Group-friendly dining: different types of parties restaurants can expect


Whether it’s a family gathering, office party or group of friends, restaurants have to be prepared to accommodate all types of group dining experiences. From boisterous birthday bashes to formal corporate functions, the group affairs that roll through the doors run the range. 

Offering amenities and service tailored to different group needs is central for ensuring that memorable celebrations keep parties coming back. In this guide, we break down the various kinds of groups restaurants can expect and share tips for hosting each one with finesse.

Different types of group-friendly dining

Groups come in all shapes and sizes, and your restaurant should be ready to cater to their needs no matter the type. Here are some of the most popular group-dining types. 

Family gatherings

Few occasions bring people together like family gatherings. Whether it’s a low-key weeknight dinner or an all-out banquet for a milestone birthday or anniversary, restaurants should be prepared to host family parties of all sizes.

The winning ingredient for accommodating family groups is flexibility. Parties may need to split the bill multiple ways or make menu substitutions to accommodate picky eaters and dietary restrictions. Having a semi-private area can allow families to revel while contained. Children’s menus, booster seats and crayons are also must-haves.

Servers should be attentive but allow the family to drive the celebratory atmosphere. Have a cake-cutting ritual down pat and be ready to customise desserts. Little touches like free soft drinks for kids or a long-stem rose for the guest of honour can make the occasion even more special.

With a warm, welcoming environment and service that can roll with the inevitable familial chaos, restaurants can become the go-to for generations of family celebrations.

The office crowd

When it comes to group-friendly dining, hosting corporate and office groups requires another level of professionalism and service. These outings are often working lunches or corporate functions where businesses entertain clients and employees.

Setting the right tone from the moment guests arrive is key here. Have a separate entrance or waiting area for party arrivals if possible. Once seated, office groups will appreciate a semi-private or private dining room to allow for presentations or speeches.

Service should be extremely attentive yet unobtrusive. Having dedicated servers for each table will mean empty drinks are quickly refreshed and any requests are handled promptly. The ability to provide audio and visual equipment is a nice perk.

When it comes to the menu, offering group-friendly dining packages with preset courses can streamline the experience. But having vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options is a must to accommodate dietary needs. Plated desserts make for a polished finale.

Providing an elevated yet efficient experience means restaurants can cater to these important group dining occasions and get return business when companies need impressive group-friendly dining options. 



Some of the liveliest, most fun group affairs a restaurant can host are gatherings of friends—whether it’s a monthly birthday dinner, bachelor or bachelorette party, or just a big crew getting together.

When groups of friends roll in, restaurants need to be ready for a festive, high-energy atmosphere. Having spaces that can accommodate larger parties while still feeling cosy lends itself to the overall vibe. Offering shareable appetisers and craft cocktail pitchers lets groups snack and imbibe together.

Servers should match the convivial aura while still providing attentive service. They’ll need to deftly navigate separate checks, rounds of shots, impromptu toasts and any other spontaneous moments. Having ample passing plates and busser support is helpful.

Special occasions

There are, of course, times when friends and family mix, with group events on the larger side. These are often such special celebrations we tend to file under ‘life’s milestones’. Think weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, graduations and more. These milestone celebrations create long-lasting memories, so the stakes to deliver an exceptional experience are high.

For upscale events like weddings or 50th anniversary parties, have an event coordinator on staff to work with the host from initial planning through execution. Create customised menus and accommodate special requests like signature cocktails, outside desserts or entertainment. Designate a private dining room for intimacy.

Service should be incredibly attentive yet subtle, letting the celebrants be the stars of the show. Have a plan for champagne toasts, cake cutting, slideshows and speeches. Thoughtful touches like decorating tables with florals can elevate the ambiance.

Birthdays call for a livelier, more raucous vibe. Offer the option for dining experiences like tableside preparations or dessert flights. Provide free treats like a specialty cocktail for the guest of honour. Have props for fun photos.

No matter the milestone, restaurants capable of hosting flawless, personalised events will become beloved locations for families to celebrate again and again across generations.

More information:

Get the lowdown with OpenTable’s comprehensive guide to private dining

How to prepare for group dining

You know the types of groups coming to your restaurant, but how do you make sure they receive an unforgettable experience? 

Think about table service style

The style of table service can also impact how well a restaurant accommodates different groups. For large family gatherings or office parties, restaurants may want to consider bakery-café or family-style service.

With bakery-café service, shareable platters and dishes are presented on the table for guests to serve themselves. The casual, communal approach encourages conversation and allows guests to start eating at their own pace.

Family-style is similar, with larger portions of entrees and sides delivered to tables for guests to share and pass around as they please. Both styles create a homey, welcoming vibe perfect for bonding over a meal.

For celebratory groups of friends, restaurants might enhance the experience through tableside food preparation or beverage service. Having servers flambe desserts, fill soufflés or mix feisty margaritas keeps the energy lively.

Tailoring the table service style to each group’s needs and desired atmosphere is an important aspect of providing a memorable group dining experience.

Setting up for social fun

To take groups of friends next-level, restaurants can get creative with social packages and activities. Offer themed food and drink pairings like taco and tequila or burger and beer nights. Provide games like trivia or card contests with inexpensive prizes. Set up photo ops with kitschy backgrounds.

With a lively atmosphere, facilitated fun and service that can hang, restaurants become the go-to spot for friends to celebrate any occasion together.

Stay flexible

One of the most important things for restaurants to keep in mind when preparing for group dining is the need to stay flexible. Groups can be unpredictable—a party’s size may change at the last minute, dietary restrictions could arise or celebration plans might need adjusting on the fly.

Have contingencies in place to handle larger than expected crowds by being able to combine tables or rearrange seating areas. Make sure kitchen and serving staff are ready to accommodate special menu requests or allergies.

Train servers to handle surprise activities like an impromptu speech or guests wanting to move from the dining room to a lounge area for after-dinner drinks. Having a manager dedicated to overseeing each group event can enable pivoting as needed.

Preparing to be nimble allows restaurants to roll with the inevitable unpredictability that comes with group dining while still providing seamless service. An ability to be flexible enhances the celebration for guests.

Staffing up for groups

Restaurants should schedule extra servers, food runners and bussers to handle the increased demands when necessary. Assign dedicated servers to each large party for a more attentive, personalised service.

It’s also wise to have manager oversight for any sizeable group bookings. A manager can address issues before they escalate and liaise with the group organiser throughout the event.

Cross-train staff on standards for hosting different group types, from rambunctious celebrations to buttoned-up corporate affairs. Make sure everyone understands group-specific protocols like cake-cutting procedures, champagne toasts and separate checks.

With ample staff briefed on elevated group dining service, restaurants can execute flawlessly while still providing attentive care to all other guests.

Organising the operations

Behind-the-scenes operational preparation plays a central role in an effortless group dining experience. Kitchen and bar staff need to review head counts and plan for pacing meals accordingly. Having pre-set group menus and beverage packages streamlines orders.

Designate separate plating areas and transportation routes for large group orders to avoid delays. Have adequate supplies like dishes, glassware and flatware to handle increased volume. Schedule linen deliveries if using table clothes.

On the floor, set up private dining rooms well in advance with tables, chairs, decor and any required A/V equipment. Assign a team member to monitor restroom cleanliness and supplies. Have game plans for guests’ coats, gift tables and the like.

Your restaurant can eliminate chaos and provide the premium group dining experience guests expect with thoughtful planning across all operational areas. 

Summing up: group-friendly dining

With the right preparations and mindset, restaurants can master the art of group-friendly dining. By being flexible, staffing appropriately and tailoring service styles, any dining room can transform for milestone celebrations, office functions, family gatherings or lively friend groups. Those that nail the experience will become beloved destinations for making group memories time and again.