Are you negotiating a venue contract and need some advice on getting the best deal? Follow these eight steps from H&E North to become an expert negotiator.
Your Wish List
Make a list of your priorities when it comes to a venue. Complimentary items from the supplier can be enticing but if they don’t fit with your requirements, don’t let them distract you. Stick to your budget and don’t begin negotiations with a venue that you know is more than 20% off of your budget.
Top Tip: Make sure you research pricing online prior to contacting the venue to ensure pricing tiers are in line with what they are offering.
Venues have a high and low season. If you hold an event at the venue during a quieter period, you could discuss a cheaper rate. If you’ve worked with this venue before and have a good relationship with them, you might be able to come to an arrangement, but remember that this has to make business sense for the venue too. However if you provide them with repeat business, then this is the easiest way to enter into negotiations.
If you’ve left it to the last minute or need a new venue at short notice, be aware that you are not really in the best position to negotiate. You may secure fantastic pricing if you book last minute, but those who book far in advance have the most bargaining power for the overall package and the ability to create the event they want rather than fitting in with availability.
Are you negotiating for a venue in person or via an online system? Meeting face-to-face certainly has its benefits; but it’s not always possible to organise proposal meetings at every potential venue, so now many venues offer an online system for proposal requests. Whenever possible, select the online method if saving money is important to you.
As an event planner, when thinking about attendance numbers, it is usual to round up in order to ensure there is enough food to go around. Venues, on the other hand, often will be focused on meeting a minimum estimate. So be careful, while you’re estimating high, the venue is holding you to that number as a minimum and an overestimation on your part could mean higher costs and a larger space than you need.
Time to Kill
When you do finalise a price, don’t be rushed into making any decisions. You have to make sure you get everything you want and need from that venue. It is always worth mentioning that you are looking at other suppliers and venues too. Healthy and fair competition between contractors will ultimately mean you will get a competitive rate and comparing a few venues at a time provides leverage for your negotiations and keeps suppliers on their toes.
On the Menu
Catering. This is where a lot of your good work in negotiating a good price can fall through. Catering service charges can be a bit of a sting when you get the bill so make sure you negotiate for exactly what you need in order to not end up with additional costs. Always try to organise catering per head rather than in bulk so that you are not paying for food and drink that your guests will not use. Try and secure a fixed percentage of the overall cost and remember you should be working with the catering team to design a menu that works well for your budget.
The venue or the caterers should provide enough staff for the event, depending on how many guests you expect, so double check they are being sensible with how many employees will be sufficient. For a sit-down meal you should have one waiter for every 20 guests and for a buffet, one waiter for every 30 guests. For a lavish formal dinner then one waiter to every 15 guests should be enough.