It’s end of year function time. The floors are swept and there are white cloths on the trestle tables – that doesn’t mean your job as host-venue is done.
Absolutely, you can leave things at the bare minimum, and some clients like that. They enjoy the thrill of decking out a blank canvas with all the trappings they can dream of.
However, most clients will not be full-time event planners and they will need your help.
Be More Than Just An Empty Room
Your clientele may be unfamiliar with how to jazz up a room, how much money to put on the tab, how many finger sandwiches they’ll need for a group of 30.
The first and simplest thing you need to do every time you get a function booking is: ask.
- Have you organized an end of year party before?
- When will you have a final guest list?
- Would you like us to account for any particular allergies or dietary requirements?
- Would you prefer for us to handle the decorations?
- Is this a Christmas party or an end of year party?
- Will there be a Kris Kringle or end-of-year gifts, and if so, do you need us to supply anything?
- How would you like us to handle the service of alcohol?
Some of these are more important than others – you don’t want to be the venue that drapes a room in Father Christmases, only to find out later that you’re catering to a majority Jewish organization.
Further, some companies may prefer to do a ticket system for drinks, so that staff are limited to one alcoholic beverage and two regular drinks. A system like this can be very tricky to pull together on the day, so be prepared for how your guests will want to manage their tab.
Savvy event planners will start laying down their end-of-year schedule in May or June. How easy is it for a potential client to see details about functions at your venue? Can they download a menu or book online? If a customer calls, can the person who answers the phone give that client the name and email address of the staff member responsible for function enquiries?
Keep an events diary in a place that’s accessible to all staff. Any staff member should be able to respond to basic enquiries like “Is your venue booked out on December 20?”
Honesty is always the best policy, but is especially important for events. You don’t want your client finding out you’ve misrepresented your venue on the day of their celebration.
If you present yourself as Martha Stewart, your clients will be expecting decorations and canapes from your wildest daydreams. If you’re able to deliver – go for it! Razzle dazzle everyone and send them out into the night hardly believing where they’ve been.
However, if decorations aren’t your venue’s strong point, then be upfront about it. Show the client the supplies you intend to use. Keep pictures of past functions, so they can see precisely what to expect.
Honesty extends to other elements of the function:
- Do you think they’ve ordered too much food?
- Do you think the bar tab is too low?
- Would you recommend making the event two hours, rather than four?
- Does your insurance cover pot-luck/BYO dinners?
Your client may have a theme in mind – winter wonderland, red and gold, Christmas movies – or you might suggest one. But themes aren’t the be all and end all of an event.
Think of playful ways to serve the food:
- Can you offer interactive stations, where people can decorate their own cupcakes or roll their own sushi?
- Do you want to create a display of the food, with dishes of canapes on display, or would your client prefer roaming servers offer platters to guests?
- Does your client simply love your restaurant and want to treat their staff to a fantastic sit-down meal?
Ask your client how they want their event to unfold, and then do your best to meet those expectations.
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