How To: Progressive Dinner

For the past thirteen years I was a youth pastor at Cordova Neighborhood Church.  In that time we did several progressive dinners.  A progressive dinner is when several small groups go to different host families’ houses and eat one portion of a meal at each house.  One group may start with dessert, another with appetizer, but by the end of the night all groups have had a four-course meal.  It was always one of our favorite events because you got outstanding food, great company and ever-changing scenery.  It can, however, be difficult to pull one off.

Traditional Progressive Dinner

In order for this to work you need to have:

(1) People willing to host a bunch of groups and not be a part of the traveling group.
(2) An equal amount of groups to host-house ratio.
(3) A place for groups to meet, load into cars and disperse.

Don’t get me wrong, if you can pull this off, it is worth it.  Not only is it free if your host families are willing to foot the bill, but it’s tons of fun and great for relationship building.  Here are some quick tips for setting up a progressive dinner:

  • Get Hosts – 3 or 4 is usually enough.
  • Guest list –  keep in mind the size of everyone’s homes.  Whether splitting into groups and rotating or traveling as one large group, every home needs to be able to fit your group size.
  • Proximity –  It’s great if all homes can be near each other – walking distance if possible.  This is not necessary, but it’s sure nice!
  • The Food –  consider foods that can be prepared in advance so that the hosts can also relax and enjoy the party.
  • Young Ones –  You can include them in the dinner party if you want.  Another (better!) idea is to have the kids at the last house with a babysitter or two; this only works if traveling as one group.

I got these tips from DIY Life “How to Host a Progressive Dinner” check out their post for more details.

Progressive Dinner Out “Dinner Crawl”

I recently heard of a “new” kind of progressive dinner that I had never considered, a progressive dinner out or “dinner crawl.”  The premise is similar except instead of homes of people you know, you hit up different restaurants.  I’ll start with the benefits as I see them and move on to execution.

  • Stop overeating – A lot of times when you go to restaurants you order more than you can eat and you leave hurting because your stomach catches up to you.  With a progressive dinner out you only have one thing at a time over a few hours which will give your stomach plenty of time to send those “I’m full” signals to your brain and stops you from eating to much.
  • More Bang For Your Buck – It’s likely at the end of your night you’ll have spent about the same out of money as a normal night out.  The difference comes in the amount of time spent.  A typical dinner out with friends at a restaurant usually last about an hour.  A typical progressive dinner at several restaurants can last three to four, and you’re spending the same amount of money.  Remember to tip your severs!
  • Drink Responsibly – If you’re going to drink, a progressive dinner gives yourself much more time for the alcohol to metabolize over a span of several hours.  Don’t drink on an empty stomach; be responsible!  You should probably wait until at least your second stop to get a drink.
  • Worry Free Night – Progressive Dinners Hosted in homes are great, but if you’re like Bethany and I, it’s also very stressful knowing that twenty people are going to come to your house and see it in all it’s “glory.”  A progressive dinner out gives you the benefit of not having to worry about food prep or clean houses.
  • Visitors Welcome – At a regular progressive dinner extra people showing up can be a disaster because food and space is limited.  When you’re out people can drop in and out as they please; they might have to stand, but it’s much less of a hassle.

Those are some of the benefits I see, and those are well worth it.  The following is a brief “how-to.” I’m not going to go into great deal because I have faith in your abilities to plan.  An ability which truthfully I lack…

  • Choose a Night & Timespan, Invite your friends.
  • If you want to love the earth, carpool with friends.
  • Theme your progressive dinner (American, Asian, Italian, etc).
  • Choose restaurants ahead of time; three or four should suffice.  It could be nice to give restaurants a heads up to expect an influx of people.
  • Create a travel itinerary, send it out to your friends via Facebook or whatever works best for your crew.  If you’re really hip you can create a customized Google map and drop in pins for each restaurant.
  • Go in the bar if possible to cut down on wait time and allow for standing while you hang out.
  • Stay at each restaurant for 30 – 45 minutes so as not to burden the restaurants.
  • Order 1 thing per restaurant, leave a tip 15 – 20%.
  • If some people are going to drink to everyone a favor and have a designated driver.

That should give you a good headstart.  I can’t take credit for this idea.  I got the idea from the Lifehacker podcast; I couldn’t find the original post or I would have linked it.  So thanks Adam Dachis for the great idea!

What are you going to do with this?  Where will you go?  How will you theme yours?  Let me know!

This could be a good time to put your hashtag skills to use.  Consider creating a specific hashtag for your event so you can view photos and videos later!  See 5 Fun Ways to use hashtags for more info on that!

Love,
Bryce

Bryce Cooley
I've been doing some form of ministry since 2000. For 13 years I was involved in the youth ministry at Cordova Neighborhood Church as everything from youth intern to youth pastor. God has led me and my lovely wife Bethany to Church of the Foothills where I currently reside as the Digital Publishing Coordinator. I'm excited to see where God leads my wife and I.
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Bryce Cooley
I've been doing some form of ministry since 2000. For 13 years I was involved in the youth ministry at Cordova Neighborhood Church as everything from youth intern to youth pastor. God has led me and my lovely wife Bethany to Church of the Foothills where I currently reside as the Digital Publishing Coordinator. I'm excited to see where God leads my wife and I.