It’s a hot and steamy night in late July. You’re running late for an event where you will be viewing a movie projected on the side of a building in Brooklyn while eating dishes that thematically match the film. And you realize you are not going to know a soul.
At the Forking Tasty Supper Club, this is nothing unusual, as we gather 16 strangers together once a month, all summer long. Over the seasons, I’ve learned a few tricks on how to make guests feel immediately comfortable in the foreign apartment that they just entered.
After all, we love when everyone leaves as friends, so it’s extremely important we make them feel like friends when they arrive. Your guests are coming over with an expectation, so think about how to immediately fulfill that expectation as they turn up. There’s a giant set of expectations when 16 strangers sit down for an intimate meal, but breaking it down into parts helped me figure out what would put them quickly at ease.
Tip 1: Make sure everybody knows everybody
First, I tackle the stranger bit. Each guest is introduced to everyone in the kitchen as they walk through the front door. From my co-chef to servers to dishwashers, my guests meet them all. My staff, in return, stops what they are doing, looks them in the eye and says hello. If they are not covered in food, they will even offer a handshake. This not only gets my guests comfortable but lets them know who, by name, they should ask if they have a question or a concern during the evening. Which leads me to…
Tip 2: Give the lay of the land
A little tactical knowledge goes a long way to make people comfortable. Now that they know who is in charge, the next bit of important info for any supper party is... right, the location of the bathroom. So simple, everyone forgets. Of course, you know where the bathroom is, you live there. Think about it for a second: If you have to ask where the bathroom is, it usually indicates that you need to use it. Sometimes that makes people uncomfortable and they would rather feel like they slipped off unnoticed, especially among strangers.
Tip 3: Create an easy transition
It’s important to give them a taste of what they came for -- dinner and a movie on a huge deck. Recently we showed the genius Mike Myers flick Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. I escorted them from the kitchen to the deck where some snacks and drinks are ready for consumption—all movie themed.
For this event, we served port-glazed walnuts with stilton and curry shortbreads. As guests arrived on the deck, each was greeted with an old-fashioned glass of our homemade Pimm’s Cup. Oh, how very London-town.
Even with those three must-do’s, a host can’t ensure everyone has a great experience, but he can ensure they start out on the right foot. And usually there’s a domino effect -- once one person is comfortable, their table neighbor feels the same. Stack the deck and make them ALL comfortable immediately, and you’ll wind up with lots of smiling, satisfied guests.