Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Quick Tip...

for reducing your meeting’s food and beverage bill.

Serve dessert at your afternoon break.

It is such a simple concept, yet it is one that is often overlooked by novice planners. Indeed, most planners I work with when they are new to the field tend to treat each meal function as a separate event, unconnected to any other on the schedule. Although this is true to some extent, when it comes to breaks, you have a golden opportunity to save some money while providing timely snacks to your group.

I have often seen draft agendas that have lunch from 12:30 – 1:30, with a break (including more food!) set to occur at 2 or 2:30. Now, I love to eat, especially when someone else is paying for it, but this is a lot of food in a very short time. Your attendees will have just had lunch, including dessert, and you are now offering them more food – which is likely to be just as sugary as dessert…

Some planners believe that, in a situation like this, people will self-regulate and eat less at the break than they would if the break were served later. From my observations, though, that does not seem to generally be the case. People still pile up their plates with cookies (or whatever else is served). They then snack on the pile for a while and end up leaving most of the plate sitting on a table somewhere – uneaten! Not only have we failed to have people take less food but we have also generated a lot of wasted food – and spent a fair amount of money to do so.

The two primary solutions I offer to clients are (1) to change the time of the afternoon break and/or (2) to serve the dessert from lunch at the afternoon break. If they also need to rein in their budget, then I really will push for option #2. In fact, I will often recommend option #2 even if the break is or can be scheduled at a later time.

Serving dessert at the break instead of immediately after lunch helps spread out the meal a bit. People eat a bit less (or there is less wasted food) at lunch and their stomachs will not be as full – they will be ready for dessert when you serve it later. And, since dessert is typically included in the price of the lunch you provided, you are not spending more to have it brought out at the break. [So long as this option is arranged ahead of time, most hotels are quite willing to work with you on it and do not charge extra for serving dessert separately.] So… not only have we saved some money by not serving a whole new set of snacks but we will also, hopefully, find ourselves with less food left over both after lunch and after the break.

While this solution does not work for all groups in all situations, it is one more option to be aware of that you can use to trim your food costs while still providing your event’s participants with an enjoyable conference food experience.

- Karl Baur, CMP, Project Director