Thanksgiving is over all I can do is think about my birthday! (I get really cranking out Christmas the day after my birthday.)

It sounds completely selfish of me to be so obsessed with my birthday. And, really it is… but, all I can say in my defense is I get the same way about the birthdays of the people in my life as well. I just really like birthdays. I love taking the time to celebrate my friends, family and *myself* on a special day of the year.

This year my husband has planned an evening out with friends at one of my favorite restaurants. It got me to thinking about how many people celebrate special events at restaurants.

I thought I would focus today’s post on how to have a birthday (or anniversary etc.) out at a restaurant and how to take it the extra special step into a celebratory event.

yummy cocktail from a great restaurant where I spent my birthday a few years ago

First off— Pick the restaurant! Pick a place that has special meaning or is a place that the guest of honor has been wanting to visit. Things to think about (or check into) when looking for a restaurant.

  • Do they take reservations? If not you may need to arrive early to put your name on the list so that your guests are not waiting to be seated. Some restaurants take reservations, others have a call ahead seating system so that you can call and put your name on the waiting list, and the rest have really great bars you can usually get a drink at while waiting.
  • Take price and gratuity into account when looking at a restaurant.
    •  Also, if everyone is paying separately check to see if the restaurant can split tabs or if each person needs to bring cash to pay the tab as a single check. (My friends and I all have Paypal so that we can just transfer money to one another and have one person pay the tab if need be.)
    • Some restaurants have restricted menus that you can choose from for a party. Or, there may also be a single priced option that comes with a pre-fix menu. Also note that most restaurants add a gratuity to parties of a certain number of guests. Typically this gratuity is between 16-18% of the tab–but, if the service is exceptional you are more than welcome to add to this gratuity. Let guests know what they are responsible for during this time.
Urban Fondue in Portland has a pre-fix menu that includes three courses (including DESSERT!)

  • If you are hosting and can’t afford to pick up the entire tab let guests know in advance what they will be expected to contribute. If you can’t pick up the entire tab it might be a good idea to take care of the costs for a couple of bottles of wine for the table, some appetizers or desserts. If you can pick up the entire tab then GO YOU!
  • Do they do anything special for birthdays? OR are you able to bring your own dessert or wine?
    • A lot of restaurants provide a free birthday dessert or will sing to the guest of honor. But, many restaurants have stopped the practice of singing so not to offend other guests or disturb their meals. Also, a lot of guests of honor don’t enjoy being sang to and having the attention of the entire restaurant on them. No one wants to be embarrassed on their day!
    • Many restaurants allow you to bring your own wine and only charge for the corking fee. This might be a great way to defer some of the costs. Be aware that corkage fees can range from $7 to $15 per bottle.
    • Also, many restaurants will allow you to bring your own dessert. (So if the birthday guest of honor really likes a certain type of cake you can usually bring it.) But, you should check to see if there is a slicing fee. This could cause the dessert to be quite expensive.

Second— Ways to make a restaurant dinner party EXTRA special! All the things that make home dinner parties fantastic for a birthday dinner can still be used for a restaurant party while leaving things like cooking and cleaning behind for someone else. I love the idea of making the event extra special with things like favors and decorations. Here are some easy ideas on how to step up a Restaurant celebration:

  • Invitations—(If you’ve followed the blog at all you know that I love invitations.) You can do paper or on-line invitations, but pick something FESTIVE! You want everyone to know that this isn’t just any other visit to your favorite restaurant it is a CELEBRATIONS!
Cloth covered invitation from my birthday two years ago

  • Festive Decor— Now, most of the time the restaurant is enough decor (come on… they have candles and flowers and already have a theme!) Some extra items could include balloons on the back of each chair, some baubles for the center of the table or even festive items for guests to wear. Keep this small… no need to have the restaurant clean up a ton of stuff after you are done. (Well, unless you rent the entire restaurant out or an entire room… then do it up!)
We gave everyone pins to wear throughout the party— one said “You’re a Gem!” and the other said “Jenni is 25!”

  • Festive wear— Dress up! I happen to love dressing up on my birthday… this doesn’t necessarily mean cocktail wear, but it could also be a sort of theme wear. Wear all white or red or black… or wear Hawaiian shirts! This is something you’d want to spread by word of mouth… don’t expect everyone to dress up, but give them the opportunity to participate. (Also, try to stay away from themes that REQUIRE people to go out and buy something new.)
  • Dessert— If you can bring your own dessert make it extra special. Try cake bunting or some beautiful candles.

Third— Keep in mind restaurant etiquette. This will make the entire experience so much better!

  • You’ve already checked into items like reservations, extra costs and the tab so you are way ahead of the game.
  • Expect good service, but be aware that larger parties might receive slower service just due to the size of the party. Take it in stride and have a good time. If you are receiving terrible service don’t spend the evening complaining about it at the table (it will make the event much less memorable)… but, certainly talk to management if there is a problem.
  • Remember there are other guests in the restaurant. Have a fantastic evening and definitely enjoy yourself but remember that there are other guests that may not appreciate a ruckus from the corner table.

I hope that this helps make for a truly special occasion. (If I sounded a little preachy about restaurants it is because I’ve worked in the restaurant industry for 10 plus years.)

Oh! And, bring a camera to record the event! (But, don’t stay behind the screen all night.)

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Jenni is a freelance writer and media assistant based in Portland, OR. A Well Crafted Party is a blog about all the little things to celebrate in life. Follow Jenni or A Well Crafted Party with BlogLovin, RSS feed, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.
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    • Anonymous
    • November 29, 2010

    Great idesa Jenni! And thanks for the tips about gratuity/service, etc. Many people are just not aware about this.

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    • November 30, 2010

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