by Sarah J.F. Braley | April 01, 2008

chartAmidst a rising tide of complaints about skyrocketing food and beverage invoices, M&C surveyed meeting planners this past February to discern how they are handling this challenge. Of the 164 respondents, 20 percent said they have seen prices increase dramatically, and 73 percent said prices have increased somewhat. Just 2 percent report having seen lower prices.

Those surveyed are using a number of different measures to cut food costs. These include ordering less expensive ingredients, mentioned by 59 percent of the sample. The next most cited strategies are ordering less food per person (47 percent) and taking meetings to less expensive destinations (45 percent).

One planner noted that she has used a lunch’s dessert service as the afternoon break at no extra charge, and another has eliminated all hosted meals and breaks from certain meetings, where feasible.

To trim the liquor bill, 56 percent of the survey sample said they serve wine and beer exclusively, while 36 percent said they have instituted a cash bar and another 36 percent have ordered house brands instead of top-shelf liquor. Other methods include using drink tickets to control costs and reducing the length of the cocktail hour.

Planners find they can’t scrimp too much on menus, however, if they want to keep their participants satisfied. About three-quarters of the respondents (74 percent) said the quality of F&B is very important to their meeting attendees, and the other 26 percent said it is somewhat important.

Some of those surveyed are having minimal success when it comes to haggling over food prices. However, the largest number (43 percent) said hotels are not very flexible during the negotiating process, while 11 percent said hotels are not bending at all. Properties are somewhat willing to work with planners when it comes to pricing, according to 41 percent of respondents, while just 5 percent said they have found hotels to be very flexible.

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