However, it's important for planners to make sure they are choosing the best venue for their event. Consider the following before signing any agreements.
1. Conduct a Site Visit.
- Estimate that the room layout can comfortably accommodate your group.
- Consider the ventilation system's ability to maintain a smoke-free environment.
- Identify the proximity of restrooms and their ability to handle the group size.
- Ask when the carpets were last updated and look for signs of wear.
- Ask about other events that are scheduled concurrently.
- Check out the additional suggestions listed on #6 below.
2. Meet the Chef.Depending on the event, it is important to have a chance to taste test the menu when meeting with the catering manager during a site visit. And frequently the executive chef will join you during various courses or at the end of your meal to discuss your preferences. Many chefs enjoy customizing their menu to an event's specific needs, such as incorporating corporate colors or addressing menu preferences.
When meeting with the catering manager, ask questions about the establishment's executive chef and pastry chef for your program. The chef plays an extremely important role in the success of your event, so go so far as to request that he or she be responsible for the program in the event contract itself.
3. Ask About Staff Turnover.It is common for restaurant management and staff to have a high rate of change, so there’s a significant chance that someone who you speak with today may not be around to execute your program in six months.
Although it’s impossible to guarantee that the same team who you meet will be around for your event, ask about the length of time that employees and managers have been in place. And, just because you had a great program there this year, don’t assume the same staff will be around next year.
4. Investigate Health Inspection Reports.Contact the city's department of health and find out if they post food inspection reports online. Many cities provide you with the ability to search restaurant names directly online; others provide limited information online. Regardless, feel free to contact the city's department of health and ask for food inspection report information about any restaurant of venue under consideration. This is considered public information.
For example, the following cities publish the inspection reports of restaurant and other venues for public access (consider investigating the restaurant in these and other locations):
5. Ask for References and Call Them.Groups usually like to host events at new venues to vary the locations of where they are hosting their attendees. That means many planners frequently schedule events at restaurants and other venues for the first time.
Even if a restaurant has a reputation for being trendy today, that doesn’t mean they could be the best location for a specific event. Newer restaurants often don’t have the experience at handling a range of programs and events, so their management and staff could spend their time learning on your dime.
However, event planners should also be cautious about scheduling events at a venue that has been around for many years but hasn’t refreshed their facilities and/or menu.
6. Arrive Unannounced and Check All Facilities.After a site visit is concluded, but prior to contracting any facility, spontaneously arrive and check out all facilities. Consider the suggestions listed in item #1 above. If possible, sneak a peak into the room under consideration – especially if another group is there – and consider the following:
- Listen for noise levels and acoustics.
- Scan the room for setup and flow.
- Look at the condition and cleanliness of the floors.
- Observe the staff in action, especially their personalities.
- Step into both men’s and women’s restrooms and check how well the stalls, sinks, garbage, mirror, soap and other supplies have been maintained.
7. Pull Credit Reports.Regardless of the actual statistic, it is generally accepted knowledge that many restaurants fail within their first three years, and cash flow is frequently tight in some establishments.
The best method to avoid these risks is by having your procurement or accounting department run credit reports on the venues under consideration. The information found during this process may help caution your decisions.