Banqueting Venue Options – Looking Around

Usually I write my monthly morsel about an experience after it happens.

Today I am writing it at the beginning of an event. A client of mine hired me to do an event in the Washington, D.C.-National Harbor, Md., area. The event instructions were simple: casual get-together with beer and wine for 150 to 200 guests. The food instructions were to purchase what made sense for a limited budget.

I started at the most obvious starting point — the headquarter hotel. What stopped me where I started was its high pricing and lack of value. Basically they wanted $14 per person for chips, salsa and queso dip. Plus a 24 percent service charge for taking food out of a bag or container, putting it into a bowl and dropping it in a meeting room. The cost of alcohol was equally high. I decided not to do this. I don’t mind paying hotel pricing, but at what point do we as buyers say “not today”?

I did a Google search of restaurants in the area and, to my luck, there was a Mexican restaurant nearby. I called, talked to the restaurant manager and was on my way.

Just by looking outside the hotel I was able to get my client a 40 percent DROP in alcohol pricing. For an additional $10 per person, she got a full buffet for her guests. There are a few more hidden gems in this deal: The restaurant had much more atmosphere than a hotel banquet room and — this is where lots of people don’t pay attention — the restaurant service charge was 18 percent vs. the hotel’s 24 percent. Bartender fees were half what the hotel quoted so, overall, the savings let the client throw a much better party.

This is my story for now, and I am sticking to it. Please pass the tequila!

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