20 Ways to Keep Costs Down At Your Next Food and Beverage Event

A cost-effective food and beverage event takes hard work, attention to detail and careful planning, but it can be done.

Here are 20 ways to save money and trim the fat without compromising quality:

1. Act extra nice when negotiating costs and dealing with service providers. If you’re polite and reasonable when asking for a better deal, chances are you’ll get it.

2. Avoid peak season when choosing your event date. Book during off-peak, when there aren’t a lot of other events going on. More events mean rigid and higher prices.

3. Make a list of all the essentials and have at least five options with reasonable prices for each. More options will make it easier to shuffle things around and cut costs.

4. Set a clear, reasonable budget and stick to it. Knowing how much you can spend from the beginning will help you prioritize when planning your event.

5. Partner with other makers and producers. If you are hosting a wine dinner, ask a winery you like to sponsor your event. These relationships often work out well for both parties, as you can help get their name out.

6. Choose reasonably priced beverages. The beverage industry is packed with affordable, high-quality beverage options. Shop around and taste everything—not only is it fun, it will give you a chance to save some cash.

7. Buy in-season produce and flowers. You will not only discover the freshest local ingredients and blooms, you will find cheaper prices due to the abundance.

8. Borrow what you don’t have. Reach out to friends and family and ask if they have what you need for your event. You never know—Nana might have a closet full of stylish vintage cutlery and tablecloths ready to show off.

9. Portion control is one of the biggest ways to save money with a food and beverage event. Keep an eye on the RSVP list but wait until your headcount is confirmed to do your shopping.

10. Negotiate everything. A price tag doesn’t mean the price is set in stone. You can also offer something in exchange—naming the caterer to reduce food costs. Always ask and always be polite.

11. Keep your event casual. Formal events require a lot of little extras and your guests will appreciate laid-back, let-loose vibe. A causal event also offers flexibility when it comes to venue selection—for example, air conditioning might not be necessary if guests can wear t-shirts and shorts.

12. Skip the DJ and make your own playlist. Download your own music or use an app like Spotify.

13. Don’t over serve. Everyone should get enough food and alcohol, but ensure your food and beverage portions are reasonable to eliminate waste and save money.

14. Keep registration simple. Eliminate the need for the guest to do anything beyond registering. This will free up labor that would normally be spent answering emails and taking calls from confused attendees.

15. Plan your marketing budget carefully. Appeal to food bloggers and use social media to promote your events. These methods are significantly cheaper than purchasing ad space or a radio spot.

16. Choose your venue carefully. Instead of getting quotes from 5 different venues, try 10. Once you have quotes and understand the pros and cons of each venue, you can start to negotiate. Ask them to come down on the costs if you really like the space, but have a cheaper option on your list.

17. Source reasonably priced food when ingredient shopping. Finding high quality ingredients at a fair price is easier than you think—you just have to shop around. Head to farmers markets late in the day and you will get a good deal when buying large quantities of an item.

18. Do a plated meal instead of a buffet. Serving food portioned for each guest will give you complete control over food cost. If you want to go more casual, have a set amount of light appetizers (between 3-5 pieces per person).

19. Pair wine, beer, or cider with each course. Prix fixe beverage selection and meals will allow you to tailor the guests’ experience and control portions at the same time.

20. Reduce, reuse and recycle. Avoid using disposable products and minimize food/water waste. Going green reduces costs and helps the planet.

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6 Event Details You Should Never Ignore

Event-Permits-PlanningWhether it’s a farm dinner, charity benefit, pop-up restaurant or other event, it’s easy to focus on the big three: food, location, decor. But it’s the less glamorous, often overlooked logistics that can make an event the best night ever … or a total nightmare.

Pay close attention to these details to ensure a hiccup-free event day.

 

1. Permits and Paperwork

Established restaurants, catering halls and other venues will likely have all necessary permits. But keep in mind that loud music, the hours of your event and even dancing may put it outside of the space’s “usual business,” and require additional paperwork, such as a sound permit.

Spaces that don’t typically host food events may require you to take out a full event permit. Make sure your space’s Certificate of Occupancy is current and will accommodate the number of people you plan to host. If you’re entertaining in a public space, such as a park, town square, public building, you will have to take out permits from your local city government agency (Parks Department, Department of Buildings, etc.).

Rules vary by city and state. Grilling, selling tickets, selling alcohol, restricting space from public use and your event’s hours name some factors that could determine the kind of permit you’ll need.

2. Alcohol Permits

It’s extremely important to file a permit to serve alcohol—these should be on hand at all times should you undergo an inspection. Some event permits come with a booze clause, but not all. Make sure you have everything in writing.

The local agency that grants you an alcohol permit will consider the length of your event, time of day, proximity to schools or churches and the type alcohol you plan to serve (beer and wine only, or full liquor). Make these decisions early and stick to them as changing a permit you’ve applied for may be difficult.

More restrictions (depending on locality) apply when it comes to the sale of alcohol at events; permits to sell are different than permits to serve.

Do some research on your local regulations and determine what will work best for you. In some instances, there are workarounds. For example, instead of selling beer directly, an event can sometimes sell tickets that attendees can redeem for beer. Consult a legal professional if you have any questions about permits.

3. Event Insurance

Each space is unique and may pose its own risks for attendees. Work closely with your team and the location’s team to ensure you have proper insurance to cover potential accidents (including food poisoning). Many venues may come with basic insurance, but expect the organizer to take on additional liability. Know what you are covered for, at what level and for how many people.

Run your event insurance paperwork (again: always get it in writing) by a lawyer. When it comes to insurance, better safe than sorry is the right attitude.

4. Inclement Weather Plans

You can spend months planning an exciting event, only to have to cancel at the last minute due to weather. Clearly, rain is a factor for outdoor events, but even if you plan to be indoors, there are many unforeseeable weather-related factors that could prevent attendees from reaching your location.

Have a rain plan well in advance of your event. Renting tents, securing an alternate location or having a rain date, may cost you a more time and money, but will pay dividends if the worst happens and you don’t have to waste all of that incredible food.

If you are working with restaurant partners who will order their products in advance, discuss your inclement weather plan. Paying for food you can’t use may take a hefty bite out of your budget.

5. Food Allergies and Your Menu

Every chef wants to serve a bit of mystery with a wonderful food experience. However, food allergies are serious and it’s important to clearly label menu items and spell out ingredients.

Make it known at check-in that a food list is available upon request. Ask attendees to email you about food allergies when they buy their tickets and provide alternatives. You’re not obligated to accommodate every attendee, but transparency is key.

6. Where You Source Ingredients

What and from where, you source the food you’ll serve is a less formal, but equally important consideration. Many food event ticket buyers want to know where your produce, meat and dairy come from and whether it’s organic, local or fair trade. The extra care you take in purchasing high-quality ingredients reflects on your overall vision and your community.

For example, if you work for a nonprofit concerned with migrant workers’ labor rights, you would be remiss to serve food produced on factory farms and in processing plants, as these types of places have a reputation for labor injustices. Your choices at all levels of the event reveal who you are and what you stand for. Be consistent.

These are just a few important details to consider as you plan your next big bash. Of course, all of the permit regulations will vary by your location. Leave yourself enough runway to seek legal advice and get all of your paperwork in order. Then focus on the fun stuff.

Got a question about this article? Our event specialist is happy to assist. Reach out.

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Peek Inside Sno-Isle, a Natural Foods Co-op

Natural Foods Co-op Hey there, I’m back with the most recent episode of “Journey to the Center of the Plate.” I hope you’ll dig this one as much as you did the first. In this episode, you’ll meet the friendly faces of Sno-Isle, a natural foods co-op in Everett, Washington.

Sno-Isle’s strong community ties and continued passion for access to fresh, local food products will inspire and uplift. A co-op is owned and governed by its members, people who use its products or services, or are employed by the business.

Inside Sno-Isle Natural Foods Co-op

Stay tuned, another episode is coming next month. For additional videos covering interests from food to music and everything in-between, find us on YouTube.

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10 Event Trends that Will Prevail in 2017

2017-event-trends-picture-jumbo A new year, a new beginning. We hope the year delivers all of the promises it holds right now. You try on 2017, see how it fits and we’ll sail ahead to spot event trends coming your way.

1. Hello, Hygge

Events take on hygge (pronounced “hoo-gah”). Expect to see the Danish happiness trend’s influence on events. Hygge is all about simplicity and spending time with friends and family; it’s only natural that events will adopt all of the warm and cozy elements: roasted chicken, knits, candlelight, flickering fireplaces, pillowy pastries, you get the idea.

2. Pairings Beyond the Plate

The forecast shows that combo events will be a big trend in 2017. One example is Seattle Pacific Science Center’s “Science and a Movie” series. The museum partners with a local theater to give science lectures along with movie showings— for instance, the audience views Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and then neuroscientists explain the science behind the movie.

Get those synapses firing and start thinking of the next combo. Cider and crossfit. Whiskey and whirleyball. Truffles and tennis.

3. Inclusion is In

Three cheers for diversity. Inclusion is too significant to be considered an event “trend”; it’s a movement … in the right direction. Attendees are demanding more diversity on panels and trade shows and conferences are stepping up to deliver. “It elevates the profession of event planners from mere executors of tasks to agents of change. 2017 is the year when diversity will be a given, not a luxury, ” writes Julius Solaris, Editor of EventMB.

4. Events Shrink

No more nosebleed seats. One of our community outreach team members says, “I believe folks will be looking for more and more intimate experiences, to build community, and connect much more deeply, so smaller settings will be more appealing.”

Popular author Dave Sedaris is “on-trend.” Though he packed Seattle’s Benaroya hall last year and could do it again, he chose to host his Thief of Finding workshop series in a smaller venue. ” Audiences will have the opportunity to be up-close-and-personal with David as he polishes the final draft of a new book,” the event description reads. That’s a pretty big selling point for any Sedaris fan.

Food and Beverage Event Trends

In general, as small events are on the rise, look for more intimate wine-driven dinners, “undiscovered” neighborhood food tours, and cook-off competitions. And…

5. Wild Game, Local Grains

Last year was the year of the ugly vegetable (which continues); this year delivers wild game and less “popular” meats, such as duck, rabbit, quail, and venison. Also expect to see more fresh veggies at your local produce stand, as heirloom vegetables and rare varieties become more available. More people will start to cook at home with an uptick in made-to-cook meal delivery companies, such as Blue Apron.

And look out local grain. Our food specialists report a renaissance in local grain industries.

6. Dumplings

The dish du your Instagram feed? Dumplings. Fresh from the steamer basket, they’re tasty, adorable and come in a range of sizes. Check out this GrubStreet article and learn all about the different dumplings, how to properly eat a soup dumpling (hint: wait until it cools), and the various shapes and pleats.

7. Healthy Fast-Casual

We all know that sinking feeling. You pull up to a fast food restaurant, hangrily scanning the menu for fresh and green. All you find is fried and greasy. Healthy, fast and fresh is (thankfully) happening. Grab and go with no regrets.

8. Milk that Isn’t Actually Milk

The dairy aisle is about to get nutty. Milk made from nuts, plants or even insects is on the table to meet the demand for milk alternatives. Avocado seed milk, anyone? It’s not as out there as it sounds. Our specialists report increased awareness of food waste, resulting in food waste dinners, more juicing and composting.

9. Fizzy Fermentation

Kombucha, shrubs, brines and other fizzy beverages will continue to gain popularity. In 2017, you’ll see kombucha in more mainstream places and even on tap. And more and more, families are fermenting and engaging in DIY food preservation at home.

10. Big Things in Booze

Natural will be the 2017 buzzword when it comes to wine. Wikipedia defines natural wine as “made without chemical and minimum technological intervention in growing grapes and making them into wine.”

Cider and mead continue to grow in popularity, and so will sugary adult beverages, like boozy milkshakes and rootbeer. Opposite of that, there’s an uptick in going booze-free with the “mocktail madness” trend we reported on last year’s event trends list getting even stronger in 2017.

What trends have you noticed? Ring in the New Year by ringing in below.

Event Tips >

20 Creative Ways to Use Your Restaurant Space

Restaurant High restaurant lease? Don’t fret. There’s more than one way to use your restaurant space. In fact, there are at least 20. Patrick Nelson, our Food and Beverage Specialist has helped thousands of event organizers all across the industry, from kitchens to restaurants, underground restaurants, gardens, small farms, breweries and distillers. Below, he imparts some ideas on attracting new customers and publicity with your restaurant space.

1. Teach Classes
Chop, dice, blend. Just as there are tricks to making the perfect bisque, cassoulet or grilled cheese, there are methods to making your class a rewarding experience for both student and teacher. Have a lesson plan and start small – teach basic dishes with limited ingredients. Create handouts students can take home. Be engaging and encouraging throughout the class.

2. Pop-Up or Underground Restaurants
It’s the latest thing. Chefs from all over the world are popping up shop in all sorts of places, from tiny dining rooms in Brooklyn to warehouses in Los Angeles. Eager foodies flock to these exclusive supper clubs to converse with interesting people and nosh on off-the-menu items. Many are private events and therefore, immune to the rules and regulations that normally apply to regular restaurants. Plus, they can be held anywhere with space for tables and chairs.

3. Pairings
Wine + cheese. Beer + bacon. Tequila + tacos. Whatever pairing party you choose, it’s a great way to partner and cross promote with local distilleries, breweries and wineries. 

4. Mix and Mingle
Fill your restaurant with professionals by throwing a networking event. Stimulate sales with free or discounted snacks and drink specials. You may also benefit: for example, if you had a distillers’ mixer, you might meet the right folks to partner with on other events.

Tip: Talk to people you know are well-connected to help organize the event. Professional event organizers could also help. If you already have a large mailing list, start with that. After a few events, the followers will start trickling in.

5. Trivia Night
Bring out the beer-drinking brainiacs. Host a trivia night and find out who among your customers are “Cliff Claven” types. If you lined up a trivia MC, you’re in good shape. The next step is building your customer base. Consistency is the key to developing return business, so have the event at the same time every week.

6. Beer or Beverage Release Party
Spread the word about your new brew. Whether you are a budding new brewery or have been successfully crafting for a decade, throwing a release party can foster excitement, awareness and some well-deserved attention. Get the scoop on how to throw a rockin’ beer release party.

7. Cook Offs
Top Chef,” “Iron Chef,” “Chopped” and others have made competitive cooking part of the main stream television diet. Bring the competition to your restaurant. Invite local aspiring cooks to try their hand and test their skill. Pack the house. Gain exposure in the food community. Create a one-of-a-kind trophy and title for the victor. The competition will get fierce and food might just fly, but keep things light and fun.

Tip: Turn the cookoff into a fundraiser and show your love to a local charity. Giving is not only personally rewarding, there are lots of wonderful causes that need help. And as a bonus, your good deed may result in added exposure.

City Growers Farm to Table Benefit8. Tastings
Go local. Put together special tasting menus that features local products, anything from wine to craft soda pop or cider. Or host your own whenever you update your menu or wine list. Mix it up – have your patrons vote on new dishes. Use the built-in market research to keep your menu current.

9. Private Events
You might already host weddings, birthday parties, but why not make it part of your business. Boost your value to customers by offering a catering menu and event registration support.

10. Tournaments
Pool, darts, bocce ball…when it comes to bar or restaurant tournaments, the opportunities are endless. Even beer pong is in play. Register your leagues and use Brown Paper Tickets to collect the dues.

11. Internal Training
Show newbies the ropes. Hold training sessions on food safety, etiquette, procedure and anything else your employees need to know in your space. This is also a great way to update their menu knowledge.

12. Holiday Parties
Dazzle your customers with your own soiree or arrange parties for customers. Offer event registration to make organizing the night a breeze.

13. Poetry Nights/Open Mic Nights
Host an open mic night and find the best minds of your generation. (If you get that reference, you’re well on your way.) Everyone wants to be heard, so open the floor to the community. If your space is small, you might not even need the mic.

14. Community Meetings
Offer to let community groups host meetings and functions in your establishment. Hold an appreciation event for one or more of these groups, offer food and drink specials or even a catering menu tailored to their event.

15. Customer Appreciation Night
Reward your regulars. Create a preferred customer program and show your appreciation for return business with discounts and the occasional appetizer on the house. Feature entertaining activities (trivia, bingo, raffles) and free snacks.

16. Industry Shindig
Get familiar with fellow associates in the food and drink industry by holding special functions for restaurant industry workers. Provide free snacks and drink deals with a valid food handler’s card or liquor license.

17. Singles Mingles
Fan the flames of love. Register attendees for your single’s night. Give out name tags and have plenty of pens and paper available for phone number exchanges. Create aphrodisiac-themed food and drink specials (Cupid Cocktail, anyone?) or line up tables and chairs to turn the evening into a speed dating event.

18. Game Nights
Drinking and gaming go together like beer and pretzels. Pictionary, Outburst, Apples to Apples, Jenga are all perfect choices for group games over drinks or snacks. Organize a large tournament and register players ahead of time.

19. Fundraisers
Pancake breakfast. Spaghetti dinner. Lobster lunch. Throw a charity dinner to raise funds for a good cause. Chat with your purveyors and ask if they will donate some of the food so you can maximize the funds raised.

20. Farm to Table

Go Green Acres. Invite local farms to show off their lovingly grown products with a special menu featuring their ingredients.

Whew. Got more creative uses for your restaurant space? Or have a question about food industry events? Comment below.

Photo credit, 1st photo: Martin Abegglen

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