The following checklist was compiled by Diana Wellman, director of catering and food services at Naples Bay Resort (naplesbayresort.com) in Naples, Fla.
• Consider the duration of the event. Can you modify the agenda and eliminate a break, meal or guest night?
• Ask if the venue offers package pricing for F&B, which can deliver added value.
• Ask about off-peak dates and special offers.
• Ask whether any food and/or beverage vendors offer special pricing for the venue's clients.
• Inquire about last-minute cancellations for which your event might substitute at a reduced price.
• Consider eliminating continuous refreshment breaks, and plan a modest 15-minute midmorning and midafternoon break instead.
• Reduce cocktail reception time from 60 minutes to 30 or 45 minutes.
• Select per-piece hors d'oeuvres and have them served butler-style (passed on trays). Displays cost more and do not have the personal touch.
• Order by the tray instead of per person for all meal events.
• If you do have stations, put more expensive stations (such as shrimp) in places with less traffic -- say, the second floor if a venue has multiple levels.
• Scale back menu items. For example, offer a continental breakfast with an addition of breakfast sandwiches, and forego the full breakfast buffet of eggs, bacon, potatoes and other hot items.
• Host a station or heavy hors d'oeuvres dinner menu in lieu of a seated dinner.
• Consider providing lunch and letting attendees make their own arrangements for dinner.
• Inquire about selecting a lunch portion/menu for dinner.
• Serve a lower-cost cut of meat, such as thin flank (vacio), to replace a higher-cost cut, such as rib-eye.
• While fish prices fluctuate, investigate typically good-value choices such as tilapia.
• Consider whether local food items are less expensive due to reduced shipping costs.
• Ask for pitchers of water, soda and juice to save on the per-bottle pricing of consumption (and help the environment at the same time).
• Host a wine and beer bar instead of a full bar.
• Provide a limited number of drink tickets, and offer a cash bar after tickets are used.
• Inquire whether happy hour prices might be offered.
• Ask if there is an overstock of a wine that you can purchase for a lower cost.
• Inquire about providing your own beverages and paying a corkage fee.
• Don't offer wine/alcohol during dinner, but provide a cash bar instead.
Words of Wisdom
• Do not compromise on the quality of the food.
• Do not shortchange attendees on the amount of food; i.e., by ordering only enough for 50 if 100 guests are expected.
• Ensure there is sufficient staff to service your event. Service is as important as the food and ambience.
• Consider hiring a deejay instead of a live band, but don't forego entertainment.
• Do not apologize for the need to make cutbacks; in fact, don't allude to this at all.