When it comes to finding the perfect event venue, we strongly stand by the statement that there are ‘no dumb questions!’ The more seemingly-silly questions you ask, the better of an understanding you will have when it comes time to sign the contract. Of course, we already gave you all the most important questions to ask (find it on our blog here!), and we also gave you all the second most important questions to ask (find that one on this blog here!) … now it is time to narrow the questions down even further to everyone’s favourite topic… FOOD! It’s time to dig deep into the key food questions to ask each event venue before you sign on the dotted line!
Is there an Opportunity to Reduce the Food & Beverage Minimum?
Most of the time, a venue will have a food and beverage minimum, regardless of the number of guests. A food and beverage minimum is simply a set dollar amount that must be spent on, you guessed it, food and beverages at venue (or caterer) on the day of your event. What you choose to use that dollar amount on in terms of food and beverage is up to you! A cocktail bar, desserts, expensive proteins, etc. – the world is your oyster when it comes to selecting what to serve! But don’t think that the minimum requirement is non-negotiable! In some instances, you may not be able to get around the food and beverage minimum (no matter how hard you try – and believe us when we say, we work our hardest to get the best bang for our client’s buck!), but there are ways for you to negotiate. For example, rather than purchasing enough hors d’oeuvres to feed a village, discuss the option of adding a champagne tower instead – offering an element of wow-factor while meeting the food and beverage requirements!
REMINDER: Don’t forget that the food and beverage minimum costs do not include gratuity or tax! Clarify if bar sales can count toward your minimums.
Can I Bring an External Supplier/Caterer?
Perhaps your under-the-sea themed event NEEDS to have the top Grecian seafood chef. Or maybe food trucks are the best fit for your millennial event audience. When booking a venue, clarify whether external suppliers or caterers are allowed to be used. Although each event venue will have a list of preferred caterers they are partnered with, some are flexible on whether they are mandatory or suggestions. If not, and your heart is set on it, keep looking for a venue that will meet your needs (especially if you already bought the chef’s plane ticket!).
What Flexibility Do You Have with the Chef to Order Off Menu?
Chefs at venues often have a set menu that they offer in the venue packages to clients. If the existing menu does not have a specific item that you would like to serve, you’ll need to ask if the chef is flexible with off-menu orders. Discuss the off-menu options and see if you can come to an agreement, especially if the answer to the last question in this blog was ‘no’. This is an important consideration, especially if you are at a venue for multiple days or have been going back year after year. It can get frustrating when a venue’s menu never changes and you simply can’t serve your group another “rubber chicken” lunch. Also, if a majority of your guests have dietary restrictions (allergies, celiac, keto, gluten-free, vegan, etc.) and you need to ensure the comfort and safety of your guests.
We also love the Hyatt Regency in Calgary’s new menus that offer a different breakfast and lunch buffet every day of the week! They are different and fresh and it’s a great way to offer your guests something different.
Can You Bring in Sponsored Alcohol? What Are the Corkage Fees?
Planning to bring your own alcohol to the event? You will need to ask about this ahead of time! A majority of restaurants and venues will have a ‘corkage fee’ – an extra fee added to your contract when your own alcohol is brought to a venue. A corkage fee is there as a service charge to allow for compensation of the lost revenue and extra services provided. Keep in mind that these fees will range anywhere between $10-$80 per bottle or can even be charged per person! Ask before so you aren’t suddenly stuck with an extra cost!
What Concessions Can They Offer You?
When it comes to a full day at a conference or hours spent mingling with coworkers at a company event, people tend to get snacky. Is there going to be food and drink available for your guests? Mid-day donuts (our favourites!!), a popcorn machine, or even a coffee bar with drinks and snacks are all options that will add to your guest’s experience!
Another thing to look for is all-day coffee Will they put out coffee for the day and make sure it NEVER runs out? (This is often the difference between a conference centre and a convention centre or a hotel).
BONUS TIP: If you are having your event at a hotel, ask about offering your guests a discount to the attached restaurant!
Is There Accessibility to Restaurants & Food Services?
If you are planning an over-night conference or convention in a city outside of your own, be sure that your guests have access to food! Your conference will probably offer snacks or one or two meals, but chances are your guests will want more after a hard day of socializing and learning. Before booking, ask to see if there is easy accessibility to restaurants and food services near the hotel. This will make all the difference when you get your feedback cards – no one likes to be left alone in a strange city without food… Give the people what they want/need!
Also be sure the venue knows your schedule. If your group loves to socialize at the lobby bar they need to be well stocked and staffed. Make sure they know your group will arrive at the bar at X time and for them to be prepared.
When it comes to food at your party, gathering, or special occasion, there is always plenty to think about. Consider asking each of these questions when selecting an event venue and find the one that meet the requirements of your event while satisfying the bellies of your guests!