With You All the Way

by Sharron Campbell,

Certified Meeting Professional, 30 years experience

15 tips that will save food and beverage cost without sacrificing quality

There is an art to cutting cost without changing the quality of the food or the level of service for your planned meal functions, and it doesn’t have to be difficult.  There are simple adjustments you can make during the planning process that will result in a significant difference in your final bill.  Some of them will also contribute to the public relations benefit that your organization will enjoy for being environmentally friendly, which is something that you can promote in your promotional materials.

1.  Water has become a very hot issue. Bottled water prices have skyrocketed to become a significant expense to your food and beverage budget. The cost per bottle may be negotiable so discuss it with your caterer. Better yet, drop bottled water from your menus and beverage stations completely and serve water from refillable pitchers. There are lovely water containers that will enhance the appearance of water stations instead of using standard pitchers that can drip from cold water condensation on the outside. It will reduce or eliminate the cost for water and the need to recycle plastic bottles. For informal or outdoor gatherings, water coolers would be a better option if recyclable plastic cups are used.

 coffee cup logo Bing public domain
2.  Coffee has also skyrocketed in price, so the amount you offer for consumption must be carefully considered.  Request that coffee be served in smaller cups.  If that is not possible, request that a less expensive coffee be served.  Order by the ½ gallon with more frequent refills so you pay for what is needed rather than paying for full gallons that may not be consumed.

3. Use the “mixed” method when selecting menus.  Example, for a continental breakfast order the least expensive, bare bones option offered, then add yogurt and small, boxed cereals to be charged based on consumption rather than on a per person basis.

4. Ask for suggestions from the chef about seasonal food items that are currently available in the region at a lower cost.  The quality will be better and the ingredients fresher than if you order something out-of-season that has to be shipped from greater distances.

5. Ask the chef or your caterer about other groups they will be serving within a day or two of your event.  You may be able to choose a menu using the same food items that could then be ordered in bulk at a significant savings.

6. Consider serving plated meals.  Buffets can be more expensive.

7. If you go for a buffet, serve from fewer chafing dishes.  If four different items are served in four chafing dishes, people will typically take two items from each chafing dish for a total of eight pieces.  If five different items are served from five chafing dishes, guests will take ten pieces instead of eight from four.

8. “Action” food stations can be more cost effective because portions served will be smaller.  You will have to pay for a station attendant, but the cost will be less than what you will pay if guests are able to serve themselves.

9. Serving passed hors d’oeuvres at a reception is more cost effective than setting out food stations so mix it up or delete the food stations altogether when serving smaller groups.  Offer only 1 food item per tray so the hors d’oeuvres being passed are rotated frequently and don’t get boring.

10. Verify that iced tea and coffee are included in catering menus offered.

11. Present a price that includes iced tea, coffee, taxes and service charges (also referred to as “all inclusive”) to your caterer or the chef and see what he or she can do for that price.  You may be very pleasantly surprised!

12. Inquire about purchasing your alcoholic beverages from “dead stock” at a lower price, which means that the F&B Department or caterer will pull from stock left over from another group rather than ordering new stock with additional shipping and delivery charges.

13. Ask your caterer to define the different levels of liquor that can be served and specify your choices such as house, call, well, premium, top shelf.  Caterers may use different terminology, but “house” is usually the least expensive and “top shelf” the most expensive.

14. If table wine is to be served with a meal, place only one wine glass on the table and schedule wine to be served after the salad plates have been cleared.

15. Do not announce “last call” for beverages to be served before the bar closes.

See article on how to save money by minimizing or eliminating food and beverage waste. 

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