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Ignite your Budget Carving Skills

Creative cost-cutting tips for memorable events that won't break your budget

by Rose Filice

From plated sit-down banquets to cocktails and hors d’oeuvres to conference breaks, food and beverage are a must-have for most events, but they’re also a hefty expense. By utilizing a few creative cost-cutting techniques, however, meeting planners can still provide attendees with a memorable experience, without breaking their budgets.

First step? “Establish a food and beverage budget and share it with your venue, requesting that they come up with a menu that meets your needs,” says Belinda Espley, past senior director, events and business operations, Women’s Executive Network in Toronto. Espley notes the importance of keeping the intent of your event in mind when choosing plated meals or buffets: “If it’s an elaborate affair, opt for the plated meal and save the buffet for casual ‘meet and greet’ events.”

For Vancouver-based Heather Corbett, principal and events specialist, Evenate Creative Group, keeping your numbers top-of-mind is one of the best ways to cut costs when selecting a menu for your event. Corbett recommends always knowing the exact number of delegates expected to attend, and anticipating that five to ten per cent may not show up. Corbett also underlines the value of fostering a good relationship with your supplier and keeping the lines of communication wide open. “It’s always worth asking questions about what they can do for you.”

A-Z Ideas for F+B
Go Big. For breaks, order coffee by the gallon and snacks by the dozen instead of per person, suggests Corbett—depending on the venue, this could add up savings of $4 to $5 for each attendee.

Customize. Work with the caterer or venue to create a menu according to your budget, rather than choosing from a set menu; when possible request seasonal items.

Boot the Bottle. Choose waterfilled jugs over bottled, suggests Espley, and order beverages based on consumption instead of the number of attendees.

Go Easy on the Sauce. Serving only beer and wine will trim the sometimes excessive cost of alcoholic beverages. But if you are serving liquor, Corbett proposes giving each attendee a set number of drink tickets.

Wine Not? Negotiate paying for wine by the bottle instead of by the glass. Or better yet, purchase wine directly from a distributor.

Menu Tips
Sharing over 30 years’ of event planning experience, Shannon Kilkenny’s, The Complete Guide to Successful Event Planning, 2nd Edition, is full of expert advice on planning events of any theme, size or budget. amazon.com

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