We all know catering can be the largest expense on the master account, but we don’t realize the several areas that can be negotiated to stretch your catering budget. Working with the hotel during the planning and execution of the event can save you money for your next meeting. Hotel catering typically drives 35 to 40% profit. This is substantially less than the 75 to 80% profit in the rooms department and is enough leeway to allow you to negotiate catering prices for your group. If menu pricing is important, state exactly what you need in your RFP. Asking for a 10 to 20% menu discount, current menu pricing for a future date or confirmed menu pricing for a confirmed menu are all excellent money-saving techniques. Many groups will request in-house coffee—not one of the barista-style brands—to avoid spending $100 or more on coffee per gallon. As part of the RFP process, always request a set of banquet menus including house policies. When you review the menus and house policies during the RFP stage, you can save substantial money by avoiding surprises. Setup fees, service fees, labor fees, corkage and audiovisual vendor fees are typically included. Venues offer discounted menus for nonprofit, veterans or educational groups—some extend seasonal specials to offer groups lower price options. Ask your catering manager about those options. If you have a particular price you need to pay, speak with your catering manager or the executive chef to see if they can customize a menu around your targeted budget. Catering managers are encouraged to “menu match” their groups. They will offer the same vegetables, side dishes and desserts to a new group that matches the menu already selected by an in-house group, as a way to save time, labor and product. Ask your catering manager what another group is serving that day and ask for a discount if you order the same item. Ensure any special pricing or discounts are spelled out on the Banquet Event Order, which is signed and countersigned. If you are hosting a bar at the event, meet with the beverage manager at the end to supervise the beverage count to make sure you agree with the count. Have your banquet manager present a final banquet check to you after each catered event and confirm the attendee count, the pricing and the math are correct. With simple tweaks to your planning and executing, you can maximize your budget and still deliver an exceptional event. ____________________________________________________________________________________________ [inlinead align="left"][/inlinead]Author Bio: Tom Pasha has been recognized as one of the top event planners in the planning industry. He held sales management positions throughout the Hyatt organization, working in 12 Hyatt hotels over 20 years. He was director of sales at Hyatt hotels in Greenville, San Antonio and Chicago O’Hare, and as director of sales, he started the National Sales Office for Hyatt hotels in Omaha. He went into meeting planning and founded CONTACT Planning, a national meeting planning company with headquarters in Orlando, Florida. In addition to his planning responsibilities, Pasha teaches “Meeting Planning Mastermind,” a two-day class that focuses on teaching meeting planners every aspect of a hotel that delivers 15 hours of continuing education credit.