What to Expect When Your Venue is a Restaurant


Written by Terry Matthews-Lombardo

Terry Matthews-Lombardo is an industry veteran meeting planner, trip director, and free-lance writer who’s seen and experienced a lot of challenges – the good, bad, great and ugly – during her professional lifetime spent in this industry. Based in Orlando, FL, she’s been a proud and active member of the GCG Network of planners since 2005. You can read more by Terry on her blog Terry's World Travels.

July 14, 2015

If you’re new to temporary or On Site Management (OSM) work, you might think that working a few hours at a dinner program in a fancy restaurant is an easy-peasy assignment.  And sometimes they can be, but other times, watch out!  When you work a number of these programs you’re bound to experience all kinds of interesting ‘happenings’, and sometimes the challenges will be a test for even the most experienced planners.

So, what can you expect if you’re a new OSM and/or this is your first restaurant-venue assignment?  Here are a few tips that will help you towards a successful program in what might be new territory for you as a planner:

    1. Upon arrival, clarify the name of your group as it’s listed at the front check-in which may be by the pharmaceutical name or by the drug or other identifiers.  This is important because many times there are multiple medical programs going on in these popular restaurants and attendees get confused right along with the wait staff.  This is also important for you at registration to reconfirm what session you have.  I’ve actually had guests sign in, sit down, commence eating before they realized they were at the wrong lecture!
    2. Understand that restaurant function space is not as user-friendly as hotels, but you have to work with what you get.  When you walk into the room, check the site lines for AV as well as traffic flow for servers and move tables accordingly making sure to work with restaurant staff as you do so.  Because of limited space, there are normally undesirable seats so do your best in steering early guests away from those and use only if needed as you fill up.
    3. Know where the room lights, music control, and sound system are because you very well may be the one to control all that when the time comes.
    4. Review the menu, timing, and flow of service with the Banquet Manager upon arrival.  This is really important because once you get busy with registration you won’t have time to keep answering all those food/beverage questions, and there will be plenty.
    5. Ideally you should have a separate registration table at the entrance.  I’ve had spots that are so crowded I ultimately had to give it up and seat guests there, but only as a last resort.  Make sure you have enough pens, sign in sheets and I always bring clipboards in case table space is limited.

My final piece of advice might be surprising but hopefully appreciated once you’ve done a few of these types of programs.  Many of these restaurants are very dimly lit so make sure you know how to access the flashlight app on your phone.  It’s been my lifesaver time and again!

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