Meals are hands down one of the most important elements of a large group event like a company retreat.
They offer the chance for team members to bond over good food and drinks, and create memories they will remember long after they return home.
As such, organizing meals is one of the most critical parts of the retreat planning process.
In most cases, companies decide to book restaurants for dinner or lunch throughout their team retreats. While this process sounds simple enough, it can be much more complex than it initially seems.
This part of the retreat is one that we’ve been working constantly to improve and simplify for our customers so that you can just fill out a form, while we do the rest.
If you want to book restaurants for big groups, here are some of our takeaways on how to do it quickly and efficiently.
Before you get started
The first and most important thing to know is:
Booking a restaurant for a big group is much different than booking for yourself or a handful of friends.
To begin, you can start the research as you would for yourself – using Google reviews, Yelp or TripAdvisor, combined with social media recommendations.
This can seem incredibly fun, but remember the reviews you are reading are for one, two or a couple of people at the most. What you should be looking for are restaurants that host big groups regularly and have experience in handling large numbers of guests.
This can easily be done by ticking the Good for large groups box on the sites mentioned above.
It’s easy to get lost in reading reviews and looking at photos of delicious meals. In fact, you can lose countless hours just in this research phase. But here’s how you can avoid it.
Do your homework
Before you do any research, it’s time to prepare the details.
It’s critical to make this your very first step because not doing this properly will result in problems every step of the way later on.
Before starting your restaurant research, prepare the following information:
- The number of people
- Desired date(s)
- Desired time(s)
- Dietary restrictions
- Preferred cuisine
- Other preferences (Do you want to stay after for drinks? Does it have to be within walking distance? Do you want to have the space completely private for your group? etc.)
These are the questions all restaurants will ask when you want to book for dinner or lunch. By having these details prepared in advance, you’ll save a lot of time and avoid going back and forth with restaurants during the booking process.
Make a list of restaurants
Now the fun starts and you can start creating a list of restaurants to contact and wait for offers.
The easiest way to do this is to contact some friends who know the area. Even better – get in touch with someone who has already organized a similar event and knows which restaurants both A) have great food and B) can accommodate large groups.
We work with food experts in each of our retreat locations to maintain an updated, curated list of the best restaurants for group bookings. If you want to make sure you get the right restaurant for your company offsite, contact us at Surf Office first.
5 Common mistakes when booking restaurants for large groups
Having organized quite a few retreats, we’ve made a mistake or two that have helped us refine our current reservation process. Here are the most common errors you can make when booking restaurants for large groups of people.
1. Not wanting to choose from the group menu
If you’ve found a restaurant that works with large groups, you’re in luck.
Those types of restaurants usually have a dedicated menu for groups. Some may even have more than one menu – it depends on the restaurant and the size of your group.
The thing is, once you try to change or customize this menu in some way, the restaurant will very likely decline your request. Group menus are created for a reason and the people behind them have spent a good amount of time designing them. The last thing they want to do is go out of their way to customize them for your group.
Make it easy for you and everyone: trust that the restaurant knows what they’re doing. After all, it’s probably not their first rodeo at serving food for a large group!
2. Focusing on dietary restrictions
Don’t get us wrong, we’re not saying you should neglect anyone with specific dietary requirements.
But, if you have a group of 50 people with 5 vegans, don’t go looking for a vegan restaurant. Doing so would drastically limit your choices, not to mention upset the other 45 people.
Instead, find the best restaurant that fits all other criteria and simply ask for 5 vegan menus.
3. Making too many changes
Remember how we mentioned that the most important thing is to do your homework and know your requirements before anything else?
If you don’t have a clear vision of what you want and you end up making too many changes (adding people, making crazy food requests, changing the time), both you and the restaurant crew will get frustrated. As a result, you may lose the restaurant and you’ll be forced to go with a less desirable option.
Do your research, double check dietary restrictions with your coworkers and then communicate it all with the restaurant. Win-win all around!
4. Booking a restaurant that’s too far away
One of your main criteria should be to book a restaurant within walking distance from your retreat venue.
The only exception is if you have a small enough group to get to the location using Uber or some other type of local transportation.
Otherwise, going to a restaurant that’s too far away will make you lose additional time organizing transport logistics. It will also add more costs and make things more difficult on your team.
5. Having too many criteria
Being too picky with your restaurant can seriously harm your chances of finding the right place for your team to enjoy a meal.
Having too many criteria will limit your choices to just a few restaurants in bigger cities. In fact, in smaller environments, you can even run out of restaurants to choose from entirely!
Instead, keep an open mind and remember what really matters is to bring everyone together for some bonding time over some food!
Booking a group reservation for your company offsite is vastly different from making a reservation for two. It takes time to carefully plan and find the right choice of venue, but the effort is worth it in the end as you sit down for a great meal with your entire team.
If you’re organizing an offsite retreat for your company and you want to minimize the hassle when choosing a restaurant, make sure to contact us at Surf Office before you start, we’ve got plenty of resources to help make the process run smoothly!
The Buffer team at dinner on their latest retreat in San Diego