• How to Organize a Dine-Around

    Choose Chicago’s Ben Smock shares tricks of the trade.

     
    FROM THE Winter 2019 ISSUE
     

Ben Smock, who operates Chicago Concierge in partnership with Choose Chicago, has been organizing all sizes and styles of dine-arounds for over a decade. According to Smock, the process can be broken down into three steps. First, planners must clearly identify the purpose of the dine-around. 

“Are you trying to facilitate networking opportunities, or are you trying to showcase a city or a set of restaurants? Or simply entertain a group of people?” asks Smock. “These are the questions planners need to answer first,” Smock says. 

After planners determine the objective of the dine-around, the next step is to get to know the audience they will be serving with the program.

“You need to take demographics, budgets and dietary concerns into consideration; all of these factors will help you select the right restaurant,” Smock says. 

Once planners have chosen a restaurant that pairs well with the audience and the goal of the dine-around, the final step is to maintain efficient communication between the client and the restaurant. Smock stresses the importance of communicating the guest’s needs to the restaurant and vice versa throughout the entire process. 

Smock’s Restaurant Recommendations 

SHAW’S CRAB HOUSE: For large groups, Shaw’s Crab House is an accommodating option. “They’re unique in that no matter how large the group is, everyone can order individually off of the gigantic menu,” Smock says.

SIGNATURE ROOM: Located on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Building, Signature Room is an ideal spot for small and large groups and upscale business dinners. “The staff at Signature Room are thoughtful and nonintrusive,” Smock explains. “They understand the difference between a social engagement and a business dinner and switch gears to accommodate that.” 

CARNIVALE: With family-style appetizers and an adventurous wine and cocktail program, Carnivale is a budget-friendly option that’s best suited for midsized groups of co-workers, casual networking events and team-building dinners.  

Jennifer Dalsbo, recreation sales manager for Grand Geneva Resort & Spa, just north of the Illinois border in Wisconsin, shares her best advice for planning a golf outing for a group.

 

Z BAR, the globally inspired cocktail lounge atop The Peninsula overlooking Michigan Avenue, offers customized batch cocktails for groups in an upscale, but relaxed atmosphere. The individual responsible for dreaming up and preparing these communal beverages is Vlad Novikov, who’s official title is director of cocktails and culture. Novikov’s travels frequently inform his mixology.