New Year’s Eve is likely the most hyped night of the entire year. For those spending their NYE at a restaurant, the expectations for the entire experience — not just the food — are very high.
“For a diner, let’s face it: New Year’s Eve dinner is not a cheap endeavor,” notes Nicolay Adinaguev, Executive Chef of Diplomat Prime in Hollywood, Florida. “Plain and simple, it needs to be perfect.”
That means if you’re a restaurant trying out a special New Year’s dinner for the first time, the prospect of satisfying customers’ high hopes can be daunting. We spoke to some of our favorite New Year’s Eve restaurant vets on what they’ve learned doing NYE service over the years, and how any restaurant can make its version a success.
1. New Year’s Eve is a time to go big and take risks — while still being true to your concept. “This is a special night for most of our guests, so we want to blow them away,” says Adinaguev. “We can be over the top, and our guests expect that.” Todd Mitgang, chef of Crave Fishbar in New York, says that his strategy is always to take the restaurant’s seafood concept and elevate it. “We want to curate a menu that feels decadent,” he says. “We will dress a raw oyster with champagne and caviar as an amuse, we will include lobster, we take risks. What’s fun about New Year’s Eve is that nothing is familiar. We really try to razzle dazzle our guests with luxury.”
2. Incorporate elements that build anticipation for the new year throughout the night. For Mitgang, that’s a live projection of the ball drop at Times Square. “Everyone quiets down, everyone wants to see the countdown — it really creates energy to have that on the whole night,” he says. There are plenty of other ways to generate excitement, like doing specifically timed beverage pairings or a special dessert that’s served right at midnight — something that will ensure your guests stay amped up all the way until the clock strikes.
3. Treat your dinner service like a dinner party. When people come to a restaurant for New Year’s, especially if they’re coming on the later side, they want to be a part of a super festive environment. “People aren’t just looking for great food,” says Rosario Procino, co-owner of Ribalta in New York. “They want that atmosphere of being around old friends, where everyone seems to know each other and wants to have fun together.” At Ribalta, Procino has live music the entire night and encourages guests to stand up and socialize. Mitgang fills the room with confetti and party hats and hires a DJ every year. “These elements are what create friendships — people end up chatting and mingling like old friends by the end of the night.” Procino says. [Read more…]