New York is home to a dozen restaurants that serve a hamburger for $60 or more. If you find that pricey, you don’t have to order it. New York (and other first-tier cities) also are home to coffee that sells for $135 a gallon and bottles of water that cost $10 each.
If you’ve attended an event in a top-tier city in the past few years, there’s a good chance you’ve unknowingly consumed one or both of these pricey items. Meetings and events held at hotels get their catering from the in-house F&B team. Contracts prevent outside food from being served, so event hosts are at the mercy of the venue’s pricing.
That results in cookies that cost $100 a dozen, and granola bars that sell for $9 each. Meetings and conferences continue to get battered in the press for their high budgets, but the reason behind those costs is a vital and untold part of the story.
Add it up. Repeat.
Food isn’t the only area in which prices are shockingly high. Hotels often charge porterage fees even if you carry your own bags. And while many hotels offer free Wi-Fi in public areas, Wi-Fi in meeting rooms runs anywhere from $250 to more than $1,000 per day.
Want an LCD projector for your breakout meeting? That’ll be $500 plus tax and a 28 percent surcharge. The room to accommodate that projector often comes with a rental fee of $500 to $100,000 per day, depending on its size.
Want to feed your guests? Get ready to fork over almost $52 for a continental breakfast of coffee, juice, dry cereal and yogurt. Feeling generous? For $86 per dozen, you can add muffins and scones. Lunches average $85 for deli sandwiches; if you’d like to wash that ham on rye down with a beer, it’s $425 a keg.
If you need an extension cord or surge protector, you can rent it for $15 a day. Flip charts go for $75 a day, even though you use the same chart (but with markers) throughout your meeting.
Securing hotel rooms also is expensive. Prices are rising and groups must guarantee the number of rooms they’ll use, often long before that number can be confirmed. Empty rooms mean an emptier wallet: Customarily only 10 percent of a contracted block can be dropped without having to pay for unused beds.
So while the acrimony over wasteful spending continues, perhaps it’s not only meeting planners who should be under fire.
Face-to-face interaction is the most effective way to build and develop relationships. Companies know this and host live meetings to get those benefits. Venues know live meetings are essential, that weddings and celebratory events need appropriate space, and that if all venues follow the same pricing guidelines there’s no getting around it for the consumer. That puts the people hosting meetings at the mercy of suppliers’ pricing demands.
To be fair, hotels have labor costs and overhead expenses that must be covered. But clearly, there is a disconnect somewhere as clients crack under the strain of costs and hotels continue to cry poverty. Perhaps if both sides came together and met to discuss the issue, a solution could be found. There’s just one problem: No one can afford to host that meeting.
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