Savvy meeting planners are always looking for ways to keep costs down without compromising quality for attendees. Food and beverage always consumes a large part of any meeting’s budget, but there are ways to help take a “bite” out of this expense.
Meeting planners from across the nation shared their favorite tricks of the trade when it comes to saving on food and beverage costs by posting them on the popular ConventionPlanit.com Stellar Tips list.
* Serve pitchers of water with and without slices of lemon. Attendees love the twist of lemon and it cuts down on wasted, half-drunk bottles of water and attendees grabbing two or three bottles “for the road” which can add up to big costs. Plus it is more environmentally friendly. (Linda Testa, A O North America)
* Use self-serve soda stations instead of cans. This saves on waste and also keeps attendees for taking extra cans with them. (Susan Neff, APICS)
* When serving wine, ask if there is any dead stock, that is, discontinued varieties. They are usually sold at a discount to help clear out inventory. This works especially well when the wine bottles are at the table. No one will know that different varieties are being served. (Diane Aquino-Medina, Nestle Professional)
* Ask to be with the beverage manager when the bar count is done. Inform your hotel convention manager in advance that you would like to do this. Being present keeps the manager honest, especially when having to measure out tenths of bottles (how liquor is measured) and can add up to big savings.
* If your budget is really tight, consider giving out snack vouchers instead of setting up a break table. Attendees get a certain amount of money ($3-5) for the snack shop in the hotel. You pay only for the vouchers that are redeemed. (Kathy Craig, Ecumenical Stewardship Center)
* Don’t be afraid to get creative with banquet menus. Work with the hotel staff to combine items from various menus (lunch, dinner, special events) to create the meals you want. (Carol David, Axcelis Technologies)
· If you are on a budget and need to plan a full day of meals, provide the total amount you have to spend to the chef or catering manager and request that they customize menus based on the specific requirements for each event. This allows the chef to be creative with dishes and to utilized local products, which should be less expensive.
* Keep breakfast budgets in check by asking the catering director to cut pastries (danish, muffins, bagels) in half. They go farther and many people want only half. (Laura Johnson, Market*Access)
* At a reception, pass/butler more expensive items. They will last longer and it will save money. Another trick is to use only napkins (not plates) on the table. This will keep people from loading up a plate.
* Instead of serving dessert at lunch, save it to serve at the coffee break. This will provide a yummy treat and keep calorie-conscious attendees from indulging in two sweets during the day. This is a good tip if there isn’t enough money in the food and beverage budget for food at the coffee break.
* Make sure the banquet or catering manager has the final meeting agenda to ensure that breaks and meals are in sync with that agenda. (Lori Schwarze, RTI International)
* Plan ahead with hotel staffing to make sure that bars and restaurants are adequately staffed to handle attendees during free time, especially if those times don’t coordinate with normal meal/bar times.
* Prepare for all special dietary needs. Some people are shy or overly considerate to voice their preferences. Offer lo-carb, vegetarian, gluten free, etc., fare to please all. (Susan Neff, APICS)
Lucky enough to have surplus funds in the F&B budget?
* Have a continuous all-day refreshment break outside of breakout rooms. This will save attendees from having to search for staff if they need something outside a scheduled break time and will keep them from going hungry. (Nancy Williams, Plan Ahead Events)
* Use the money to combine food with a team-building event such as putting together food boxes for charity, having a wine-making event, or having teams create their own ice cream flavors.
These helpful hints can help to maximize or trim a F&B budget, allowing you to enjoy your just desserts!
Want to make some money? Visit the ConventionPlanit.com Stellar Tip Contest and submit your best tips. If your tip receives the most votes from fellow meeting professionals next month, you will win a $100 American Express Reward Card!