The last meal – it’s been a steadfast constant throughout the centuries. No matter how barbaric or draconian the punishment may have been, to send a condemned prisoner to the gallows without one final taste of their favorite dish would have been considered a punishment far too cruel and unusual for any society to call itself “civilized.” So, that being said, doesn’t your Doomed Groom deserve at least this much? But, be careful. The bachelor party dinner is, without a doubt, the single-most crucial, yet disaster-prone aspect of the entire night. If you’re not careful, you might just find yourself in a lot of hot water – and it could be your head that’s on the chopping block instead of the Groom’s.
Believe me, this topic has so much information to remember – and, hence, so many variables that can go wrong – I’ve decided to separate it into two separate articles. However, if you invest a little bit of effort and follow through with the advice below, you should be able to avoid many of the pitfalls that can happen when large groups get together for dinner.
So, why do I feel that choosing the right restaurant is so important for a bachelor party? For one simple fact – it sets the tone for the entire night. If the bachelor party were a symphony, the restaurant you choose would be its overture. It tells you so many things about the night of music ahead. It lets you know whether or not the piece of music is going to be peppy – or subdued and somber. It introduces you to various motifs and themes that will recur over and over throughout the entire piece, creating a richer, fuller experience. Heck, at the very least, it lets you know whether or not the orchestra is even in tune in the first place! In a nutshell (and for you non-symphony lovers out there) a poorly planned and executed dinner can trip up a party before it even starts.
CHOOSING THE BACHELOR PARTY RESTAURANT
What does the guest of honor want?
It seems such a simple question, but you’d be surprised at how often this gets left out of the equation. Always remember, the night is not about you or what you want. It’s about one guy and one guy only…and he might just have something to say about the topic. Before starting anything, find out from your bachelor what he likes and what he doesn’t like. That should take a lot of guessing out of the process.
Who are your guests? What can they afford?
For most bachelor parties, you will find that there will be a wide cross-section of people who get invited. Some will have more money – others will not. There are very few things more embarrassing than to be invited to an expensive and ritzy steak house you can’t afford and then gnawing on breadsticks at the end of the table while everyone else buries their snouts into their 16 oz. filet mignons. It’s embarrassing for the person. It’s embarrassing for the bachelor. It’s embarrassing for just about everybody involved.
If you’re uncertain about the economic status of any of your guests, I feel that it’s much safer to pick a restaurant that has a wide variety of items that will cover the entire spectrum of prices. That way, if somebody wants to order something more expensive, they have that option. If not, your guests who may not be so-well-off can order something more conservative and still enjoy themselves.
Don’t get me wrong, though… If you’re certain that everyone can afford a $100 a plate dinner, don’t hesitate to plan for it. If everyone’s on board, there should be no issue. And let me tell you, at $100 a plate – you animals should be able to buy a lot of red meat with that.
Proximity to the club
This point brings us back to our B.O.D.Y. B.A.G. method and the unity of Babes – Alcohol – Grub. You may want to consider how central the restaurant is to the rest of your destinations for the evening, whether it be the strip club or some other stop along the way. And this goes for whether you’ve rented a limo or not. Seriously, who wants to spend half an hour to an hour riding around in a car with a bunch of other guys – no matter how drunk and fun they are? I’ve got two words for you – SAUSAGE and FEST. It can be a real speed bump to the momentum of the night. Now, I understand that this may not be practical, usually due to the fact that most strip clubs are located in industrial parks (for some oddball reason) and may not necessarily be near many four-star restaurants. But if it can be helped at all, I recommend that you take it into consideration.
Tables and chairs are better
The reason for this is simple: tables and chairs are conducive for talking, while booths usually are not. In a booth, the people on the inside seats are trapped and forced to stay exactly where they are. With tables and chairs, everyone is free to get up and walk around. It creates more of a party atmosphere and encourages everybody to mingle and talk.
Do they have their own room?
Many restaurants have their own banquet rooms for larger parties. This is optimal because it creates a space that is better for everybody to feel comfortable and let loose. They can get as loud and rowdy as they want. And let’s be honest – we all know that your bachelor party is going to get a bit… Well, how shall we say…uh…adult? I’m sure the management would prefer that their restaurant keep its “family-friendly” status firmly in place, so keeping you guys away from the rest of the customers might just be in everybody’s best interest. That being said –
What’s the tone of the restaurant?
When choosing where to eat, you probably don’t want to pick a place that’s too stuffy or pretentious. Think chicken wings, not foie gras. The place should be fun and upbeat, which will then (hopefully) be contagious. Also, you want to find a place where you can make noise and not worry about the maître’d come over to “SHOOSH!” you every five minutes.
Is there enough parking?
If you have chosen not to rent a limo for the night (by the way, I don’t recommend this), are you certain that there is enough parking for everybody? If so, is it valet, and how much does it cost? Make sure that you find out because you’re probably going to want to mention it on the invitation (see article #2).
Must have a bar
Does it really need to be said? Of course, while it satisfies the most obvious of needs, it also makes for a great holding area as you wait for everybody to get seated. With a bar, you have a place to corral everyone while you make sure that everything is organized and ready with the restaurant management. So, when choosing a restaurant, attention should also be paid to not only how well the bar is stocked, but also to how large it is. Make sure it can easily accommodate all of your guys while they wait for your table.
MAKING THE RESERVATION
All right, you’ve made your choice and you want to make sure to reserve a spot for your party. Here’s what to do when the time comes to contact the restaurant –
One of the most crucial aspects of planning a bachelor party dinner that constantly gets overlooked is allotting a proper amount of time to the actual meal itself. If you’re not careful, the meal takes longer than it should and you find the rest of your night’s activities getting pushed and pushed until it’s too late. I recommend the following time allotments:
• For parties under 40 people: 2 ½ hours
• For parties over 40 people: 3 hours
This should cover enough time for everyone to arrive, get some drinks at the bar, get seated, eat, and leave for the next destination. So, as an example, for larger parties – if your limos or the bus taking you to the strip joint are scheduled to pick you up at 10:00 PM, I would back time everyone to arrive at the restaurant around 7:00 PM, just to be sure. Trust me, nobody will complain if they have to wait for a few minutes after dinner in the bar and have a couple more drinks for the road.
Speak to the manager
Do not speak to the host or hostess in order to make your reservation or to discuss details of the party. These “minimum wagers” have a tendency to make all sorts of promises that they have no power to guarantee. It can be very disappointing to arrive the night of the party and find out that the establishment has a policy against naked women jumping out of cakes – or, health codes that prohibit your guests from mooning the guest of honor. When you speak to the manager, you are speaking to someone you can hold responsible for what is being discussed and requested. Never settle for less than this.
Write their phone number down
If at all possible, you can get the manager’s direct phone number, you should write it down. You want to have as direct a line of communication with the manager as you possibly can. And if he or she really wants your business, there shouldn’t be a problem with giving it to you.
The reason you want to have the manager’s direct phone number is that you want a line of communication that is as short as possible between you and the person who has the authority to make decisions for the restaurant. If you make the mistake of going through the main phone line of the restaurant, it is far too easy for the “host” or “hostess” to conveniently “misplace” your message – or, worst-case scenario – send you directly to an answering machine.
Do they want a deposit?
Here in Los Angeles, restaurants are starting to appreciate larger groups less and less. Generally speaking, they take up too much time and monopolize tables, keeping other guests from being seated. Large groups can also be loud and noisy, a nuisance to other patrons. Even more importantly, when bigger parties are planned, restaurants need to increase the amount of staff they have in order to accommodate everyone. Understandably, this can create a cash flow problem for them should some of your guests decide not to show up. Instead, what some L.A. restaurants are implementing is a deposit to ensure that if any members of your gang don’t show up, they will be covered for the amount that would have been spent. If they don’t ask for the upfront amount, be prepared to see it added to the check at the end of the night. So, it is imperative that you know this ahead of time. If you show up that night without some sort of idea what you may be charged for no-shows, you could end up doing dishes in the back instead of stuffing dollar bills in g-strings at the strip club.
There will be several things that you are going to want to confirm with them. First, if a deposit is required, when does it need to be paid? Second, when do they need to have a final headcount for everyone that is going to show up? If they don’t charge for no-shows, it might be a good idea to add about 2-5 people, just in case. You know that there will always be those guys who want to show up at the last minute.
Email them your notes
This last bit of advice can save you a whole mess of problems if you make the effort to actually follow through with it. While you are talking to the manager, make sure that you take detailed and copious notes about what has been promised to you. After you are done, fax the notes back to them and HAVE THEM SIGN IT AND FAX IT BACK. That way, there’s no misunderstanding about what everybody has agreed upon (on both sides) and they can’t deny what they have told you when you show up the day of the event.
THE DAY OF THE PARTY
OK – So, you’ve chosen the restaurant and ironed out all of the details in regards to reserving your date and time. You’ve paid any up-front money that you might need to deposit. You’ve taken careful notes and made sure to get the manager’s signature verifying everything that the both of you have agreed upon. Good.
Now, here in part two of our conversation on the subject of planning the bachelor party meal, we’re going to talk about what needs to be done in the days leading up to the party, as well as what should happen when everybody arrives at the restaurant. If you take a deep breath and follow these directions, you should come out the other end relatively unscathed.
BEFORE THE PARTY
I will go into invitations a little more in-depth with another article, but specific to the dinner that you’ve planned, make sure it includes the following information:
• Place (with the address)
• Short list of menu items and a price range.
• Amount everyone will donate to split the bachelor’s check.
• Price for valet
• Your email address to contact for questions.
Let’s take a look at each of these items and give a little more detail for each one.
1. Date – It kind of goes without saying, doesn’t it? You can’t expect anyone to show up if they don’t know what day that darn thing’s on, right?
2. Time – See #1.
3. Place – I’m a big fan of including a small map with directions from the major freeways surrounding the restaurant. Is it absolutely necessary, here in our world of Google and MapQuest? Nope, not at all. But, it’s a little extra touch that adds a lot of ease for your guests.
4. A short list of menu items and a price range. As I spoke about above, there will be a wide cross-section of guests with varied budgets for what they can afford. If you include examples of what is on the menu, along with what they are priced, your guests will be able to prepare and bring the appropriate amount of money for the evening. If your invitation is in email form, then including a link to the restaurant’s menu is advised. Forewarned is forearmed – as the saying goes.
5. Amount everyone will donate to split the bachelor’s check. It’s my overarching philosophy that the bachelor should feel, as much as possible, like a king for the entire night. His every whim and desire (within reason – and the law – of course) should be catered to – and then some. As part of this, your guest of honor should not have to pay for his own meal – and you shouldn’t be stuck with the bill yourself, either. Divide a generous amount (don’t underestimate), which you’ve allocated for his dinner (along with his share of the limo, the strip club, etc.), by the number of guests invited and put it into the invitation. There’s no reason one person (namely you) should be expected to pay for his entire share, and everyone should be receptive to this.
6. Price for the valet. As I mentioned in my previous article, this is an expense that many guests forget to factor into the price for the night. As long as they know up front, they’ll bring along enough to pay for it – along with a few extra dollar bills to tip the guy.
Oh, and by the way – if everyone meets at the restaurant and then takes a limo to the strip club – make sure that they will be able to get access to their cars at the end of the night. The last thing you want is to return from a night of fun and debauchery to find your car locked up in a garage with no way to get it out. That would be – to put it in the simplest of terms – bad.
7. Your email address. Try to resist the impulse to put your phone number on the invitation. If you’re anything like me, you’re busy and really don’t need everybody calling with inane questions every day up until the party. With emails, you can answer them at your own convenience – and not theirs.
DAY OF THE PARTY
Get There 30 Minutes Early
There’s going to be a lot for you to prepare before everyone gets arrives. Not only that, but you also want to instill a bit of confidence in the manager about you. They want to make sure that there is a responsible and strong person with whom they can deal with, someone who is going to take charge over the group and make the decisions for the night. When you arrive, find the manager and let them know (if you haven’t met them already) that you are the organizer and that you will be the person they will be dealing with.
The table that your group will be sitting at should already be prepared and waiting. Let them know if anything is out of place or not as you agreed. If anything is wrong, make sure they understand that your group will be arriving shortly, that you are on a strict time schedule, and that this is absolutely not acceptable. Hopefully, this will “motivate” them to get off their butts and get everything ready.
If there are guests you have never met, make sure that you introduce yourself to them. Also, let them know that if they have any questions or need anything – you are the guy to talk to.
After everyone is finished with their meals, the bill will probably come in one check with 15% to 18% gratuity already included. That’s when you do something drastic – you hand it to somebody else. Not just anybody, but somebody that you trust to be tenacious and firm that you’ve chosen WELL before the day of the party. Their job will be to be the “Check Enforcer” and their one job will be to strong-arm, humiliate, and cajole everyone into paying their share (and part of the groom’s) of the meal. The reason I don’t recommend doing it yourself is because it forces you to take focus off of the bachelor and his immediate needs. Instead, you will delegate the task to your “Check Enforcer” and it will be their job to be the tough guy. Also, make sure that this is the only thing you ask him to do for the night. It’s a pain in the ass and he should get some sort of reward for it. Buy him a drink at the strip club. Or, maybe throw down some money for a lap dance. Trust me, he’ll deserve it.
Well, there you go. I know that it’s a lot to remember and do, but if you follow through with all the details, it should be an immense help and actually make things easier and less chaotic. Just make sure that you are up front with the restaurant that it’s a bachelor party that you’re planning and that you get any agreements in writing. When everything goes smoothly and as planned, you’ll be glad that you took the time and effort to make sure the condemned’s last meal is something he’ll remember for the rest of his life. Well – the rest of his single life, that is.