What a Meeting Planner Considers When Selecting Restaurants

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May 8  |  connect in the city  |   Andrew Maxwell

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restaurantsFor a meeting planner, conference planning often involves booking restaurants or venues. The social component to a meeting can take a lot of the planner’s time. You see meeting planners know that in order to make the meeting or conference attractive they, most often, have to include social activities. If not then registration for the conference can be low, which could be disastrous for both the client and the meeting planner. While an important part of the overall program, restaurant planning can be time consuming.

A Meeting Planners Checklist for Selecting Restaurants

If a meeting planner knows their group well, then selecting a restaurant doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking. But they do need to take the time, upfront, to determine the needs of their group. If exclusivity is important, then it would be a waste of time to engage restaurants that do not have private rooms.

Many meeting planners work from an event planning checklist. Many checklists are personalized based on the experiences of those meeting planners. Each time they complete a group, a planner takes what they have learned and applies it to the next group.

refine search for restaurantsFactors for selecting restaurants and clubs:

The district. It’s important to find out where the group’s participants are willing to travel, and how far.

Cuisine type. Most meeting planners will play it safe and select restaurants that have a variety of menu offerings. There are times, however, when a group wants a particular type of cuisine.

Meal Period. When does the group want to dine? Is it an evening event, or a more lunch/brunch style?

Price range. I have found that when working with meeting planners, a budget or price range is sometimes hard to obtain. However, it is important as prices can vary dramatically from one restaurant to another. It really all depends on the level of service that the client is seeking.

Is it open on Sunday? Many restaurants, especially in the downtown core of large cities, will close on Sunday evenings. I always make sure to ask what day of the week my clients are interested in before I begin my search for restaurants.

Private rooms. This one’s important if the group is looking for space where they can have privacy from the rest of the restaurant’s guests.

Buyout. Some clients want to take private rooms to the next level and have the entire restaurant exclusive to their group. My experience has taught me that not all restaurants will allow the group to have exclusivity. Sometimes it depends on the night of the week that the client is requesting.

Patio. For those who wish to have outdoor dining.

Wheelchair access. While most restaurants are now required to have wheelchair access, there are certain older restaurants which, due to their location, may not be able to accommodate this.

Many meeting planners dread having to select restaurants. This is one area where hiring a local expert would be beneficial. A destination management company, DMC, pays attention to what is going on in their cities. They are always aware of the latest and greatest restaurants, venues and clubs. Many times, I have directed planners to our restaurant listings directory where they can narrow their search, based on the group’s criteria, to find a suitable restaurant.


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Meeting Planning Tip – Planning for an Event

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March 14  |  meeting and event planning resources  |   Andrew Maxwell

on-site staff at an event

photo by www.inovacaribbean.com

A meeting and event planner is always looking for ways that they can trim their budgets without affecting their overall program. Sometimes that task can be more difficult than it looks. Having been on the service side of the meetings and events industry for many years, I can confidently tell you that there are many ways to trim budgets without affecting the delegate’s experience.

Event Planning Often Requires Local Expertise for Input

When planning for an event, a seasoned meeting planner will, quite often, hire a local company (often referred to as a destination management company). Those that have been in the industry for some time now know all too well how crucial a local expert can be towards executing a successful event.

Meeting Planner Tip-Do Not Cut the On-Site Staff from Your Budget

From my experiences, I have found that quite often a meeting and event planner will ask that the on-site staff be removed from an event. And I have to tell you, I have no idea why this request is made so often. When you look at the overall budget of most events, the on-site staff does not does not make up a large portion of the budget. Literally they are a few hundred dollars for the evening. Yet, time and time again, it’s the one line item that I’ve been asked to remove.

And of course the planner is always right.

Obviously at the end of the day if my clients do not want to pay for an on-site staff then I’m obliged to honor that request. But I think this is a prime example of how someone can be penny wise and pound foolish.

And of course, once we have removed the on-site staff, there are not a lot of people that the guests can approach for direction. Quite often they will go to the meeting planner, our client, directly with questions. Ultimately that meeting planner will have to find someone with local expertise that can answer those questions. More times than not it has been a phone call to the on-call duty manager. So in other words 5 to 10 min. have probably gone by before that guest got their proper answer.

In addition to being a local expert, an on-site staff’s responsibilities can also include coordination of the event itself. For example, if the function is at a restaurant and the service is slow, the on-site staffs responsible to ensure that that is addressed before becomes an issue. Or perhaps they have to queue the transportation vehicles so that the guests are not waiting once the function is over.

So for those meeting and event planners reading this do yourself a favor. If you really need to trim a budget ask your event planner to break down all of the components of the event. Perhaps you can select different wines, review the food menu, etc.

But please, do yourself and your guests a huge favor and keep the on-site staff working the function.

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Event Planning Tips for Selecting Venues

March 7  |  meeting and event planning resources  |   Andrew Maxwell

posted notes with helpful tips for event planning

Event planning often includes planning for social functions. And, quite often, social functions will require that the group be transferred to an off-site venue. While this aspect of a program is not necessarily a main component, it’s often considered vital to attracting delegates to a meeting. Quite often venues are selected based on their reputation, or their connection to the city where the meeting is held.

There Are Many Costs Components to Consider When Selecting Venues

Truth be told, many meeting planners initially place social functions low on the totem polerefine search for venues on connect in the city compared to other components of the meetings program. Naturally, the educational sessions or general meetings are the priority. Unless of course we’re talking about an incentive program. Then the focus of the event planner would be the social elements.

As many seasoned meeting planners will tell you, costs can escalate dramatically when considering an off-site venue. So why, then, don’t meeting and event planners just have a meal function within the hotel? Well, many times they will. However, the appeal of an off-site venue is attractive to delegates when registering for particular conferences. Especially if they are bringing spouses along for the meeting. It’s also an ideal way for the meeting planner to expose their delegates to the local flavor and cuisine of the city.

On our directory, Connect in the City, the goal is to match meeting planners with perspective venues. As part of the refine search, the goal is to assist the planner with determining the style of venue which would be appropriate for their group. This is one way where online event planning directories do offer guidance and assistance for a meeting planner.

Some Tips to Consider That Will Help Keep Your Costs in Check When Selecting Venues:

Does the venue have in-house catering facilities? This one aspect can have a dramatic impact on a meeting planner’s budget. If the venue is not equipped with proper kitchen facilities, for example, the caterer would be required to bring in the necessary equipment for the group. As you would expect, this can increase the overall budget.

Does the venue have an in house caterer? Like the catering facilities, whether or not the venue has an in house caterer can also have an impact on the function’s cost. For those venues that do have an in house caterer, quite often their overall costs would be lower than an outside caterer. The reason for this is that the equipment is already on site for the in house caterer to use. An outside caterer would be required to rent and transport their equipment to the venue.

Does your group require exclusivity? Try to ascertain this question early on with your client. If you find that exclusivity is not a high priority, there are many restaurants that could be appropriate for your group. And, as restaurants are already equipped to deal with meal functions, there are not a lot of additional cost that a meeting or event planner would incur.

What type of meal are you planning on serving? Of course the type of meal you are serving will be dependent on the time of the function. However I’ve guided many meeting planners towards food stations or heavy hors d’oeuvres (10 to 12 pieces per person) to help them shave much needed dollars off their budget. Especially if you’re hosting your event in a venue such as a museum or art gallery. If that’s the case, then the venue itself becomes part of the function (i.e. guided tours, etc.). And you may find that simply offering heavy hors d’oeuvres, that are circulated by the serving staff, may be ample for your function.

Selecting the right venue for your meeting may seem like a daunting task at first. However, by simply sitting down and thinking about the various components of the function, the meeting planner will be helping themselves by narrowing down the fields. In event planning, it’s crucial that you are aware of what areas can drive up venue costs.

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Meeting Planners Best Resource for Conference Facilities

February 19  |  connect in the city  |   Andrew Maxwell

meeting planners best resourceA meeting planner wears many hats. Depending on which part of their job tasks they are working on, meeting planners can be busy; negotiating, reviewing contracts, implementing a marketing plan to attract attendees, or just plain old being busy executing a program. As you can tell from that short job description, it does takes a certain kind of person to plan an event.

Anyone that’s involved in the supplier side of the meetings and events industry knows, firsthand, how hard it is to get in front of meeting planners. It’s really not that meeting planners are avoiding suppliers, trust me, they’re not. It really boils down to there are just not enough hours in the day sometimes.

Helping Meeting Planners Plan a Conference

If you have been to our website, WTTC.com, before then you know that it’s our priority to showcase conference facilities and suppliers to meeting and event planners. Over the last year we’ve been busy revamping our directory with the goal of simplifying the process. In other words we are trying to make it as easy as possible to put the right event suppliers in touch with the right meeting planners.

Some of the Changes That We’ve Made to WTTC.com-The Meeting Planners Best Resource

meeting planners best resource refine searchURL simplification – up until now each city that we listed in our directory was a separate URL. We’ve recently moved all of our supplier listings onto one URL (or as we refer to it, city), connect.wttc.com. By changing from many URLs to one, we are able to better optimize our supplier listings. And the beauty of all of this is that it’s always free for meeting planners. Conference facilities and event suppliers are also able to have a free listing.

Fine tuning our focus – in the past our business model was based on a publishing business model. In other words, we achieved our revenue through advertising. While we still offer paid advertising, our focus has shifted. Our ultimate goal is to provide traffic. And of course the more traffic we generate the better it is for those that list on our site. In addition, we are also becoming active in green meetings, industry news and industry education. We love to hear from event planning students.

So if you haven’t visited our directory in a while we invite you to take a look at our revamped directory. For meeting planners our goal is simple: to provide the best resource of conference facilities and suppliers. For more on how WTTC.com works for planners, click here. For our industry vendors, our goal is to provide you with the ever coveted leads from meeting planners. Click here for more information on how our directory will benefit conference facilities and suppliers.


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