So the fiance and I liked the idea of having our reception at a restaurant for several reasons, one of the most important ones being cost - a restaurant would already have all the necessary tables, chairs, dishes, etc., therefore we wouldn't have to rent much of anything. When looking to book a restaurant for a wedding reception, there are a lot of different ways you can go. If you're thinking of doing the same, here are some things to keep in mind.
The full-venue buyout: If you're looking at a small restaurant without a lot of large private dining rooms, you'll probably need to buyout the whole venue. We talked to a few small to medium sized restaurants, and for a Saturday night, we were quoted on average between $8,500 to $13,500 to buyout the place for the evening. For some places, this only included food. For some, the minimum could be met through a combination of food and bar. For all, there is an additional service charge (usually 20%) and tax on top of that.
The daytime option: One money saving tip that my fiance's brother and sister-in-law passed along to us was to ask the restaurants if they would be open to letting us have a daytime reception instead of evening, especially if the restaurant isn't typically open for lunch. This way, they can still open for dinner and don't lose any dinner business. The minimum will be much lower, and some might not even ask you to meet a minimum at all.
Understanding the restaurant's priorities: Some of the places we contacted hadn't ever been approached to host a reception before, while some had hosted several in the past. For one venue, they weren't keen on the idea of closing down the restaurant to their regular customers. And hey, you can't blame them for wanting to put their loyal customers first! For another, I just couldn't seem to get them interested in helping me. They responded to my initial inquiry with an enthusiastic "yeah, we'd love to host your reception!" but then failed to return my subsequent calls and emails. While I get that not everyone thinks that my wedding is their number one priority, it is my wedding...and having to work with someone who didn't at least make me feel like I was a priority would get old fast.