How short is short?

Today we’re going to talk about the fine art — and I do mean the fine art — of shorting guarantees. Although this is typically an unwelcome phrase to catering people, it’s something we as planners need to understand.

First, a definition. What is a guarantee? It’s the number of meals a meeting planner gives the caterer for an event for seated, buffet and/or packaged meals. You are financially responsible for the number given, regardless of how many people show up. Shorting a guarantee means you’re purposely guaranteeing less people than you know will be there. Example: I’m planning a corporate meeting and I know 100 people will attend. I only guarantee lunch for 85 and ask the venue to set for 100. That’s shorting a guarantee.

Don’t short just to short and assume that the catering venue is going to cover you.  People unexperienced in shorting will try to do this, thinking they’re cool for trying to save their client money. It blow up in their faces.

Here are some guidelines to help you decide when to short:

1.    Group history. Having a solid group history of guarantee numbers versus actual numbers is one of the most important pieces of information in your decision.

2.     Look at the schedule in general. I rarely short guarantees at lunch because the group is all together and won’t go far. If I do short, it’s usually by very little.

3.    Buffet vs. seated meals. It’s easier short a bit for buffet meals because the property usually prepares more food for a buffet.

4.    Pick your places. Breakfast (especially toward the end of a meeting), cocktail receptions before dinner and packaged coffee breaks are the easiest to short.

That’s my not-so-short story for now, and I’m sticking to it.