1. Can you explain attrition and enhancing your meals?
Once you have given your guarantee to a facility, you are charged for those meals, whether they are consumed or not. Use your history and program to try to reach the guarantee, which reduces the possibility of attrition. This is based upon your experience as a meeting professional. Meals are enhanced by working with the chef to determine how to get the best value for your F&B dollar. What can be added at minimal or no cost?
2. Can you explain service charges in more detail?
Facilities add a service charge above the cost of the meal. According to PCMA’s 5th edition of Comprehensive Strategies for Meetings, Conventions and Events, “service charges added to the bill will range from 18%-22% (now could be up to 24% BW) of total. Hotels will retain a portion of the service charge.” State laws will determine whether the service charge is taxed or whether a service charge is added and then tax is added individually. In some cases, service charges are made on taxes. It is important that you ask how service charges and taxes are calculated. I hope that this is helpful.
3. Most hotels will not allow you to take food off premises. If that is the case, how can we provide bags for people to take their lunch or anything else to go?
I've had hotels provide box lunches for bus tours many times. I would say that they don't allow food to be brought on-premises...but I've never had the question about taking it off-premises. Most times, the food will be consumed right away. Local laws vary according to whether people can take food outside a facility. My experience has been that when I’ve discussed my request with chefs or convention service managers in advance of my event, they have been willing to arrange food to be taken out. It is expensive to provide boxed meals because of the manpower, but you can arrange a fast-moving buffet line where attendees take sandwiches (which could be cut in halves) plus fresh fruit, plus chips in bags, and a bottled or canned drink to place in bags to go. The food should be set inside, particularly during hot weather, and products such as mayonnaise might not be included in the sandwich. There is a Good Samaritan law that limits liability for facilities that donate food. Charities might have to pick up food themselves from the facilities. This should be discussed during the negotiation process.
4. It seems very difficult to get some protein worked into an affordable breakfast. The options tend to be loaded with gluten and sugar, such as pastries. Any suggestions?
Consider adding hard-boiled eggs, cheeses and yogurt to a continental breakfast. Breakfast pastries could include fruit and bread such as banana bread or English muffins rather than croissants and Danish.
5. Is there an electronic publication/guide that provides a rule of thumb as to what the average cost per head count is for breakfast, for lunch and for dinner during an event at, say, a three-star hotel, a four-star hotel, etc.?
The cost of a menu is determined by the facility selected and the geographical location. Are you meeting in a first-tier city such as New York City or San Francisco, or a second-tier city such as Charlotte or Nashville? What is the profile of the attendees? What is the history of your group? How does the F&B event fit into the program? Also, what menu are you selecting? There is a major difference in offering filet mignon or an upgraded salad. Are you offering an upgraded continental breakfast or a full breakfast with omelet stations? Will alcoholic beverages be served at your function? What is the portion size? Much more information is needed to respond to your question.