While it may seem basic, we love ensuring planner inside secrets are accessible to our partners, friends, and colleagues.  If you’re trying to plan any special event or dinner at a restaurant, private and semi-private dining space (the spaces outside of the main restaurant tables with larger tables, a partition, or three to four walls) can provide your group with exclusive service and customized menus to meet your specifications.  These spaces are taking on a new level of popularity because they can provide a safe environment for you and your guests. Here are some tips for getting the best space for your group:

Research and book as far in advance as possible. During the holiday October through December, or high season May and June, be sure to plan 6-9 months in advance.  Outside of very busy times planning at least 30 days in advance will ensure you can secure space and have less pressure to contract quickly.

Selecting Space
Many restaurants, bars, and venues offer semi-private and fully private rooms.

A semi-private space is a “space” which is typically sectioned off from the main dining area by a curtain, partition, or wall.  The benefit of a semi-private space is that the ambience and atmosphere of the restaurant can be felt by your guests.  While this type of spaces are great for some groups, they are not the best choice for private or confidential events because other diners may be able to see and hear your party.

A private dining room is a separate room away from the main restaurant that provides guests with total privacy.  Private space is perfect for confidential meetings and presentations.  If you want to have remarks/speeches or play a video these spaces are especially great because you can often customize the music, allow guests to speak freely, and they can sometimes move freely about the space without limitation.

Whether you are booking semi-private or private space, ensure you pick your space based upon the type of event you are holding, the anticipated attendance, and that accommodates the flow (seated, buffet, reception, etc.) of your event.

Hold Space
Ensure that if you are contacting venues to check availability, that you also ask the venue for a pencil hold if you think you may want to book that space and be sure to ask how long they will hold the space.  Some restaurants will offer a first right of refusal which means that if another party is interested in your dates, they will call you prior to booking the other group to see if you are still interested in proceeding before removing your hold.  Booking etiquette goes both ways.  If you are moving forward with another venue, ensure the restaurant knows you do not intend to move forward and release any holds to ensure they can book another party.

Visit the Venue
See the space in person to avoid surprises.  The photos on a website may not give you the best understanding or the room placement, space flow, and proximity to stairs, elevators, and other guests.  If your party has specific needs, ensure you arrange a time with the venue to see the space prior to contracting.  The timing for seeing space can be limited because of other bookings or the restaurant staffing.

Define Your Needs
Before you book define your requirements, needs and deal breakers.  Knowing what you want and need for your event can help you ask the right questions in advance of booking a venue, which ensures that you can provide all the information to the restaurant in advance.

Clarify Details
Ask to see the menus, clarify what modifications, if any can be made, and ensure you request policies in advance.

Holding an event at a restaurant means that guests can enjoy quality menus customized to your party needs so ask to see the private dining menus in advance and ask what is seasonally fresh. Having fresh, locally sourced ingredients and menus that mirror what is offered in the main dining room are more and more common.

Modifications are more common with so many restaurants catering to various dietary restrictions, it is common for the restaurant and chef to develop special menus or replicate house specialties for larger groups.  Review the menus for the restaurant and private dining and if you do not see something that you are interested in ask your private dining booking contact for more information.

Policies and procedures vary across restaurants and even restaurant groups in some cases. To avoid any surprises, ask for this information before you contract to ensure you and your booking contact are on the same page.  Policies and contracts are commonly required for private and semi-private space bookings so knowing what your obligations are and what can and cannot be included is essential to avoiding friction.

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