Like many people, when it comes to my job, I have my official duties and I also have plenty of extra, unwritten duties.
One of those unwritten duties (and I’m not sure how I ended up with this one) is, whenever our company decides to hold a party for the holidays or some other occasion, I’m the one who is in charge of picking the venue.
When I was first assigned this job, I thought it would be a piece of cake. But, it was actually a bit more of a challenge the first couple of times I did this; mostly because we are in an area that doesn’t exactly have a ton of potential locations to choose from. However, after a couple near disasters, I managed to create a system to make it much easier.
First of all, before you even start, make sure you have all the details. Is this supposed to be a fancy get together or casual? What time of day is it supposed to be held? Are spouses invited? These details do make it easier. For example, if it’s fancy, you obviously aren’t going to book the back room at the local Chinese buffet. And, having an idea of head count (it helps to take a straw poll of your employees); will prevent you from picking a place that just can’t handle a certain group of people.
If you have never been there, visit before booking. My wife and I dine out a lot and, as a result of that, I have a basic understanding of the various restaurants’ floor plans. This is important because you don’t want to have a group of 30 people (for example) seated I the middle of a crowded restaurant; especially if someone intends on giving some sort of speech.
It’s best to either call or book the reservation in person rather than online. Some places allow you to book using their web site. I don’t recommend this. I found it’s much better to at least call to make the reservations. This way, if you have any questions about menu items, whether or not they take a certain credit card, etc. you can get them answered right away.
If you are booking at a restaurant, pick one that offers variety. The fancy fish restaurant across town might be a popular spot. But, not everyone likes fish. Ask about the menu and pick one that has everything from steak to vegetarian options. This will make it easier to make everyone happy.
Whenever possible, use your customer list. This obviously won’t be something every company can do. But, when I have to plan a venue, I have a list of our customers in order of value and work my way down that list (avoiding customers that obviously don’t fit our needs). The obvious reason for this is you want to support a company that is supporting your business. But, I have also found it’s easier to get special privileges (booking after hours, special menu items, etc) if you have a previous business relationship and they are familiar with you.
Take notes and save them for future reference. Chances are, if you are asked to book a venue for your company party once, you’ll be asked to do it again. Make notes about what works and what doesn’t to make future reservations much easier.
As I said before, being in charge of the company party/get together can be somewhat challenging depending on where you are. But, if you take a few extra steps, you can be successful every time.