How to Pick the Right Restaurant for the Occasion

How do you pick a crowd-pleaser so everyone is comfortable coming to the table?

How do you pick a crowd-pleaser so everyone is comfortable coming to the table?

People’s taste in food can vary as wildly as their taste in shoes, so how do you pick the perfect restaurant when everybody is hungry and looking in your direction for advice?

Selecting a restaurant for others can be a daunting task, especially if they have high expectations. Since Tammy and I started Chicago Bites, my friends, family, coworkers and even casual acquaintances know that I eat out all of the time and love good food. So they often put me on-the-hook to pick a place to eat.

I’ve discovered there’s a knack to picking a crowd-pleaser. Here are some tips I’ve learned along the way:

Plan for the specific occasion.
Consider why the folks you’re planning for want to eat out in the first place. Are they tourists interested in exploring the city? Foodies looking for culinary treasures? A group of friends going out for drinks? A couple celebrating their anniversary? The occasion itself, even if it’s a typical Friday night out, should influence your dining choice, from its location to the type of food served there.

Find out what people are in the mood for.
You could take guests to the very best Italian restaurant in town, but they likely won’t like it if they’re in the mood for a hamburger.

Gauge the party’s comfort level.
Some people are completely at home in a fancy restaurant and others aren’t. Likewise, some aim to try a variety of flavor and food combinations, while others prefer to eat what’s familiar. Asking a few delicate, well-timed questions can help you gauge folks’ comfort levels in advance and ultimately make dining out more fun for everyone.

Guesstimate a price-range.
Let’s face it. People are funny about money. A $40 tab may be nothing to one person and a fortune to the next. So guesstimate a reasonable price range for the people you’re with and the neighborhood you’re in. If it feels appropriate, be upfront with the price everyone should expect to pay. This can spare you an awkward moment or two when the menu or bill arrives.

Share important details.
What is the dress code for the restaurant? Is the dining room cold? Does the entire party have to be there before the group will be seated? Is it a cash-only bar? Knowing the answers to questions like these can save a lot of bother.

Limit options but offer more than one.
When recommending restaurants, I like to give at least two different options with distinctly different pros and cons. But I find that more than three overwhelm. So it’s good to give a few choices, but not too many.

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