The big event! The proposal....a business deal closer.....Mother's Day.....Spouse's Birthday....How do you pick a restaurant? Well, the occasion itself will shape your choice even though most of the time you are not conscious of this. Food is one factor, but the environment and location are important too. And that is what makes the difference. When you take the time to choose, oftentimes you are rewarded with a great gastronomic experience built around the ambiance of the restaurant and the attitude of the staff serving you. Here are some things to consider:
Location/Amenities. Sometimes, when you want to have a great time and driving afterwards will pose a problem, find a place close by where you can easily walk or where it's easy to get a cab. Paying another fifty bucks to talk to Habib or Willy the driver just adds unnecessary expense. Of course, it is different when the location is the key factor, like on a lake, seaside, riverside or a spectacular view of a mountain or an architectural gem. Sometimes, you want to go to a place where you can eat outside without being sun-scorched. So you check for places where you need to discuss serious matters or go for restaurants that have private rooms for a small group with a good working table. Hotels are really good at this.
Cuisine/Chef. Of course, you will easily put out fifty dollars for a cab if the menu is the first priority of the event and you are going for taste bud titillation. You will even drive five hours or hop on a plane just to have dinner in a restaurant because the food is truly memorable and the word Michelin does not relate to your tires. If you can, check out the wine list first. In some restaurants, the wine list consists of six highly priced bottles of very good but very pricy wines all from France. The Chef may have tried to match wines with menu and you need to weigh this up before you go. When the chef has a great reputation, it is worth checking out the place. At times, you just want to eat a particular cuisine and if that restaurant is the only one available of that style where you live, there is really not much choice. But often, there are two or three choices for a particular cuisine. Check out if their chef comes from the country where that cuisine is from. You are more likely to get the real thing and not the stylized version of it. If you are really into ethnic originals, find out where folks from the country of that cuisines origin eat. It may be the best.
Price/Value for money. When you are bringing your whole family or a big group, you would look for one that will give you value for your money. This does not mean being cheap but getting a good meal that you feel happy about paying. You are satisfied for what you get. For heaven's sake sort out who is paying or how to share the bill BEFORE you go into the restaurant. Nothing leaves the taste of ashes rather than food than the pulling at the bill by everyone at the table!
Service, service, service. Many times, this involves you too. When you find a restaurant you like, befriend the waiters and waitresses. Treat them warmly as you would treat your own friends and you will find that you will get great service again and again. Be helpful. Sometimes, they are so busy and you demand a hundred things. When you see them carrying many things to your table, arrange your table to give them space to put things down or just take some of the things that are hard for them to place on some sides of your table. These may be little things but when they see you helping them, they will go out of their way next time you come to make sure you are served properly. Over and beyond this, of course, are those few restaurants with impeccable "3 star service" no matter who you are. However, such restaurants are often remote and a bit formal....even intimidating. Build a good relationship with the staff and it becomes fun to be a regular.
Hygiene/Ambience. If the occasion you are planning is serious, you may just want to check out the restaurant before you decide to book an evening there. Go and have a drink and check out the place. Go use the washroom. This often gives you the standard of hygiene followed in the restaurant. Sometimes, the restaurant may be beautiful but the decor is not to your taste. It jars your senses. Go to a place where you enjoy the general atmosphere and it fits you and the occasion. Do they play music? How loudly? Check out the people who go to the restaurant. If you find it pleasant to be around these people as you eat your dinner, then go book a table. Maybe, a specific table away from the kitchen doors and not under the air conditioner.
Recommendation. Word of mouth or reviews are important to consider. They give you an idea of what the restaurant is like. Take this from people who know what they are talking about. Ask workmates for recommendations (you'll learn a bit about them from their answers as well!) However, for big events it is always helpful to go to places you have tried and tested. You are better able to focus on the evening when the place is familiar and where the staff know you. You can make recommendations, you know the wine list, and you are familiar with the way things are done. You don't have many things to worry about...just enjoy the meal and the experience of good service and a happy environment.