10 Rules You Shouldn't Break When Dining With A Big Group

Dining out in a restaurant with just one or two other people is completely different from dining out with a large group. The next time you're planning to dine out with several other people — whether for business or pleasure — it is important to keep this fact in mind. The logistics are just different when there are several people who need a spot to sit, need to order food and drinks, and need to pay for their order. On top of all of this, the restaurant will have to make certain accommodations for your group, and your server will be doing a lot more work for your table than a typical table with just two to four customers.


Before you invite friends, family, or colleagues out to eat to celebrate a new baby, birthday, or engagement or simply to catch up with one another, stop. The 'rules' for eating in a restaurant are going to look different in order to ensure the best dining experience for everyone involved. Take a few minutes to make sure you're prepared for your next outing with friends or family.

Do your research to choose the right restaurant

Before finalizing your dining plans, it is important to do some research to help you decide which restaurant will be the best choice. Even if you have a favorite restaurant, it might not end up being the best choice to accommodate a large group. Some restaurants just do a better job with larger groups. They could have a separate room for you to sit in, extra servers to keep things running smoothly, a larger dining room to offer plenty of space for your group, or various other features.


If you're not sure which restaurants in your area will meet these criteria, you might want to stop by a few and talk with a manager about their ability to accommodate your group size. You can also read through online reviews and look for comments from other customers who dined with several others. When reading the reviews, look for information about whether the customers felt that the wait time for their table and getting the food served was reasonable, whether all of the guests were comfortable and had enough space and anything else that could impact the overall experience.

Make reservations as far in advance as possible

Once you're made the decision about which restaurant you think will be the best choice for your group, make a reservation. You will want to do so as far in advance as possible. This is especially true if you're planning to go out on holiday, such as Mother's Day. This will help make sure that they'll still have an opening for your group and will prevent others from taking the spots on the reservation list. Some restaurants may offer online reservations, while others may require you to call them, particularly when reserving tables for a larger group.


Calling and speaking to a manager may be a good idea regardless of whether online reservations are an option. When you speak to the manager, you can discuss where in the restaurant your group will be sitting and whether you'll need to be broken down into a few smaller tables. When you speak with the manager, be sure to mention any special requests or other important information they'll need to know. For example, share what you're celebrating (if anything) and whether anyone at the table has any allergies.

Update the restaurant if the number of guests changes

Because you're (hopefully) making reservations several weeks in advance, there will likely be some fluctuations to your guest list. Some people may have something else come up, while others may deliver a late RSVP. As the number of guests at your party changes, be sure to keep the restaurant staff updated.


It is important for the restaurant to have the most accurate information possible about your group. Adding or losing just one guest could potentially impact the size of the table they'll need for your group, where the best location for it will be, how they allocate servers for the evening, and more. Plus, if they know exactly how many guests you'll have, the staff can have the table set and ready for you. If you're springing new information on them at the last moment, they may have to shuffle things around, causing you and your guests to wait longer for your table to be ready.

Share the restaurant details and menu with each guest ahead of time

At least a week before your scheduled get-together, make sure that each guest is prepared. Send a text or an email with the name of the restaurant and the reservation time. Include the restaurant's address and phone number in your message so that people have it in case they run into any issues.


In addition to sharing where you'll be eating, send your guests a link to the menu as well. This way, they'll be able to browse through the various options ahead of time and have an idea about what they want to order. This will help cut down on the chaos of everyone sitting down and needing to look over the menu. You'll be able to place your orders more quickly, which will help get the food to the table faster.

Make sure everyone shows up at the same time — earlier than the reservation is set for

After sharing the details of the reservation with the guests, it is important for everyone to agree upon a time to arrive at the restaurant. This time should be at least 10 minutes before the reservation time to leave a few minutes for everyone to park and make it into the lobby area.


Having everyone show up at different times is just going to make things more complicated. Some restaurants won't seat you until the entire party is present. But, even if they seat some of the group, you won't be able to order until everyone shows up, and some people could have trouble finding you. When everyone arrives on time and a few minutes before the actual reservation, it will make it much easier for the hostesses, servers, and all of the individuals in your group.

Get everyone to order at the same time

The next 'rule' you'll want to set when dining out with a group is making sure that everyone is ready to order at the same time. Some people will arrive already knowing what they want, while others might want to take a close look at the various options on the menu. Before letting the server start to take orders, confirm that everyone knows what they want.


Otherwise, you're going to end up wasting your server's time. If they start taking orders from those who are ready but then come up to the person that is still deciding, it is going to throw things off. And, if they skip over that person to come back to them in a few minutes, it is more likely for the orders to get mixed up. With such a large group, it will be helpful to your server if they're able to hear what people want in the order they are sitting around the table.

This rule doesn't just apply to placing food orders. Try to have everyone order drinks at the same time and coordinate requests for refills. If your server is constantly going back and forth between the kitchen and your table, they're going to get frustrated and run out of energy.


Exercise patience

Accommodating a large group can be a challenge, even for the best restaurants. It is important to be patient and understanding when dining out with several other people. It will take extra time to get everyone seated and have orders placed. The kitchen will need more time to prepare the food and try to time it so that everyone's meal comes out at the same time. There are likely going to be a few hiccups along the way.


Go in expecting this and do your best to be patient and appreciative of the effort the hosts, servers, and managers are putting in to help you and your guests have the best dining experience possible. Show some grace before filing a complaint about your server unless he or she is truly neglecting the table and not trying their best. Make the most of the potential extra wait time by having some nice conversations with those dining with you.

Avoid requesting separate checks

Splitting a check two or three ways is one thing, but splitting it eight, ten, or more ways is something completely different. Especially if it isn't getting split evenly because everyone is trying to figure out their exact total down to the penny. Not only is it going to take you and the others in your group a long time to do the math, but you're going to be adding a lot of extra work for your server. Running several credit cards and making sure that everything adds up is very time-consuming, and you'll be pulling him or her away from the other tables they're waiting on. Not to mention that you and the others at your table will be sitting and waiting a long time while he or she runs the different cards.


Instead, request that everyone brings cash. Alternatively, you might have one person that agrees to charge the entire bill and get reimbursed through Venmo, Zelle, or PayPal if everyone doesn't have cash. This will make everything so much easier for the server and your group.

Avoid taking up table space after everyone has finished eating

After a nice meal with friends and family, it can be tempting to sit around the table and keep the conversation going. However, you should avoid staying too long after you've paid the bill. As a large group, you'll be taking up a lot of space in the dining room that could be used to seat other patrons. By sticking around, you could be robbing your server of the opportunity to earn more tips that evening.


If you and others in the group want to keep the party going, move it elsewhere. You could head over to the bar, walk down to a nearby coffee shop, take a stroll around the park, hit up the bowling alley, or head over to someone's house. You could even plan for this when setting up the event. Take a poll of who may be interested in doing something after dinner is done, and come up with some ideas together.

Don't stress too much and have fun

After reading through all of the rules above, you might be feeling even more stressed about organizing a large event. However, while these rules can help make your evening better, they aren't designed to add to your stress level. The most important thing is to relax and let yourself have a good time. You're getting together with a large group for a reason — perhaps to celebrate a birthday or catch up with friends you haven't seen in a long time. Don't let yourself stress too much over the small details.


One thing you could do if you find yourself overthinking everything and getting too worried is to ask for some help from one of the other guests. Having someone else to help you organize the event, communicate with everyone else who will be coming, and keep the restaurant updated can take something off of your plate so that you're better able to enjoy the gathering and meal.