The Event Planner’s Guide to Food and Beverage (F&B) Minimums

September 10, 2021

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One of the main reasons that people love to attend face-to-face events is for the opportunity to network with like-minded professionals. While most meetings have dedicated times for attendees to network, one of the most commonly used times to network is over the catered lunches and dinners at events. This is the time when attendees can take a break, relax and form relationships.

It is also where a fair portion of your meeting’s budget is spent and where hotels will make a nice profit. In order to protect this revenue stream, most hotels include a minimum food and beverage spend in their contracts. This is simply the minimum amount of catered food and beverage that you’re required to spend during your meeting. Sitting in your hotel contact, you probably see it as a liability and try to negotiate it down. When in reality, it is clear that the size of your meeting will hit the minimum, if not exceed it. That means when your meeting arrives and you actually do spend more than the food and beverage minimum, you’re not getting credit for the difference. Sure, you’ve lowered your liability, but at what cost to the organization?

Turn the Tables on the F&B Minimum

What if instead of viewing your F&B minimum as a liability, you see it as a benefit to drive value to your hotel partner? Follow our tips below to start seeing your F&B minimum as a benefit!

Add a Second F&B Minimum to Unlock Extra Value

Yes, you read that correctly let’s add a second minimum. Think of it this way, the first is for the hotel and the second is for your company.

Here’s a real-world example. Say you’re having a sales manager retreat, with 50 people for three nights. That’s three breakfasts, three lunches, three dinners, and at least one cocktail reception. You do your homework and come up with your budget for the event.

  • Your estimated food & beverage budget: $16,000
  • The hotel’s minimum F&B: $12,000
  • Difference: $4,000 — in your favor

This additional spend of $4,000 means you could have real leverage to add some value to your overall meeting. Need additional suite upgrades? How about IT help? Whatever you might be missing from your bag of goodies can be leveraged now that you’ve committed to spending beyond the hotel’s minimum.

Tell your hotel salesperson: “I agree to the F&B minimum and I want another number put into the contract. If we spend at least $16,000 on F&B, we’ll unlock these additional concessions.”

Miss your Minimum? Remember ‘PPAPP’

Hey, it happens sometimes but as long as you plan ahead you will be okay. Hotels have wiggle room with F&B minimums, because “Penalty Payments Are Pure Profit” (PPAPP). Here’s the rationale: For every $1,000 a patron spends on F&B, the hotel pays approximately $300 in hard costs (the actual food and beverages consumed). If you miss your F&B minimum, the hotel isn’t incurring the costs of those extra meals and drinks.

Put in your contact: “In the event that the F&B minimum is not met, the customer will pay 70% of the difference between the F&B minimum and the actual spend.”

Ask the Hotel Up-front what their F&B Minimum is for your Dates

Most hotels have a minimum amount of F&B spend that they need to earn per room night. Usually, this varies depending on what time of the year it is. If you’re planning an event that has a lot of food & beverage spend, ask the hotels to quote you their per-day F&B minimum. It’s a great number to have before you start negotiating. Knowing this number also lets you gauge the likelihood that the hotel is the right fit for you and your budget. It will also help you understand if you have leverage with the hotel already built into your budget.

Ultimately, you have a lot of ways to build strong value for your meeting. Once you know what information to feed the hotels and what you can set up within your own control, you are on your way to having an F&B budget that will keep tummies full and your budget in control!

Latest Trends in Food and Beverage for Meetings and Events

As many planners know, food and beverage can make or break the attendee experience. Even if an event is planned to the T, a poor F&B choice could soil all of the hard work an event planner has put into cultivating a successful event. That’s why event planners need to keep up with trends when utilizing their F&B budget. Today’s latest and greatest F&B trends are simple to remember, just follow the “Three S’s:” sustainability, seasonal, and style.

Select Sustainable Options

Waste is out, and sustainability is very in. Going green is trendy, and plant-based diets are all the rage. Creating a farm-to-table experience shows event attendees that planners are in touch with not only the world but also the environment. Buying food locally and supporting local restaurants provide a sense of community in attendees and a unified experience with an event’s venue.

Long gone are the days when pizza would cater to everyone’s dietary needs. These days, planners need to be able to navigate their attendees’ health and consumption styles. With more people today going gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, or vegan, planners are faced with a restriction, limitation, or obstacle at every corner. More than that, attendees expect that their dietary needs will be met, no matter how unique or complex.

Buying locally, organically, and sustainably, as well as incorporating more plant-based and unprocessed food, tends to reduce the risk of any attendee issues. By catering to attendees’ needs, planners show that they care about their health and well-being and that they value loyalty above the extra effort that may come with personalization.

Some may argue that catering locally or organically might make it harder to foot the bill, but there are easy and sustainable ways to increase your F&B spend. Recent studies show that millennials prefer memorable experiences over cheap, free give-a-ways. By reducing the number of branded items left in baskets usually plastic products that eventually end up in the trash planners can save money while saving the world. Instead, spend a little more on the tastes and smells that they’ll be drooling over for days to come.

Stay Seasonal

Not only does produce taste best when it’s in season but tying in seasonal ingredients and flavors makes attendees feel nostalgic and celebratory. Since we’re currently mid-fall, here are a few inspiration ideas to try out this season:

Nothing says harvest season like a good ol’ fashioned homemade pie. Big blueberry pies, bite-sized apple pies, even the savory kind, this time of year is one where dessert rises to the occasion and shines. It certainly can’t hurt to embrace the time of year and give attendees what they want a slice of home with a side of ice cream.

Fall cocktails are also a simple but attractive option to add to a menu. Fruity fall flavors like pumpkin, apple, cranberry, and pear are high in demand and can be mixed with nearly any liquor with the right recipe. Sprinkle a little cinnamon or nutmeg in there and your event is well on its way to raving reviews.

Not only do seasonal ingredients help enhance the F&B experience, but creating a seasonal atmosphere with your selections never hurts. Right now, craft breweries are doing better than ever. ” Breweries have a rustic vibe, with oaky colors and flavors that fit right in with the flannel-bearing season. For planners with a larger F&B budget, consider partnering with local craft breweries to get attendees’ attention.

Keep it Stylish

The only things millennials like more than experiences, are experiences that they can photograph to share on social media. Ensuring that an event’s F&B options are Instagrammable provides planners with an extra opportunity for attendee engagement. Instead of simply eating their food, attendees are experiencing it, photographing it, telling others about how great it looks and how much better it tastes. Whether this takes the form of cute and creative mini-cupcakes or beverages that border on experiments is up to the planner and the function of the event, but everyone loves food that’s fun.

Boring food is a missed social marketing opportunity. The more fun an event’s F&B is, the more attendees want to show it off, and the more they share it. Playing around with foaming drinks or fancy designs is a great opportunity to increase word of mouth.

How to Go the Extra Mile with your F&B Budget

Everybody loves to eat, including the people who attend your events. Make a lasting impression by going the extra mile on the culinary side of things. In most meeting and event programs, the overall spend on Food & Beverage is comfortably in the top three expense lines; and with food at its height on the ‘sexy’ meter, why haven’t you given it the attention it deserves? What’s stopping you from making your program the most delectable one on the market? Check these quick hits that you should consider for your next event:

Get On Trend

It wouldn’t kill you to take a break from the ‘cut and paste method of choosing the food for your next program. Take a combination of your favorite food reality show trends combined with the open creativity from your designated chef and sprinkle a little bit of “Google” search dust and presto…you should be able to come up with some creative, on-point food ideas. People dig good, creative food and they’ll talk about it, snap pics about it and share it all also. Yes, that means scrap that cookie and soda pop break for cold-pressed juices and a yoga stretch.

Cooking Up a Great Speaker

It’s been said that chefs today are the rockstars of our time. And so why wouldn’t you consider one as your next keynote or main session speaker. Yes, athletes, entrepreneurs, and motivational speakers are great but ever listen to the journey of a chef, master mixologist, or restauranteur? Life stories that are just as compelling and at times, even more captivating.

Fuel In…Garbage Out

Consider thinking about your event food as the fuel that drives your attendees. Focus on choosing, creative, healthier, and small spurt meal options. Lay off the refined sugars, white starches, and high sodium content. Programs at events are compact, back-to-back, lightning-fast, and intense; it’s about time we start feeding our attendees properly. And while you’re at it, let’s not forget our industry’s tendency to over-order and generate piles of food waste…looking for more budget money to super-size your program or upgrade the eats? Well, there it is, in the compost bin with all the uneaten food.

Budget Properly

It’s amazing what we are willing to pay for ingredients on our dime floating through the grocery aisles or for that half-caff latte at the local, big-name coffee shop. As commodities continue to rise at rapid rates (coffee, produce, proteins and wages specifically), have planners done enough to budget for one of their most important line items? And yes, going from salmon salad to salmon sashimi is going to cost more so remember, you gotta give a little to get a little. Still tight?…order less, local and in season too, that’ll save you some extra pennies.

Team Build Through Your Tummies

Recently, I’ve attended a couple of interesting events that were interactive with elements of celeb chef cooking, team building, and ‘Chopped’-like cook-offs. Engage your venue and get their culinary team involved, create teams, and black-box some secret ingredients. It’s a concept that is full of action and scalable and sure to be more fun than wrapped sandwiches and cheesecake.

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Looking to humanize your event? Consider the irony of the event’s industry food waste practices and North America’s growing hunger issue. In most cases, a simple, balanced breakfast can cost as little as $1.00 per person. And imagine the alarming rate of hungry (especially children), how your event can make a tremendous difference by integrating a socially responsible program with a local community? There are school breakfast programs, food banks, and community food centers as a starting point. Truly, there’s so much that can be done with so little, have your event give it a try.

Food has always been the ‘last-minute, poor cousin’ who generally gets little attention, being pushed to the bitter end in the planning process. Would you ignore one of your own largest investments in your personal life?…likely not. It deserves an honest, calculated look and can really make your event tick and tock. Remember, “the way to a person’s heart is their stomach.”

The SECRETS to Mouthwatering F&B on a Budget

Food will make or break your event. Food and beverage spend not only accounts for a significant percentage of your budget, but F&B is often what attendees remember most vividly about an event. Mealtimes bring guests together, encourage discussions, and facilitate decision-making. Below are tips on how to make your food and therefore your event memorable, influential, and overall, great. To generate a successful event, you must keep in mind three things: the price, taste, and aesthetic of the food you are serving. F&B leaves a lasting impression on your guests, so don’t leave a sour taste in their mouths!

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