5 Ways to Keep Food Costs Down

Food and beverage costs can be the chunk of your budget, yet it’s difficult to pare down these expenses. Every planner knows attendees often remember an event’s food longer than they remember the keynote’s speech. Here are some tips to help cut F&B costs while still pleasing even the pickiest palates. 1. Keep it short and sweet. “By controlling the duration of your event, you can reduce costs significantly,” says Stephanie Edens, vice president of national sales at Wolfgang Puck Catering. Try planning a three-hour reception with action stations rather than a short reception followed by a seated dinner and dessert. 2. Quell the plate piling. While a sit-down meal is often more pricey because it requires more staff to prepare and serve it, buffets and food stations aren’t always a bargain. “Consider adding hotel staff to serve at a buffet to control the portions and ensure you don’t run out of food,” says Fabian DeRozario, an industry speaker who presented a session on F&B at Collinson Media’s Diversity Summit. 3. Control portions. See if you can have the lunch-size portion at dinner. You’re still getting a steak, but at a cheaper price. Another inexpensive option is passed appetizers instead of a buffet during cocktail receptions. 4. Cut the caffeine. “Many guests don’t drink coffee,” says Molly Schemper of Chicago’s Fig Catering. If you must have it, consider combining it with other drink service, where you can save on costs for items like sugar and creamers on each table. 5. Keep a relationship. Stay in touch with your hotel sales rep, and consider piggybacking to save money. If the group hosting its meeting before yours doesn’t use all of its purchased food, you may be able to get the remainder at a discount since the hotel only has to place one order. Your convention services manager is key to making it happen.