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7 ways to trim food costs at a meeting

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in Meeting Management,Office Management

When you’re planning a day-long meeting, having the right food and beverages keeps attendees’ minds sharp. But those costs can add up.

Here’s savvy advice on appeasing attendees’ palates while trimming your meal budget. Each of these tips, from a panel of experts, could save you 5% to 15% on your f-and-b budget:

1.  Skip the dessert course at lunch. “You can serve a sweet during afternoon break instead,” says Linwood Campbell, director of catering at The Westin Charlotte.

2.  Go retro with comfort food, which is making a trendy comeback and is budget-friendly. Campbell’s picks? Grilled cheese sandwiches and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. “You can even do mini [quartered] sandwiches and serve them along with ‘shots’ of soup,” he says.

3.  Be upfront with chefs about your budget, if you’re having an off-site meeting. At least one hotel chain, Loews Hotels & Resorts, has introduced value versions of its standard banquet menus.

4.  Cut beverage costs by using pitchers for iced tea, lemonade or ice water infused with fruit, instead of bottled drinks.

5.  Piggyback on a larger group’s menu if your meeting is being held at a popular site along with others. Ask the chef or caterer about it. The savings on bulk buying can trim 5% to 10% off the entire cost.

6.  Save on centerpieces by using food as décor such as an attractive display of fruit salad, sweets or even crudité platters.

7.  Serve family-style platters on each table. Attendees can still choose what they want, says Steve Enselein, vice president of catering and convention services for Hyatt Hotels & Resorts. But the chef has some control over portions.

— Adapted from “Frugal Food and Beverage for Events,” Lisa Grimaldi, Meetings & Conventions.

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