Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ordering Items "On Consumption"

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned a few ways to gain a measure of control over your F&B budget at your meetings, conferences, and events. Ordering some of your items “on consumption” is another easy way to manage your costs.

“On consumption” is a term that essentially means that you only pay for what your attendees actually take or consume, instead of paying for everything that the hotel puts out for them to choose from. When you order sodas “on consumption” for your group of 40 people, for example, the hotel might put out 40 cans but, if only 15 sodas are taken by your participants, then you only pay the hotel for those 15 instead of the 40 they put out on the table. When you scale this up to a large event, the potential savings can be huge. But, before you get too excited about the possibilities, please bear in mind that there are a few limits as to what this can be applied to.

This approach really only works with pre-packaged items that do not spoil or otherwise become unsafe to serve again at a later date. For example: bottles or cans of soda, water, or other beverages; candy or snack bars; ice cream bars; or bags of chips or nuts – these are all good candidates for being ordered “on consumption”. The hotel can take any "left over" items and sell them to another group. Whole fruit is also often a viable possibility as well (they come pre-packaged by nature) as there are many uses for fruit that the hotel can take advantage of before they spoil.

It cannot be done with items such as pastries, breads, carving stations, coffee or tea, fresh-baked cookies, etc. These items, once made for you, are yours. The hotel cannot repackage them to sell (or give!) to another group – in fact, in many cases, they legally are forbidden from doing so.

So what about the other end of the spectrum? What if the group decides to take a lot more that what we can pay for? Let’s use our group of 40 people as the example again. To prevent our example group from taking way more than what we are prepared (or able) to pay for, we set an upper limit with the hotel. By instructing them to put out no more than 45 sodas, we have effectively capped the total amount that we would have to pay for these drinks – which means we can know with certainty how much of our budget is committed to this item.

As a meeting planner, wise use of “on consumption” can really help you to manage your F&B budget – but you have to ask for it. Few catering departments will offer it to you. As always, though, the hotel is your partner in this. Work with them to determine which of their F&B items are best suited to order “on consumption” and which items are best suited for your group and their needs.

- Karl Baur, CMP, Project Director