• How to Organize a Dine-Around

    FROM THE Winter 2019 ISSUE

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

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.  

Aventri, a leader in events management software (EMS), recently released ‘The Top 100 Meeting and Event Venues in the United States’ for 2019. The company took the ten top-rated meeting and event cities in the United States and picked the top ten venues in each area, compiling a list of 100 highly-regarded spaces. 

The guide identifies the two most valuable factors in attendee satisfaction as venue location and activities in the host city, followed by capacity, uniqueness and proximity to local attractions.


Andrea Hahn, general manager of Chicago’s new MB Ice Arena, knows her way around an ice rink.


Held at the United Center Sept. 21-23, 2018, the Laver Cup—a men’s tennis tournament pitting six top European players against six of their counterparts—marked the first time this major event has been held in the United States. Total event attendance was more than 93,000 people, with fans from around the world traveling to Chicago for an unforgettable experience with the game’s best players. “The Laver Cup was a huge win for Chicago,” says Kara Bachman, executive director of the Chicago Sports Commission.