They have a lack of knowledge. They don’t know what to ask and what’s worse is when some think they can just wing it.
Problems arise as time goes by and they realize that their guarantees may have been too high or that there are fees in the contract that they never understood but signed off on anyway.
In order to avoid an unpleasant outcome, print the questions below and take them with you when visiting hotels.
To get the best rates and terms, make sure to get quotes from multiple caterers. Also, if you are reserving a block of hotel rooms for out of town guests, then consider using them as your banquet site as well.
You will get better rates for both the rooms and the catering. Read “How To Reserve Hotel Rooms For A Class Reunion“.
Here are the questions you should ask a caterer before booking a banquet for a class reunion:
Cost and Budget Questions
- What is the per person price? Is the price different for kids? Is there a lower price for vendor’s meals (e.x. Photographers, DJ)
- What kind of discount will the hotel provide if you block hotel rooms as well? What kind of discounted group rates does the hotel offer?
- If you host a class reunion banquet and book hotel rooms, will the hotel waive the meeting room fee (usually, yes)
- Will the hotel provide discounts on AV equipment? Is there a policy on bringing your own AV equipment (Your school may provide the required equipment free of charge)?
- Is there a fee for setting up risers and head tables?
- Are there room set up or clean up fees?
- Are there any other fees that you should be aware of? Corkage fees (assessed if you bring in your own alcohol), storage fees (for packages you send ahead of time), Bartender fees etc.
- What are the tax and service fees (tips)? Are they included in the prices quoted or will they be added at the end? The taxes and tips are generally between 20-30% of the bill so it is a huge amount and should be budgeted for accordingly.
- Is there a minimum guarantee that you are responsible for? Is so, what is it? What is the penalty if you don’t meet that number?
- Is the deposit amount negotiable? If you block hotel rooms, can the deposit be waived for the banquet?
- Is there an additional charge for requesting specific colored linen (e.g. to match your school colors or your Class Reunion Theme). If so, then are the charges per piece or is it a flat rate? Are there any house colors (linen that the hotel stocks) that could be used instead?
- How many banquets do they do in a year?
- How long has the banquet manager worked there? The answer to this question will provide you a clue of how stable the operations are at the hotel
- How many waiters will there be? 1 for every 20 guests is common
- How many bussers will there be? 1 for every 50 guests is common
- How many bartenders?
- How many buffet attendants will there be?
- Will the food and beverage manager be at the event? Will there be a banquet captain?
- What is the deposit for a banquet?
- Is payment expected ahead of time or can you pay after the event? If payment is required before the event, then when is it due by? Are payments made in a lump sum or can they be made in several smaller amounts?
- When are the final counts due without a penalty?
- If you get more people than you expect, does the meeting room have the flexibility to accommodate them? How much total meeting space do they have? What percentage is the class reunion taking?
- Can you set up and decorate the room a day ahead? Is there a fee for that?
- What time can you have the banquet room on the day of the event?
- What time can the photographer, DJ, and entertainment set up?
- How late can your class reunion occupy the space?
- What is the cancellation policy? Is there a date specified by which you have to cancel by in order to get a full refund? A partial refund?
- Do you have to take down all decorations on the night of the banquet or can you remove them the following day if the hotel is not using the space?
- Will the hotel lower the prices if your numbers come in significantly higher than you anticipated? Will they raise them if the numbers are lower than expected?
- Will the hotel provide meals for people with special dietary restrictions (vegan, halal, kosher, gluten free etc.)
- How much extra food does the hotel prepare in case of last minute additions. Most hotels/caterers will prepare about 5% more than needed so they don’t run out of food at the event.
- What food type is their specialty? Steak? Chicken? Seafood?
- Can any of the dinner courses be customized? Is there is an additional cost for that?
- What are the prices for open bar?
- Can you bring in outside food or beverages? There are a lot of limited service hotels that have meeting rooms with no on-site catering. They are more than happy to welcome outside caterers. We have used hotel chains like Homewood Suites, Best Western and Holiday Inn Express with outside catering.
- Is the dance floor big enough to accommodate your guests?
- Where can band or DJ set up their equipment?
- Is parking readily available?
- Are there any events (i.e. festivals, city wide events) that will make parking difficult for classmates that are driving in?
Planning a catered event for a large number of people is a big responsibility. Getting quotes from multiple hotels and asking the questions above will help you plan a very successful banquet.
What should you do next?
Now that you know more about booking a banquet, why not learn more about blocking hotel rooms for out of town classmates.