Request the current group dining menus.  If the time of year of your event is different than the current season, you can often ask to see the menus from the previous year or inquire as to what might be available.  When in doubt rely on the venue to guide you as to what the specialties of the house are and how those vary based upon what is fresh in season.  
Service Questions
Whether you select a buffet, plated, or reception style event, asking service questions is essential to understanding what the guest experience will be.  There are times when the venue may be limited, and this can impact your event flow:
  • Stations:  Plates and flatware can be limited so ensure service style stations are accompanied by smaller plates, so guests understand the service flow is focused on enjoying a small plate and continuing to mix and mingle.  The venue may be able to set up station with small plates set by live-action chefs.  Work with your contact to ensure plates and flatware match the service type.  Consider selecting foods that are easy to eat while holding other items such as a beverage.  Passed or single bite options are often easier for guests who might be mingling.
  • Buffet:  Ask the venue what the flow is for the buffet: chaffing dishes, platters, or chef attended stations.  Once you know how the food will be set, it is also important to understand what items will be pre-set on tables and where the flatware, napkins, condiments, and other items service items are placed.  Avoid having guests carry too many items or awkward placement of items like flatware at the front of the buffet where they may be missed and disrupt the flow for other diners.  Consider selecting menu items that cater to a variety of restrictions and preferences, this means selecting entrees from both land, sea and are vegetarian.  For all items, remove cheeses or alcohol-based dressings and instead offer guests the option to customize on their own by having them on the side.
  • Plated meals:  Plated meals can limit guests’ ability to see and socialize with others.  Table placement is especially crucial in this dining style so work with the venue to understand what capabilities and limitations may exist due to the guest count.  Some restaurants can get creative and offer some courses pre-select, table select or family style.  Consider offering guests an option to select tableside so they can select items they most enjoy.  Tableside selection may mean adding an additional course which could increase the cost, you can work with the venue to determine what items can be guest selected and if there are added costs.
Menu Modifications
Once your service questions and seasonality needs are determined, you can work with the restaurant about modifications for dietary restrictions.  Ask your guests about their dietary requirements and preferences and provide the information to the venue in advance. Ensure that the venue confirms needs in writing and modifications provided include pricing to avoid any surprises.  
Go Off Book
Review the restaurant’s standard menu to determine if there are any offerings on the regular menus or beverage list that can be replicated successful for your group size.  This can ensure that attendees get a taste of the restaurant even if the dining experience is a more limited prefix menu.  
Lighten it Up
Consider ending the evening with a light family-style offering and send guests home with a take-home treat rather than serving dessert if the menu is especially heavy or the weather is hot.  Restaurants can often send guests home with a nicely packaged sweet or savory treat.  Making the event more memorable.

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