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FOOD AND

BEVERAGE

FUNCTION

PLANNING

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LEARNING OBJECTIVES

After studying this chapter, you will be able to discuss:

The main types of food and beverage functions and services held during meetings and conventions

How to effectively create these functions and work with the facility in plan- ning menus

Beverage cost control and potential liquor liability issues

The most common menu pricing methods used for groups

INTRODUCTION

In this chapter we will discuss the important role food and beverage func- tions play in the overall success of the meeting or convention. Think of the meetings you’ve attended in the past. Food and beverage functions provide the perfect relaxed environment to interact with other attendees. All meetings or functions have some type of food and or beverage service. Since the 1990s, many prominent trade organizations have donated leftover (edible) food to the local food bank or homeless shelter. Therefore, all aspects of the planning process require close communications between the catering, convention ser- vices, and culinary staff, with a group planner to ensure each function is a success.

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FUNCTION AND MENU PLANNING

Rely on the hotel group servicing department for planning of the menu and room setup. Some hotels are large enough to warrant a separate catering and

convention services department. Other hotels may call this the event planning department. Regardless of the job title and organizational structure, for many years planners have voiced frustration over having two hotel contacts for menu and function planning. Consequently, hotel corporations periodically have developed systems that are designed to streamline the process and reduce redundancy. One such system, uniserve, was created by Sheraton Hotels, and first gained recognition in the 1980s. Their definition is “a meeting system service where the CSM (convention services manager) or event manager handles all aspects of planning the event, including the catering, food, and beverage functions.” While naming this system, a term also was created to describe the previous method that many hotels and group facilities still continue to use: duoserve.

This is defined as a meeting system service where the planning procedures are

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for the catering department to coordinate primarily the food and beverage events and menus. Other responsibilities, including meeting and convention serving, are planned by the convention services manager. This system often is viewed as requiring more work and repetitive time for the group planner, since multiple hotel contacts are required. For planners, the main benefits of uniserve are the following:

Work with one hotel contact for all arrangements, not two

Decision-making authority to plan all events

According to the majority of the Sheraton convention services managers (CSMs) I spoke to, this system is still used at some Sheraton hotels and resorts; however, it is not standardized throughout Sheratons. In developing the APEX Glossary of Terms, the CLC decided to include the following terms as they are recognized. Note that they refer to hotel locations (properties) that have this system. It is generic and not credited to a particular hotel company for having creating the system.

Uniserve property: A hotel property in which the CSM handles all aspects of the event, including catering. Duoserve property: A hotel property in which logistics are handled by the CSM, with catering handled by a separate manager.

The CLC recognizes these terms, in part, because many other well- known hotel companies have developed their own variation on this concept. Over the years, these programs with similar objectives have been touted and advertised to meeting planners. Though these slogans may come and go, planners must ask their initial contact, the sales person, who first booked the group.

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H OT E L

C O N V E N T I O N

S A L E S,

S E RV I C E S,

A N D

O P E R AT I O N S

Who Will I Be Working with to Plan Our Food and Beverage Functions?

There are always exceptions because the standard procedures may change. Sound confusing? Well, keep this in mind: The ownership and management of an individual hotel property can change every few years. You may have already learned that this can result in a name or brand change. Expect that change to also bring new:

Procedures/policies in group function space holds and servicing

Job titles and responsibilities: organizational chart structure

Management and possibly new contacts in catering or convention services

Therefore, all arrangements should be confirmed in writing. As mentioned previously, e-mail communications aren’t legally binding contracts.

A closing comment on this subject: food and beverage planning for meeting

groups (with guest rooms) has varied at each hotel I have worked for or with as a planner. Expect any and all of the job titles previously mentioned. Some

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job descriptions samples have been included in this chapter to facilitate your understanding. We will now focus on the planning process and steps as they relate to Food and Beverage. Planners should always be sure to review all details on each event function sheet before signing it, regardless of the hotel contact and his or her job title.

BANQUET MENU PRICING

Hotels or facilities usually will not guarantee group menu prices more than six to eight months in advance. The seasonal availability and constant fluctu- ation of food costs prevent pricing guarantees from being feasible beyond that timeframe. Therefore, when planning for future events, experts suggest build- ing a 10 to 15 percent cushion into their food budgets. If contacted in advance, the executive chef often is willing to customize a menu that may actually be lower in cost than those listed on the standard banquet menus. All agreements on menus, prices, and terms should always be in writing. Banquets can yield a profit margin of 30 to 40 percent, as opposed to hotel restaurants, which have higher labor costs and typically much lower profit. Therefore, banquets are largely responsible for the food and beverage depart- ment being the second largest source of income for the hotel. Figure 8.1 is a sample of a hotel banquet and buffet lunch menu.

Types of Food Functions

It is important to remember that the planning for the food and beverage

functions should relate to the overall objectives and theme of the conference;

FOOD

AND

BEVERAGE

FUNCTION

PLANNING

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