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5 SECRETS TO STRESS-FREE DINING OUT THIS HOLIDAY SEASON
5 SECRETS TO STRESS-FREE DINING OUT THIS HOLIDAY SEASON

Ready to bow out of the pre-holiday grocery rush this year? You're not alone! According to the National Restaurant Association, more than 14 million Americans eat at restaurants on Thanksgiving—and that's not including those who are dining out for other holidays and the New Year. If you decide to go this route, here are tips to help ensure it's a successful celebration this holiday season.

Private rooms—which allow guests and small children plenty of space to relax, chatter, and roam—can also contribute to a relaxed holiday vibe.

Allow for family input, but designate a point person.

Because the holidays tend to spark memories and emotional attachments to tradition, it's important to approach the conversation about dining out well in advance of the holiday. Invite everyone's opinions and preferences, and talk about the types of restaurants, locations, and price ranges people feel comfortable with. From there, choose a point person to handle the organization of the event.

Be open to less obvious venue options.

Once you've sounded out your guests, begin your research to find out which restaurants offer holiday menus and if they have special hours, pricing, and reservation policies. Keep in mind that some smaller, local venues that might not be your first thought for holiday dinner may be willing and able to host a lovely meal that feels personal—and could become a new tradition in its own right.

Choose the menu in advance.

Ease is key when it comes to successfully dining out for the holidays. Look for restaurants that offer family-style dining from a prix fixe menu. Ask to choose the menu prior to the holiday dinner, so you'll know the cost up front. To maintain favorite traditions, you might consider having dessert, coffee, and drinks after dinner at someone's home. It's a nice complement to dining out, and it helps manage costs.

Consider a private room.

Celebrating in a restaurant instead of at home may cause some people to feel a sense of displacement. To help alleviate such tensions, private rooms—which allow guests and small children plenty of space to relax, chatter, and roam—can also contribute to a relaxed holiday vibe.

Don't let money leave a bad taste.

Once you've selected a restaurant, let each family know the total cost that will be owed for each attendee—and don't forget to include what each guest/family will pay for a generous gratuity and whatever type of beverage service you've chosen. Set a deadline by which everyone should submit money to the organizer and take care of payment before the meal begins so everyone can kick back and enjoy their holiday dinner.