Nowadays, everyone is trying to cut corners. Clients have reduced budgets but maintained high expectations and it’s our job to pull off their events with less money while still offering the same service levels. Today, Sara Wiles, Sterling’s manager of VIP services is bringing us five creative ways to cut costs for group dinners that won’t have your guests feeling the pinch.
1. Negotiate: My dad always says “the squeaky wheel gets the oil”, so channel your inner squeak and ask for what you want. If you’re planning a group dinner at a restaurant with a high food and beverage minimum that you can’t meet or a room rental that you can’t afford ask to have it lowered. Explain how much your client loves that particular venue and how you’d be honored to partner with them for this event. Restaurants are feeling the heat now too, and in our experience they’re willing to back off those minimums and rentals for the promise of business. Those who don’t ask don’t receive, right? You can also pick a restaurant chain that doesn’t have minimums or rentals like one of our favorites, Smith & Wollensky.
2. Order A La Carte: Many restaurants are asking large parties to order from a “group menu”. Ranging in price from$50-$200 these prix fixe menus offer way too much food for the average diner and are much more expensive than ordering off the a la carte menu. Ask your contact if the group can order a la carte and you’ll be saving your budget and your guests waistlines!
3. Feature Local Beer and Wine: Instead of offering an open tab including liquor, select local beer and wines from the surrounding area that fit into your price point and feature them for your dinner. Print place cards with information about the libations and your guests will get a kick out of supporting the local economy and trying something new and refreshing. You’ll keep your drink costs down without showing your guests how budget savvy you’re being.
4. Skip The Reception: Nix the before-dinner reception filled with tray passed or stationed hors d’oeuvres and get straight to the good stuff. Let folks order appetizers off the menu and your money will go much farther. People like to share, so instead of spending $10-$15 per person on reception food you’ll end up spending 1/3 of that and give your guests the option to choose what they like.
5. Linens and Centerpieces- Less is More: If you make wise choices when it comes to decor for a business dinner, less can be more. Find out what house linen your venue offers. Chances are it’s crisp white, ivory or black – colors that go with any centerpiece you choose. Keep it simple by sticking to neutral flowers in your centerpieces and be sure to pick in-season flowers which will also help out your budget. Or, ditch the flowers and go for something more inventive. Fill a glass container with lemons and limes to achieve the color you want for a fraction of the price. Centerpieces for a dinner should be small and compact so as not to get in the way of your guests sight lines. If you need a little more color, consider an overlay or a runner over the linen that’s already offered. Individually you may only be saving $2-$4 dollars per table, but if you’re having a large dinner this can add up quickly.
Sara Wiles is the Manager of VIP Services for Sterling Events. You can reach Sara directly at email@example.com or 336.397.2021.