We have all seen the cost of a simple bottle of water go from free to as much as $4.50 or more, while the price of a cocktail has jumped from $4.50 to $10 (or more).

While it may be difficult to negotiate drink prices, there are still ways you can cut expenses without lowering the quality of your event:

1. Talk to your catering manager before the event. Tell him or her to instruct servers not to pour wine for guests unless requested.

2. Servers should pour a five-ounce glass; this should get you about 5.5 glasses per bottle.

3. Consider having the same wine you are serving with dinner served at the reception: This gets you better quality, may be less expensive, and there will be less waste since you typically pay by the bottle and are charged for all opened bottles.

4. When possible, bring your own wine and pay the corkage fee. This way, you can offer the same or better wine to your guests at a lower total cost.

5. Remember that a service charge is NOT a gratuity. The property can do whatever it wants with this “fee,” from dividing it among servers, bartenders, and managers, to having it go straight to the property’s bottom line.

6. The more the bartender pours, the more he or she (and the facility) makes. If a bartender gets a 20 percent gratuity and you pay $10 per glass of wine, the bartender receives a $2 tip for every glass he pours. If he pours more per glass or keeps refilling glasses when it’s not requested, the hotel wins. After your next dinner function, look around to see how many full glasses of wine are left: You paid for these! Hopefully you won’t find many, but if you do, bring it to the attention of the maitre d’ or your catering manager and ask for a adjustment to the final bill.

7. The bottom line is to discuss all of these issues and cost-saving ideas with your catering contact prior to your event.

Mark Kustwan, CMP, is founder of OnTheMark Meeting & Incentive Planning. He has more than 25 years of experience on both sides of the negotiating and planning table, having been the head of the conference planning department at a Fortune 100 company, as well as having worked for some of the world’s premier hotel companies. For more information, visit www.onthemark
events.com.