Archive for December 5th, 2007

Preventable Party Disaster Number One: Too Many Guests, Too Little Room

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

I played a Christmas party this week at a hunting lodge-turned-restaurant. The dining room was charmingly rustic, and set for 100. The only problem was, that was 20 guests more than the room would comfortably hold.

Four long rows of tables would have fit just fine. We had five. The result was literally no “elbow room,” as guests sat shoulder to shoulder. There was also so little space between rows that the waitstaff had immense difficulty getting to and from the diners. This was compounded every time a guest got up to go to the restroom. It looked like a scene from an old Marks Brothers movie – except nobody was laughing. Oh – and need I mention – it was LOUD!

The inevitable delays in service resulted in many guests being finished with each course of their dinner before others had even been served. The meal dragged on and on, while holiday smiles turned to grimaces.

It wasn’t a disaster on the scale of the Hindenberg – nobody died or anything – but it wasn’t a success that all future parties will be measured against, either.

And the sad part (to me) is that it was 100% preventable. How?

Solution Number One is to always book a bigger room than you think you will need. It is easy to fill in the extra space by seating fewer people at each table (thus requiring additional tables), or by allowing more room between tables. Then, if you’ve still got too much extra square footage, you can usually lower the lights in the unused area, distracting attention from the empty space.

Solution Number Two is to put a cap on your guest list. Don’t invite even one more person than the room can comfortably hold. To do otherwise punishes everybody, and turns what should have been a joyous event into a study in frustration for your service personnel, for your guests, and for you.

And who wants to be remembered for that kind of party?