For social functions held at hotels or country clubs, the caterer, in almost all instances, will require a guarantee of plates to be served. This guarantee protects not only the caterer, but also the chapter. Several contingencies must be understood by the social chairman in making the guarantees.
Be realistic about the number than can be expected to attend. An offhand “pie in the sky” assumption can cost the club a bundle. A too cautious guarantee with no cut-off time for accepting reservations is equally disastrous, for the caterer many times must place the final order for food a week in advance of the function. Ask the caterer what is the latest possible moment that the guarantee may be adjusted up or down.
Ticket Selling Recommendations
- In figuring the price of the ticket, add the total fixed overhead: band, entertainment, complimentary tickets (speaker, Director, Governor, and other guests of the chapter); head table decorations, individual table decorations, and complimentary cocktail tickets. Divide this total by minimum paying attendees and add to the per meal cost, which includes tax and a 18% gratuity. Be sure the gratuity is specified and agreed to. Also be sure there is no additional banquet room setting charge.
- Sell tickets in advance. Get money in advance or charge to chapter accounts. If this is a sit-down meal, insist that the waiter/waitress pick up tickets and that final bill will be on number of tickets picked up. If this is a buffet, have caterer pick up ticket at beginning of line. Do not try to rely on your head counts of those served versus the plate count of the caterer.
- Be sure all tickets have been numbered before distribution for sale. Record who received what numbered tickets for sale. Hold sellers responsible for return of any unsold tickets plus the proceeds from those sold.
- Avoid open no-pay bars and keep the timeline short for the cocktail hour or when dancing begins. Those who drink little, or not at all, do not like to pay for those who do.
- Keep bar prices as low as possible. Bargain with the caterer about the bar set-up. Many hotels have very strict policies on this. Liquor is their personal gold mine. If the hotel furnishes the bar, bartenders, liquor, mix and glasses, get the per drink price established as low as possible.
- Remember that not everyone will show up for your event. Plan on guaranteeing 3-5%less than you have tickets sold. Ask your caterer what their over-set is. This is the amount of meals they plan to serve over your guaranteed number. Never guarantee additional meals, thinking local members will show up to eat. Only guarantee those tickets you have sold in advance.
- In States that permit Brown Bagging, running your own bar can be profitable. Usually it is best to hire a professional bartender, but adequate surveillance is important.
- Remember, liquor liability is a very important issue. If you operate your own bar, seek insurance coverage. Consult the AMBUCS Resource for advice.
- Inform the bartender and caterer the bar will close during the meeting portion of the event.