How to Host the Ultimate New Year’s Eve Party at Your Restaurant

A unique theme and over-the-top entertainment will make guests want to stay all night long.
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Welcome the revelry with a stylish New Year's party. (Photo: Astarot/Shutterstock)

There’s one day each year where restaurants can count on customers to spend money all night long: New Year’s Eve. But on this festive night, lots of other bars and restaurants compete to attract the largest crowd in town. How can you make your restaurant’s New Year’s Eve party the must-attend event of the year?

NCR Silver asked celebrity caterer Andrea Correale, founder and CEO of Long Island catering and event design company Elegant Affairs, how restaurateurs can throw the biggest bash on Dec. 31. Here are her tips on the glitzy themes, cocktails, bites and decor that will help you ring in the New Year in style.

Choose a distinctive theme

Whether it’s glamorous, cheeky or somewhere in between, your party theme will set the tone for the entire evening. Choose a motif that will attract a diverse range of revelers, said Correale.

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“It’s always nice for the owner to get up and give a heartfelt toast, really thanking people for their patronage.” – Andrea Correale, Elegant Affairs

“I’ve done a ‘Mad Men’ theme all about the 1960s and a Donna Summer-style 1980s dance party,” she said. “You could also do a celebrity costume party, where everyone dresses as their favorite famous person.”

Simple themes can work just as well. A party with a contest for the best hat, or a theme based solely on color (such as gold) have mass appeal, Correale said.

Set up dramatic lighting

Chances are good that regular customers will make up a major portion of your guest list. How can you wow the guests who’ve already been to your restaurant dozens of times?

“Lighting can dramatically change the ambience of a restaurant or bar,” said Correale. “Call in a professional lighting company to spruce things up.”

Related: Why Your Restaurant Should Host an Industry Night

Lighting pros can completely transform your space by blanketing it in a single color or setting up spotlights. But if that’s not in budget, consider screwing in some specialty lightbulbs, stringing up fairy lights or renting a party projector to display stars on the ceiling or snowflakes drifting down a wall.

Make your tabletops pop

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You can’t go wrong with streamers and balloons, but keep them elegant and tasteful. (Photo: Milleflore Images/Shutterstock)

When guests sit down to dinner, they want the experience to feel absolutely lavish. Give your tables the royal treatment for your New Year’s Eve party, said Correale.

“You might want to work with a tabletop and linen company, just for the night. Rent sequin tablecloths or sparkly colors to make the whole atmosphere pop,” she said.

Over-the-top centerpieces can also make your dining room feel extra ritzy on the big night. You could feature a champagne bottle bursting with silver and gold streamers, or get creative with historical artifacts.

“Get historic photos from your town’s public library and blow them up to put on the bar and tables, with tidbits about the past. It’ll feel like a walk down memory lane,” said Correale.

Give your drinks an upgrade

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The best New Year’s parties are the ones that put some thought and sophistication into the drinks they serve. (Photo: Wedding photography/Shutterstock)

Creating a signature cocktail can be a big hit on New Year’s Eve. But no matter which drink a guest orders, it should feel extra swanky.

“Maybe you could get monogrammed ice cubes made, or ones that have your logo inside of them,” said Correale. “You could also go with big round ice cubes or oversized squares that fit right in the glass.”

Ice isn’t the only place to have some fun — play with your garnishes to make the drinks stand out.

“A colorful sugar rim can spruce up a drink, or you can serve everything with a 2019-themed straw from a party supply store,” she added.

Serve treats by the hour

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Hors d’oeuvres in action. (Photo: Johnathan Ball/Shutterstock)

The countdown to midnight will be top of everyone’s mind on Dec. 31. Tap into that excitement by serving new treats every hour, on the hour.

“You could do an appetizer from the 1960s (such as fondue) the first hour, maybe a gourmet TV dinner for the 1970s, mini sloppy Joe sliders that celebrate the 1980s and sushi to go with the ‘90s,” Correale said. “Making it thematic will separate your restaurant from others.”

The same idea could be carried through your drinks, as well. Try a Tom Collins for the 1960s, a Harvey Wallbanger for the ‘70s, a 1980s-style Fuzzy Navel, a Cosmopolitan for the 1990s and a Negroni for the early 2000s, said Correale.

Offer interactive entertainment

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Props and a photo booth equal Instagram gold. (Photo: Syda Productions/Shutterstock)

Your entertainment might be the most memorable part of the night for guests. Hire interactive entertainers to keep the mood light and energy high on New Year’s Eve.

“There’s a type of entertainer you can hire who wears a big Cinderella-style ball gown, but from the waist down, the dress is made from champagne glasses that guests can take,” said Correale.

Related: How Your Restaurant Can Celebrate the First Day of Spring

Try to tie the entertainment back to the theme. If you do a James Bond party, for example, you could set up casino tables and hire dealers to host games, said Correale.

“You could also hire dancers to get things going, or bring in a cigar roller and park a limo outside your restaurant where people could smoke,” she said.

And in the age of Instagram, you can never go wrong with a photobooth and fun props.

Show your appreciation

During the party, remember that guests made the choice to end the year at your restaurant. Show them your appreciation with a short speech just before midnight.

“It’s always nice for the owner to get up and give a heartfelt toast, really thanking people for their patronage,” said Correale. “Offer a complimentary cocktail to all the guests for the toast.”

It’s no easy feat to throw the ultimate New Year’s Eve party. But when guests fondly remember your restaurant as the place they rounded out 2018, they’ll make your establishment one of their go-to spots throughout the new year.

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