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Sharing Some Trade Secrets…

Posted on July 21, 2006

By Arlene Sheff, CMP

Today’s column brings comments from our supplier partners…a Senior Director of Catering and Convention Services, an Associate Director of Catering & Conference Services, Director of Event Catering, Catering Sales Manager and a special event company owner. Since they continually deal with meeting managers planning food and beverage functions, their insight can teach us some valuable lessons.

Each was asked to complete two sentences – and/or offer additional advice on how meeting planners can save money on F&B.

Here’s how our supplier partners completed the first sentence…If meeting planners only did/knew _______, they could save money on F&B.

  • If meeting planners only knew how hotels make a profit and what they can provide at least cost with most benefit (‘bang for their client’s buck’), planners could request benefits and cost savings of less impact to the hotel.
  • If meeting planners only knew to order their Continental Breakfast a la carte (dozens of bagels, gallons of coffee, etc.) rather than the full Continental Breakfast, they could save money on F&B.
  • If meeting planners only knew exact numbers, they could save money on F&B.
  • If meeting planners only knew more about their groups’ needs and objectives, they could save money on F&B.
  • If meeting planners only knew actual consumption history for the last 3 years, they could save money on F&B. I find meeting planners have detailed room history and copies of event orders and banquet checks, but rarely do they have the ACTUAL consumption of hors d’oeuvres, liquor etc. or the ACTUAL numbers of meals served. They either order too much or not enough. If they short order, they are forced to add more during the event and can’t negotiate the same price, but have to take whatever is available.

Here’s how our supplier partners completed the second sentence…Meeting planners are overspending on _______ because ___________.

  • Meeting planners are overspending on their guarantees (case in point, breakfast items) because they are afraid of ‘running out.’ Select items that can be easily and quickly replenished if it looks like its going to run out (pastries, yogurt, or packaged items)
  • Meeting planners are overspending on bottled waters, soft drinks, and coffee (for refreshes) because they don’t indicate specific amounts to the hotel on their f&b specs.
  • Meeting planners are overspending on themed lunch buffets, because people aren’t into eating hot lunch items on 95 degree days.
  • Meeting planners are overspending on DMCs because they charge so much more than if they worked with the hotel CSM staff directly.
  • Meeting planners are overspending on linens, flowers, décor, entertainment, etc. because they don’t try to use resources and/or contacts through hotel catering departments. They hire third party vendors who hire others and add layer upon layer of additional expenses.
  • Meeting planners can also save if they start the planning process 6-9 months out. Most catering departments will give them the existing menus with the existing prices. If they wait too long, the hotel may have changed menu pricing.
  • Also, a good relationship with the Chef and CSM will always go a long way to great teamwork and a mutual understanding of your event. Chefs will work with you a lot more when there is a personal relationship attached.

This concludes my column and it’s time for me to say goodbye. Many thanks to my supplier partners who participated in my questionnaire.

I know it will be hard for me to give up my Jeweled Guru Crown, but they warned me it will turn to straw when Friday draws to a close. It’s been a pleasure writing about Food and Beverage Cost Saving Tips. I still have many more up my sleeve, so please catch up with me another time. Hope you’ll stay tuned for other interesting topics.


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