Profitable Ploys for Impressing Group Event Planners
Winning the battle for banquets and catering business.
If you’re like me, you’ve witnessed the decline of the banquet and catering business in the last several years. Companies have either tightened up their belts or found new, innovative ways to educate, strategize, and celebrate with their associates in-house or remotely via advancing technology. This, of course, is bad news for hospitality venues who charge a premium for meals, breaks, and room rentals, not to mention the service charges and event fees.
As our customers become enlightened and captivated with the possibility of securing lower room rates through OTAs, many tenured meeting planners and millennials alike are looking for ways to impress their bosses by accomplishing the same or better for less. In order to stay relevant and garner all the business possible, it’s important to adapt sales and marketing efforts in a way that makes a powerful impact at the appropriate time. At the moment companies do give the go ahead to spend money outside of the office, we want to be the first thought that pops in our clients’ minds.
At the Marriott Boca Raton we plan three annual events to assist in these efforts. In the spring and fall we hold our “Sip, Savor, and Smoke” event, which is an opportunity to thank our current client partners and to showcase our abilities to target new clientele. We generally partner with a wine or spirit vendor who works with our chef to pair a six-course dinner. The vendors are happy to assist in any way possible and always send an expert to present in-between courses, bringing an educational element to the event, which guests love. Our sales team, led by Director of Sales and Marketing Casey Ademski, and our executive team attend these dinners, where we divide and conquer with seating arrangements spread out at tables. It gives us the ability to really get to know our clients, build personal connections, and enjoy the epicurean delight that the chef has had so much fun creating.
The event wraps up with cordials, cocktails, and cigars. David Resnick of Casa de Montecristo by Prime Cigar is our local cigar partner and does an incredible job of bringing us knowledge of his craft. These events provide a window of opportunity to bring clients into our house, remind them of the great services we provide, and establish (or re-establish) relationships that will pay dividends down the road.
We recently hosted the other of the three annual events, and that was our “Jingle in July” Holiday Party Planning Showcase. The purpose of this event is to help us be top of mind when it comes to our client’s holiday party planning and to secure more holiday parties earlier in the season, creating an internal compression which drives revenues on our remaining dates available. Amanda Monti, our social catering manager, works with our operations team to roll out our newest holiday stations and offerings, lights up the ballroom with our holiday décor, and partners with vendors to help showcase the services we can facilitate.
In the South Florida July heat, nothing beats the thought of attending a party midday where the A/C is turned down, the ice carvings are overflowing with chilled seafood, and the cool beverages are spiced with a warmth that is welcomed. Partnering with key vendors makes the event successful. Not only are they a great source of referrals through their networks, but they also have a vested interest in our success. For our décor, one of our primary partners is Amber Gilbert of ECP Event Group. She and her team brainstorm with us through the entire process and help us put our best foot forward for those clients we are out to impress.
These special functions give people an excuse to get out of the office, to enjoy a great meal and have a fun time at no cost. It gives us the opportunity to show off and answer any questions they might have. We are innovative with our clients and work with them to provide value and get the biggest bang for their buck.
Recently, with the increasing popularity of special diets and the seriousness of food allergies, people have shown great concern and curiosity over how we handle these significant situations. Giving the client the opportunity to talk with our chefs and event planners allows us the ability to put the client’s mind at ease. One way of doing this may be by creating special labels or menus that denote items such as gluten-free or vegan options or whether something contains dairy or nuts. It could also be focusing on organic and non-GMO ingredients for an entire event. Whatever the case, our team walks them through how it would be handled and provides that extra level of comfort.
At the end of our events, we have the goal of leaving each and every person with a lasting impression. We seek to accomplish this in three ways: Food, Friendships, and Follow-Up. It’s been said that the key to someone’s heart is through their stomach. Well, we take this seriously. The impression great food has on us is impactful. Building friendships gives us the ability to break through the corporate barricades that tend to stop us in our tracks when seeking business leads. Finally, follow-up is crucial because the whole goal is to be the first venue that they think about when the planning begins.
We use the pictures taken by our partner Munoz Photography to create a personalized greeting card as our follow-up. On the card is a small collage of the event’s food and décor as well as the client’s picture. This is something they will place on their desk, which serves as a reminder of the memories they made with us at the Marriott Boca Raton. We also utilize platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn to keep the hype of these events alive all through the year, building anticipation for the next one to come.
Member, Hotel F&B Corporate Editorial Advisory Board
General Manager, Boca Raton (Florida) Marriott at Boca Center