Make your Christmas meal a cracker
Booking a meal for a large group can be a hazardous experience. Here’s Marjory Lawrie’s handy guide to getting it right
Let’s face it, someone’s got to book the office Christmas meal. Lots of brownie points if you get it right. Lots of reindeer manure if you get it wrong.
Try to find a restaurant with a private room or a private area. A large party can upset individual diners, as they usually make more noise. It’s better for everyone if the group is separate.
Good management is essential – look for family or privately owned venues. For the most part, restaurants that are part of chains have strict rules, usually issued from a distant head office, and are unlikely to be flexible enough to meet your requirements – no matter what they claim.
Personal recommendations are good, so long as you trust the source. The List Eating & Drinking Guide (of course) helps you identify the best places in town – the print version carries a list of venues with private dining rooms and the online version at List.co.uk has details on the maximum numbers each establishment will accept for group booking.
The menu and the bill
A reduced menu will help the restaurant serve you quickly and efficiently. You can ask for a flat fee for a two-course and three-course meal with four or five main courses. Remember to ask if tea or coffee is included in the price. Also ask if a service charge is included or extra. A set fee for the meal will make collecting the bill a lot easier for you.
The bar bill
If you do not want to be left to pay for the bar bill, make it quite clear to the restaurant in advance that your guests will pay for their drinks as they get them. Some restaurants will not agree to this, but there are plenty that will.
Many city centre restaurants have two sittings at the weekend – 7pm and 9pm. If the meal is the focus of your night out, then the first sitting may be too early and the second too late. Look slightly further away from the town centre and you will fare better.
This is absolutely vital. As soon as you have agreed your terms with the restaurant, put it all on paper and send them a letter with a deposit – normally £50 is acceptable. Don’t miss out this step or you may turn up and find that your booking has been given to someone else. They may also have forgotten everything that you discussed! A couple of days before your meal phone the venue and confirm numbers. On the night arrive a little early and go over the agreement that you have with the restaurant. Then sit back, relax and enjoy your meal.
Marjory Lawrie runs Single Connection, an Edinburgh-based social club for single people, which runs a monthly group meal for up to 50 of its members. www.singleconnection.co.uk, 0131 478 4423