Food and beverage costs are increasingly taking a bigger slice of the meeting budget. Patrick Berwald, vice president of food and beverage for Benchmark Global Hospitality, offered some, ahem, food for thought about F&B for small meetings.
What are some of the reasons for the increase in F&B cost?
Cost of product and changes in commodity pricing have impacted food pricing. Concessions, meaning discounting to secure the business, are often seen in contractual percentages off F&B retail pricing or hosted events, but retail pricing has to fluctuate in order for the operators to meet their food/beverage cost targets [margin].
Planners are being tasked to reduce this meeting element. How can small meetings address this?
Small meeting planners must reach out to the property for a customized approach so that meeting goals can still be achieved while managing costs.
Is it helpful to hold a small meeting in a larger venue that may have more resources?
In fact, quite the opposite is true, as smaller venues often have resources that are leveraged through cross-utilization efforts. Resources to support larger venues would be primarily driven by significant business.
Does the trend of “experiential” meetings—with an emphasis on local food or local food traditions—add to the F&B cost?
Yes. Often, local vendors have higher costs and are not able to leverage economies of scale. As such, costs are passed on to the customer.
If meeting spaces for small groups are now more flexible or nontraditional, does that translate to less expensive, more casual dining options or more expense?
Restaurants and hotel public spaces are now the go-to alternative to traditional meeting space. They offer user-friendly options to entertain and don’t come with the exponential fees associated with banquet functions.
What are the challenges from the provider’s side of the coin?
[Nontraditional spaces] are a benefit for the operator, as they are able to maximize on all spaces—oftentimes being able to host private events in public spaces while still generating revenue though transient channels.
Interview by Carolyn Koenig. Read more about small meetings in her story, “Size Does Matter: Small Meetings’ Impact on Planners, Destinations and Hotels Belies Their Size,” in the September issue of Smart Meetings.