A change in dining habits has resulted in a six-fold increase in bookings for a small York restaurant.
When the 17th century, Grade II-listed The Rattle Owl, at Micklegate, opened its upstairs rooms for private bookings 18 months ago, they hosted around one event a week.
However, they are now hosting as many as six a week – accounting for as much as a quarter of the restaurant’s weekly turnover.
And owner Clarrie O’Callaghan believes the growth reflects a change in the way in which people – and businesses – choose to socialise.
“Private dining has always been – and remains – a popular choice for formal celebrations such as anniversaries, parties and christenings,” said Clarrie.
“But now it is catching on as a great option for informal dining, too.
“There is very definitely a growing trend for turning a meal out into a group occasion,” she said.
“Instead of a low-key Sunday lunch with the children, for example, young parents are wanting to eat with their friends and their children – and have the space and privacy to really unwind and make an event of it.”
With Roman ruins in the cellar and a wealth of historical features from every successive period of history, The Rattle Owl’s 42-cover restaurant is at street level, while the private dining rooms are on the first and second floors.
“I think it has helped us that we not only have several private rooms but that they are each very different and interesting,” said Clarrie, “and because each has its own ante-room, they have great character and versatility. –
“Larger parties are more conscious of their environment in smaller restaurants and want to be able to talk freely – among friends and family or in a business context.
The trend isn’t confined to social events with Clarrie also reporting in increase in corporate bookings, with clients’ feedback indicating that the change of setting and enhanced privacy lend themselves to everything from client lunches to small meetings.
“We’ve hosted a variety of local businesses, along with groups from the university and from charities,” said Clarrie.
“We are also getting requests from businesses that host conferences in York and want to explore a bit more of the city’s history outside of the conference venue.”
The Rattle Owl doesn’t charge for the hire of its private dining rooms – instead there is a set charge of £39.50 for three courses, an amuse bouche, bread and side dishes.
Created by head chef Tom Heywood, who trained at the three AA rosette The Cottage in the Wood, at Keswick and at The Pheasant Inn at Harome, before joining the Rattle Owl, it is heavily weighted in favour of locally sourced and seasonal ingredients.