10 Tips for Team Dinners Out
Once you’ve had one of those unwelcoming experiences—a 90-minute wait, lost orders and one giant tab that goes around the table (and around, and around) until you scrape up enough cash—you learn to plan. You stop showing up with 50 people unannounced on Friday or Saturday night at 7 p.m. to order off the menu. Instead, as soon as you get the tournament schedule, you start working the phones. Try these 10 tips to get started:
- Identify restaurants with lots of space or separate rooms, and foods that most people like. Mexican, Italian and barbecue are good places to start (burgers involve too many special orders).
- For an out-of-town tournament, ask the tournament director for suggestions, including signature foods and restaurants in the area.
- Call a week ahead if possible—mid-morning or mid-afternoon, not during a lunch or dinner rush.
- Talk to a manager and tell her the time, day and number of people.
- See if you can get a separate room and waitperson.
- Try to negotiate a buffet, limited menu or pre-orders. The fewer choices, the less chance of waiting for orders.
- Ask if you can pay per-person (say $10 per person).
- See if parents can buy drinks at the bar or get separate checks.
- Let the team know the time, location and cost.
- Get a final head count, and call the manager the day before to confirm.
Once you call a restaurant manager and say, “I’m bringing in a hockey team and its entourage,” a restaurant that wants your business is going to work with you. They don’t want your group clogging up the lobby or the kitchen anymore than you do.
A couple other tips from experienced team managers and social coordinators:
- Don't defect: If you commit to going to the team dinner, go—don't decide to go elsewhere and bring another 10 or so people with you. If a restaurant has set aside space and waitstaff, they expect the number they prepared for.
- Order by number: If a buffet or pre-orders don't work out and you have to order off the menu, ask if you can order with separate checks by jersey number. This lets players, siblings and parents sit at different tables. Everyone tells the server their player's jersey number before they order and the server knows how to separate the bills. It also cuts down the time waiting to figure who owes what and passing the bill around until you get enough money to pay.
Editor’s Note: Thank you to Kelly Anton with the Grow the Game Initiative for this story.
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