May 2011

Take 10: F&B: Creating Impressions on a Budget

1. With some of the outrageous prices for coffee, what do you suggest doing in order to save on beverages and beverage breaks?

To save money on coffee, here are some options:
Order coffee by the gallon and estimate coffee consumption accurately according to gender and whether they are heavy regular coffee or decaf drinkers. The 8th edition of The Convention Industry Council Manual indicates the following for a morning break: for all male group, 60% will drink regular coffee , 20% decaf and 10% tea. If all female group, 50% will drink regular. 25% decaf and 15% tea. If the group is 50/50 male to female, 55% will drink regular, 25% decaf & 10% tea. Figure 20 (6 oz. cups) per gallon to determine number of gallons needed. You can even order 1/2 gallons.  The more you know your group's usage, the more accurate your ordering can be. If 'to go' cups are provided, coffee consumption increases.
Compare ordering coffee per gallon price with price per person per break or per day, if facility can provide that type of pricing.
Order conservatively and ask banquet captain to assist you in watching levels in coffee pots so more can be added a gallon or a few gallons at a time. Most of the time, coffee is readily available in the 'back of the house' and can be brought out fairly quickly. If your room is far from the 'back of the house' corridor, your first order may need to be a bit more as replacement may take too long.
Any food or beverages left out in public areas needs to have signage and be monitored to prevent those passing by from helping themselves. This is a challenge that might be discussed at a pre-con meeting and perhaps request banquet staff to be assigned to watch for your badges. That is another one of your responsibilities as a meeting professional.
Another way to save money on coffee or break items is to have hotel provide the break on wheels and instruct the them to wheel it away at the exact time the break is supposed to end. This will force attendees to be on time in the morning - and get everyone into the meeting on time.

2. Is it rude to ask speakers if they will attend meal functions?

No, it is not rude to ask speakers if they will attend meal functions, if you phrase it correctly.  Indicate that you are inviting them and would like an RSVP so you can provide enough food for everyone who would like to participate.
You can also improve the accuracy of your food counts if you check with locals to see if they will be attending breakfast and/or evening receptions/dinner. Many times locals feel like they can drift in late or leave early and they won't be noticed; but your guarantees will be jeopardized.
A registration form asking which meals each person will attend might be appropriate.

3. What was the comment again about changing the reception time?

When attendees go to their rooms to rest and change clothes, they are more relaxed when they arrive at the reception and will enjoy the food and drinks more. Less food, but more drinks, will be consumed at a reception that is scheduled before a dinner. Many guests will carry drinks from the bar to their table. When the cocktail reception is scheduled immediately after a meeting (s5:00 to 6:00 pm), food consumption will be less than if the reception is held later. Source: Professional Meeting Management PCMA Manual.

4. What's the name of the bartender training?

TIPS (Training for Intervention ProcedureS) is a dynamic, skills-based training program designed to prevent intoxication, drunk driving and underage drinking by enhancing the fundamental "people skills" of servers, sellers and consumers of alcohol.

TIPS gives individuals the knowledge and confidence they need to recognize potential alcohol-related problems and intervene to prevent alcohol-related tragedies.

5. Can you clarify what Dead Stock is and the comment about shortening a reception?

Dead Stock is special order beer or wine that was not consumed. Perhaps it was a special order for a group or a 'specialty of the house/chef, etc.' that has changed. Dead stock beverages can be purchased by groups at a discounted price, however, many times there will not be enough of one type for the entire group. If one type for the entire group is not a requirement, then there can be a price savings.

If you shorten the length of a cocktail reception, no one will notice and fewer beverages will be consumed.

6. Your thoughts on bringing own alcohol/drinks for hospitality suite.

First, check with the facility to find out if you are allowed to bring in alcohol to their suites. I've worked with hotels that do not allow alcohol purchased from the outside to be brought into their hospitality suites.
Even if you do bring in alcohol/drinks that will be consumed in the hospitality suite, PAY TO HAVE A BARTENDER SERVE THE ALCOHOL. It will limit your organization's liability.

7. Several the pictures you showed seem to be labor intensive which increases the costs. Or does it, since this webinar is on F&B on a Budget.

You're right, some of the slides were not cost effective, but they did show creative ways to serve food and beverages which was another one of the takeaways...Create food and beverage functions that wow your guests...for the webinar.

8. How do we sign up for your newsletters?

Please contact e-Media Content Developer Zach Chouteau at Zachary.Chouteau@meetingsfocus.com

9. Is it necessary to include sodas (on consumption) with a breakfast if juices are included?

The answer to this question depends on you 'knowing your group.' It's been my experience that not everyone drinks coffee, but the soda lovers drink soda in the morning as their caffeine boost. I've also found that people from California are looking for soda with breakfast. Learn what your group's preferences.

10. Is there normally a charge for taste testing?

In my 35 years of experience, I've NEVER been asked to pay for a taste testing. Remember, it's not a free lunch for a group of friends, but rather a presentation of what can be expected for your banquet. Those attending the tasting will be sharing various items/plates. You can ask to do a taste test of a hotel or outside caterer.

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