I recently did a reception in Atlanta where the past history indicated 450-500 people would be attending the annual customer party. I have done this event for four years in various cities and have kept strict group history. Because convention attendance was up this year, the client and I decided that we would increase the food to 600 people. This was a rough estimate, because the client doesn’t keep an RSVP list — they pass out invitations to their customers and whoever shows up shows up.
I explained to my client that I would increase the food to feed 600 people. I also explained how many pieces of food per person she could get at her price point and told her that when it ran out, it ran out. She was totally comfortable with this direction because it was a quick two hour reception, and this isn’t a group where people come to the reception looking to eat enough for dinner, they make dinner plans. As long as the drinks were wet, she was fine.
Still, I designed the menu on the heavier side, so it would stretch. I directed the catering company very specifically to not fret when the food ran out. I purposely had this conversation on food replacements a second time in front of the client and the catering director, to reiterate our stand on food replenishments.
This is where I went wrong — I should have written this on the BEO. The night of the event, I was double-booked, so I had my capable staff manage this party while I went to the other. The reception was a huge success, and they had over 775 people attend. This was by far their biggest attendance in a long time. But, instead of letting the food run out as instructed, the caterers sent me a bill two days later, charging me food for all 775 people.
Was I surprised? Sure was! I called the catering director for an explanation and was told that he had a conversation with my client, and she approved the additional food. When I dug a little deeper, I discovered this was only partly true. He went and talked to her, but didn’t really explain they were going to add food, based on the number clicked in at the door. I was also a little miffed that instead of going directly to my staff, who could have called me for guidance, he went to my client. After all, I was the one managing the budget.
The lesson I learned from this is that you must write on the contract or BEO what the procedure will be for food replenishments. No matter how much this is discussed and agreed upon with the client, you can’t be sure the facility will comply unless you have it in writing.
This is my story for now and I am sticking to it.