Negotiating for What you Want.

The Perfect Space

Multi-level space with nightclub appeal

It’s not always easy to know what to ask for or how to negotiate for what you want before signing a contract with a venue for your event.  Here are some tips to help ease the process.  Use this as a guide.

CRITERIA

Chemistry with the Catering Manager, Sales Director or booking agent — does her/his personality seemed suited to yours? This is so important. If you sense friction in the initial meeting, don’t ignore your instincts.  It will not get better with time.

Responsiveness – are your calls and emails being promptly returned?  This is critical — untimely responses are a sure sign right out of the gate that there will be problems later on.

Flexibility – how willing is the Catering Manager to adjust menu offerings to accommodate any budget or dietary considerations? If it is not possible to customize a menu or work within your budget (regardless of size), then this, is not the place for you.

Vision – can you imagine having a successful celebration in the environment offered?

Reputation – what have you heard?  Does the positive outweigh the negative? Pay attention to comments like “poor customer service, ill-prepared food and inadequate staff.” These are red flags and worthy of further investigation if, and only if, it’s a place that is on the top of your list.

Space – is it adequate for your needs?  Don’t try to fit your event into a space that is too small or not configured the way you’d like. Unless the venue has moveable walls, the space is the space.  You are not going to change a room that seats 200 into a comfortable space for 350.

Curb Appeal — Is the location clean, well-kempt, and updated? If the exterior is crumbling, it’s a sign that this is not a well-cared for venue.  Do you want your guests pulling up and noticing chipped and peeling paint, weed infested landscaping or cracked and crumbling concrete? Of course not.

NEGOTIATING POINTS

Are soft drinks and coffee included with the meal?

Can we bring in our own dessert?

Are there any discounts or coupons out now that we can take advantage of?

Do you provide linens?

Will you waive a room fee or minimum food/beverage charge?

Is the deposit refundable? What is the cancellation policy?

When is the balance due?

JUST A COUPLE OF “WATCH OUTS:”

When a catering manager is unwilling to negotiate and says “this is the best we can do,” the message is “we don’t want/need your business.”  There is a venue out there for everyone so that is your cue to leave and not come back. Trust your inner voice.  If a warning light starts to flicker at the early stages of planning, pay attention. You may not even be able to pinpoint what’s bothering you, but you can be sure that something is not right. Oh, and one more thing.  If you are told that you “must have a soda bar all night for the kids” you might want to run in the other direction. Paying $4.00 extra per child for the privilege of letting them pony up to the bar all night is unnecessary.  Most places will negotiate lemonade, iced tea and soft drinks.

Finally, be upfront about your budget.  Don’t assume a venue/restaurant is out of your price range…you will be surprised, especially in this economy, what you can negotiate for.  Remember, be fair, the banquet hall is in the business to make money but would like to earn your business and book your event.

One last bit of advice:  don’t be afraid to ASK for what you want.  Good luck.

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March 27, 2012 at 2:26 pm Leave a comment

Cure the Mid-Winter Blahs with these Inspiring, DIY Party Tips

It’s February. The holidays are over. You survived the office festivities, the neighborhood eggnog tasting and your children’s school parties. Now what? It’s cold, gray and dreary and spring feels like it’ll never come. Here are some surefire ways to come out of hibernation, perk up your soul and celebrate leap year.
Host a Girls Night In
Invite your BFFs for a feel good evening of girl time; the twist to this tried and true get together? Hire a local expert to give a class. Chef Ina Cheatem, of Fresh Delights, brings a healthful approach to all her cooking and offers “a cooking class party that is tons of fun and customized to any dietary needs including vegan and gluten free.” Call Ina at 248-996-7169 or check out her website at http://www.freshdelights.com.
Organize a Moveable Feast
Gather your neighbors and plan a strolling dinner party–it’s a great way to share the work and expense of entertaining. Here are a few ideas that get everyone involved at each house.
Hors d’oeuvres: Set up a blind wine tasting with at least three different types and ask everyone to guess. You can do this in teams (or by couple). See who’s the most knowledgeable; award the winning oenophile a small prize (such as wine charms).
First course/appetizers: Create a salad bar on your dining room table with ten to fifteen fresh items. It’s colorful and festive and everyone gets to assemble their personal creation. This is easy to prepare and set up ahead of time so the host is able to enjoy as well.
Main course: Keep it simple. A big pot of linguine with a couple of sauce and veggie options will satisfy even the heartiest eaters. Everyone loves pasta and it’s easy on the wallet.
Dessert/coffee: Chocolate fondue will be the hit of the night. Offer up a selection of goodies including pretzel rods, marshmallows, pineapple chunks and strawberries.
Be sure to plan something fun for the last stop like Charades, Pictionary or Apples to Apples.
Plan a Date Night – It is February after all
Trade childcare with a friend, dim the lights, cue the music and spend the evening snuggling and whispering sweet nothings. For dinner, The Festive Chef, Cassandra Morrison, will come to you and “prepare a chef’s table customized for you in the comfort of your home.” Add in a couples massage for an additional fee. For menu ideas, call Cassie at 248-353-3300 or visit http://www.festivechef.com.
Top it all off with a “bouquet of lavender roses” and a roaring fire and you’ll feel like you’re at a bed ‘n breakfast. According to Jeffrey Jucewicz, of Fleurtech, adding some “crushed lavender, pillar candles and a bottle of wine will create romance-atherapy.” For more ideas, reach Jeffrey at 313-570-0737 or visit http://www.fleurtechdesigns.com.
Family Pizza Night
Trader Joe’s sells all the fixings necessary to make your own pizza from fresh dough to toppings. Each “bag” of dough is enough for 3-4 servings. Sprinkle flour on your kitchen table, give each family member some dough and a rolling pin and you are on your way to family pizza night. You can create different types of pizza depending on everyone’s preference. We make white pizza with pesto and traditional cheese pizza with red sauce.

Spring is just around the corner. But, living in Michigan means we get to experience all four seasons. So, make time to enjoy Fabulous February! Let us know which idea you tried and how it turned out.

February 14, 2012 at 3:08 pm Leave a comment

Welcome Home!

It seems that many of us open our homes to out of town guests, friends and family alike, whether hosting a big event or just enjoying company. I know that when we have overnight guests, it’s important to me that they feel comfortable, at home and that their needs are taken care of.

Continue Reading January 19, 2012 at 12:40 pm Leave a comment

The Envelope Please…

There are so many choices when it comes to the big invitation decision. Whether planning a wedding, bar or bat mitzvah or other event, you can decide to do-it-yourself (DIY), make it semi-homemade, buy engraved, thermography, letterpress, OY — are you getting a headache yet? Most of us want some customization and creative input but don’t want to completely do it alone, at home without support or expert resources.

Continue Reading October 24, 2011 at 11:26 am Leave a comment

The Perfect Party Venue: Found it!

bar/bat mitzvah

Bat Mitzvah Party

When a bride finds the right dress, she just knows it. When house hunting and you walk into an open house, you know when you’re home.  When looking for just the right reception venue for your Bat Mitzvah (or any other event), you know when you’ve found the one.  The energy of the space speaks to you.  The size, the menu, the pricing, the catering manager, the decor….it all screams, “this is the one.”  When making the final decision, there are always going to be your non-negotiables (things you just can’t live without) and the things you can compromise on.  This holds true for many decisions whether buying the perfect dress, your new home or booking the venue.

After spending a couple of weeks looking at banquet rooms, reception halls and event spaces, we finally are ready to sign a contract.  While it was a bit of a process of elimination, ultimately we all loved the final choice we made.  Our daughter feels that the space is a little different, it suits her personality and will be the perfect size for our guest list…and not to mention we love the food.

In case I’ve forgotten to mention this in previous posts, restaurants are a great resource for choosing the right venue.  Many have private rooms or can host a party in the dining room on Sunday afternoons when they are typically closed.  So, if you have a favorite restaurant, make sure to ask if they do parties.  You might be surprised at what they have to offer and the flexibility they can afford you when planning.

So, no, I am not going to tell you where we’ve booked.  That’ll have to wait until we get our invitations out.  That’s next on our list.  However, before we move on to invitations, a couple of things to negotiate before signing your contract:

Are soft drinks and coffee included with the meal?

Can we bring in our own dessert?

Are there any discounts or coupons out now that we can take advantage of?  We found out that the venue we selected had a 20% off coupon in the Jewish News.  Even though I didn’t have the coupon, the discount is being honored.  You’ve got to ask!

Do you provide linens?

Will you waive a room fee or minimum food/beverage charge?

Is the deposit refundable? What is the cancellation policy?

When is the balance due?

Never be afraid to ask for what you want. Be upfront about your budget.  Don’t assume a venue/restaurant is out of your price range…you will be surprised, especially in this economy, what you can negotiate for.  Remember, be fair, the banquet hall is in the business to make money but would like to earn your business and book your event.

Next time, we’ll talk about finding the perfect invitation and invitation timing and etiquette.

October 5, 2011 at 10:31 am Leave a comment

Choosing the Right Venue

catering an event

Bat Mitzvah Venue

Aside from budget, venue environment and type, how do you filter through all the information and make the right choice when selecting your Bar or Bat Mitzvah reception site?

Frankly, for me, much of the decision rests on “my gut” reaction about the place, the catering manager, etc.  If you are not a risk taker, and don’t feel confident trusting your instincts, follow these guidelines when choosing a catering/banquet hall or party venue.

Criteria:

Chemistry with the Catering Manager, Sales Director or booking agent — does her/his personality seemed suited to yours?

Responsiveness – are your calls and emails being promptly returned?  This is critical — untimely responses is a sure sign right out of the gate that there will be problems later on.

Is the location clean, well-kempt, updated?

Flexibility – how willing is the Catering Manager to adjust menu offerings to accommodate any budget or dietary considerations?

Vision – can you imagine having a successful celebration in the environment offered?

Reputation – what have you heard?  Does the good outweigh any negative comments?

Space – is it adequate for your needs?  Don’t try to fit your event into a space that is too small or not configured the way you’d like.

If you are planning a party on a budget, as an added bonus to this blog, here is a link to a short video that will give you some insights on sticking to a budget.

Planning on a Budget

So, where am I on this planning journey?  Well, we visited another venue — a restaurant this time — and really liked what we saw. The environment was unique, the menu flexible, the catering manager polite, professional and accessible and overall it just feels right.  We have already eliminated 2 of the hotel spaces we looked at; one hasn’t followed up with regarding pricing and the other adjusted their pricing and said, “this is the best we can do.”  When you get comments like that, it says, “the door is closed, we don’t really want your business.”  Oh, and one more thing.  If you are told that you “must have a soda bar all night for the kids” you might want to run in the other direction. Paying $4.00 extra per child for the privilege of letting them pony up to the bar all night is unnecessary.  Most places will negotiate lemonade, iced tea and limited soft drinks.

One last bit of advice:  don’t be afraid to ASK for what you want.  Good luck.

Booking entertainment, finding the right invitations and to theme or not to theme come next.  Stay tuned.

September 19, 2011 at 6:09 pm Leave a comment

6 Months Until Showtime

choosing a bat mitzvah venue

Choosing the Right Bat Mitzvah Venue

Planning an event can be stressful, exhausting, wallet draining, and full of anxiety.  However, it can also be exciting, exhilarating, energizing and euphoric. Now, before you think I’ve completely lost it, let me enlighten and explain.

We are just beginning to plan Bat Mitzvah #2.  We have 6 months to plan, research, commit, create, invite and shop.  Our daughter has 20+ weeks of preparation which includes learning her Torah and Haftorah portion and writing her D’var Torah (commentary about the Torah portion).  She can’t seem to land on a party theme, which is OK. She is determined to support an organization that rescues animals, which is more than OK… and much more important than a party theme.  She is her own, authentic person.  She knows what’s important to her and where her comfort zone is.  When she becomes a Bat Mitzvah, the celebration will be all about her, not about a fantasy that we have.

So, first piece of advice. If you want to reduce the amount of stress in your life when planning a Mitzvah or any event, for that matter, remember to focus on why you are celebrating in the first place.  Keep in mind the wishes, desires and hopes of the celebrant. Honor as much of their input as possible within your budget and within reason.

Assuming you have a date with your synagogue or temple, the next important step is to decide what kind of celebration you want and where it’ll be held.  There are a multitude of considerations ranging from out-of-town guests, budget, weather, kids vs. adults, budget, style (formal vs. casual), dietary restrictions, theme, did I mention budget?

So, let’s start with the place. How do you find the right venue for your Simcha (happy event)?  For starters, you can search by geographic location and type (hotel vs. country club vs. sports complex). Also, don’t rule out word-of-mouth.  Remember, ASK your son/daughter what kind of party they want.  If you are looking at hotel ballrooms and they want laser tag, your stress meter will overload. Once that is clear, decide if you want to look on your own first and then bring your daughter along or if you want to drag her to see each and every venue.  Depending on your child, you can make that decision.

To date, I have called two rec centers, visited three hotels, and browsed the web.  If you don’t want to rent tables, chairs, linens, serving staff, etc., then I suggest you book a venue that does it all for you like a hotel or your synagogue facility.  Often restaurants will have private party rooms that will accommodate you also.

The next post will offer criteria on how to evaluate and make the final venue selection.



	

September 16, 2011 at 5:06 pm Leave a comment

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