With You All the Way

by Sharron Campbell,

Certified Meeting Professional, 30 years experience

Food and Beverage Catering Timeline

 
When planning for a conference, the food and beverage (F&B) component must be added to the timeline months or years in advance so that the desired function space can be reserved.  This won't be a problem if you are booking a conference that requires overnight guest rooms in a proportionate number to the number of attendees you expect for the meal functions.  But for a special event that does not require a significant number of sleeping rooms, you may have difficulty confirming space at hotels more than 90 days in advance.  There will be more flexibility if you are booking a free-standing venue that does not also provide overnight sleeping rooms.

Regardless, the time to begin finalizing the actual details with a caterer would be closer to the time of your planned meal functions - six months in advance or less.  The timeline may be relatively simple if the function you are planning is small and uncomplicated.  If it is complex, regardless of the size, the timeline will have to be extended to accommodate special arrangements that can be very time consuming.  Meal prices may not be quoted more than 90 days in advance due to the unpredictable market conditions that affect food prices, but a firm quote can be given earlier if you are willing to be flexible about the menu choices within that price range as you get closer to the event.  Good caterers can always suggest wonderful alternatives if the particular menu item you prefer is too pricey for your budget at the time of your function.

Timeline setup instructions and sample documents - 
The F&B timeline sample that is available for you here is incomplete and pertains only to some of the tasks required when making arrangements for a planned meal function.  It is meant for use as a guideline for set-up of your own timeline that addresses the specific needs of your meeting or event. 

If you are also involved in other aspects of the planning process, it will be important for you to review the intro and sample of the Overall Event Timeline that includes both main and sub-categories.  Sub-categories may not always be required in timelines for smaller events or single areas of responsibility within a large event.  Your F&B checklist will serve as a reminder for many tasks that must be included in your timeline.

  
Sample F&B Timeline.PDF
Sample F&B Timeline.XLS
Sample Overall Event Timeline with instructions in Before You Book topic

 
   
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