Meal caps—the amount of money planners are allowed to spend per meal on individual healthcare professionals at their meetings—are a perennial problem for both life sciences meeting managers and their hotelier partners. All are well aware that meal caps are not increasing at the same rate as food and beverage costs, making providing meals that satisfy HCPs’ tastes while staying within budgets a difficult, and in some pricier locales, a near-impossible task.

In fact, according to an exclusive survey of both planner and hotelier participants at the 2016 Pharma Forum, held in New York City in March, almost three-quarters of the hotelier respondents said their annual F&B costs are going up between 1 percent and 5 percent, with 24 percent of the remainder saying the increases were in the 6 percent to 10 percent range. Almost 88 percent, however, reported seeing no corresponding increase in meal caps from their life sciences groups.

Almost half of the corporate planners surveyed said their meal caps have not changed in at least four years, despite food and beverage costs that are rising steeply, driven by events such as the long-running drought in California and livestock issues such as a recent bird flu that have decreased available fruit, vegetable, and poultry stock as demand continues to rise, as MGM’s Michael Dominguez pointed out in his opening keynote at the Pharma Forum. Labor costs are also on the rise. And yet about half of the planners surveyed also said their companies do not increase caps for events held in more-expensive cities.

Why is there such a disconnect between real F&B costs and what pharma companies budget for HCP meals? Is it possible to bring budgets in line with the realities of F&B costs? Those were among the questions up for discussion at a hot-topic keynote panel at the Forum, co-organized by MeetingsNet and CBI.