There has to be a better way to serve large parties. I don't mean large like 2500 people at a convention center. I mean parties from 12-20 or so.
It's great people want to celebrate, or a work group wants to go out for a co-worker's birthday. We want them to come to us. We want them to have a good time. We also want to serve them graciously, efficiently, and leave them feeling they'd like to join us again.
The biggest impediment is that people insist that they be seated at one table. Let's face it, if you've got 15 people sitting down to dinner, people on one end of the table aren't talking to people on the other end. I understand the psychological value of all being together and at the table. I also understand that in certain circumstances there is a special guest and the need to all be at the table with that guest is important.
It's hard to get a large table to stop visiting and place an order. A table of 15 can easily take 30 minutes to order. Then the waiter has to input the order which takes a few more minutes. The kitchen takes a minute or two to decode the special requests and count all the items on the order and before you know it 45 minutes has gone by before the first guest to order gets an appetizer. So the guest thinks the restaurant has slow service.
We try to get people to sit at neighboring tables in smaller groups, explaining it really is for their comfort. Usually, the guests think we are being unaccomodating. Often, after they've agreed to the arrangement, they start moving the tables once they arrive so the tables are touching.
If we have a party of 14 or larger we ask they choose from a limited menu and again, the perception is we're being unaccomodating. We don't hold fast to this line, there are a number of variables; time of dining, season, whether we know the people, what the occasion is, etc.
Our dining room is large, and very inviting for large groups. They are a significant portion of our business and I'd like to better serve them. Any thoughts?