The is the first in a series of cost-saving checklists. We turned to some of the biggest names in the meeting business for their advice on getting the most from your money. In upcoming months, look for cost-saving tips on transportation, audiovisual services, and printing.

Checklist/Food & Beverage

  1. KNOW YOUR GROUP'S HISTORY. Closely analyze how many people attend your food functions and how much they eat and drink; that way you won't pay for meals and drinks that aren't being consumed.

  2. CONTROL WHAT IS SERVED. Open one bottle of red and white per table and fill glasses only on request. If a table requests more wine, have servers check with the planner before opening another bottle. There may be half-empty bottles at other tables.

  3. SKIP THE TOP SHELF. Use house-brand cocktails and wine instead of premium brands.

  4. NEGOTIATE BARTENDER FEES. If you agree to a beverage minimum, negotiate to eliminate the bartender fees if you meet the minimum.

  5. USE STAND-UP TABLES FOR COCKTAIL RECEPTIONS. That way, people are more likely to network and less likely to hang around and drink and eat all night.

  6. LINES ARE OK, TO A POINT. At cocktail receptions, don't be afraid of having medium-size lines at the bar. Long lines are a no-no, but lines that are five or six deep encourage networking and discourage over-indulging on cocktails.

  7. ASK THE CHEF. Meet with the chef or catering personnel to see if you can use the same menu as another group that is meeting at your facility at the same time. Having the chef prepare more of the same food in advance can result in cost savings. Also, check with the chef for seasonal or regional specialties, which might be less expensive.

  8. LOCK IN MENU PRICES. If the hotel will not provide a specific menu in advance, at least agree that menu prices will not increase more than a fixed percentage per year.

  9. ORDER AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE “BY CONSUMPTION.” Uneaten food and drink can be returned and not charged. This works well with soda and packaged foods, such as potato chips, but also can be done with perishables.

  10. USE SIT-DOWN MEALS. This can cut food preparation labor costs as much as 20 percent.

  11. SKIP THE DESSERT, SALAD, OR SOUP. Attendees won't miss the courses, and dessert can be served at breaks.

  12. Place Expensive Food Items in Harder-to-reach Places On the Banquet Table.

  13. TRY STAFFED FOOD STATIONS SUCH AS STIR-FRY STATIONS AND PASTA TABLES.

  14. AVOID SHRIMP, OYSTERS, AND OTHER DELICACIES.

  15. FIND A SPONSOR. A local winery or microbrewery might pick up your liquor costs.

  16. USE A CONTROLLED-POUR SYSTEM. Make sure that bartenders measure what they pour. If you are being charged per drink, you may find a “liberal ice” policy and weaker drinks. If you are being charged by the bottle, the mixed drinks might be too strong.

  17. ASK THE HOTELIER FOR A DISCONTINUED WINE LABEL. These often cost less.

  18. RE-USE OPENED BOTTLES OF LIQUOR AND WINE. One logical place would be your hospitality or VIP suite.

  19. USE SMALLER PLATES.

  20. RE-USE CENTERPIECES. Or ask attendees to bring something related to the meeting's theme that can be used in centerpieces. The items later can be donated to a charity.

More On/Meetingsnet.com

For more info, visit our Web site. Keywords: Cost-saving tips

SOURCES: Vicky Betzig, CMP, founder, Meetings Industry Consulting, Brookfield, Wis.; Sandy Biback, CMP CMM, Imagination+ Meeting Planners Inc.; Barbara Dunlavey, CMP, CAE, executive director, Biomedical Engineering Society, Landover, Md.; Jason Eggleston, operations manager, meeting logistics, American Society of Microbiology, Washington, D.C.; Christine Simpson, CMP, meeting planner, Gas Processors Association, Tulsa, Okla.; Gary Rosenberg, CMP, partner, Rosenberg and Risinger, Culver City, Calif.