September 21, 2023

Could Family Style Dinner Become a Thing with Restaurants?

Years ago, people from my work took me on an adventure to Carmine’s famous Italian restaurant in Manhattan.

They served a “family style” dinner… limited selections but we did have some choices in what came out of the kitchen. I thought this was just the best thing that could ever happen.

The food was delicious, as one would expect. But the experience is what really stayed with me.

Everything felt so cozy and welcoming.

What a treat, to be presented with plate after plate, piled high with Italian favorites.


I remember it so clearly… first, a great big fresh salad in a big serving bowl to pass around… then came some mozzarella en carroz on a big platter. (This is big squares of fried mozzarella topped with a tangy caper sauce.)

Just like Grandma would have served, next came big festive looking painted bowls of full of pasta and sauce, with side platters of meatballs and sausage to make the rounds.

Then we were presented with a trifecta of smothered cutlets… Chicken Marsala, Veal Parmigiana… and my favorite kind, covered in melted mozzarella and topped with a lemon wine sauce and tangy capers.

Flash forward to today. Are people worried about how to cut costs for their food establishment?

This was a really special way to receive an amazing meal, and no one minded at all that we had limited choices.

It certainly didn’t feel limited. It felt like a delicious celebration with great people! 

So now here we are, post quarantine and people may be struggling.

I keep thinking that if restaurants are looking for ways to save money, they could kick off a Sunday family style meal tradition.

It could be even more simple and down-home than what I just described.

The idea would not be to serve the most extravagant food, but just to make it a nice meal out.

Keep it simple and fill up bellies with good, hearty food that doesn’t cost a lot to prepare and wouldn’t break the budget for the food purveyor or the customers.

It’s a great idea I think, because everybody likes to go out. But these days people may not be about dropping lots of coin unnecessarily.

This is about getting out of the house, enjoying some good food and drinks together, and not having to clean up!

Ideas for a simple, family style dinner at your restaurant:

  • Spaghetti and meatballs
  • Chili and cornbread
  • “Soup’s on Sundays”
  • Chicken stew and biscuits
  • Quesadilla night

You can try this and see how it goes over with your customers. The worst that can happen is not a lot of people show, and you decide not to do it again. But maybe everyone will really love it.

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If you decide to host a family dinner, let me know and I’ll publish it here!