Thursday, April 7, 2011

"We're not Worthy!"

Wayne's WorldI hear Garth and Wayne from the movie "Wayne's World" chanting in my head...                                      
I have been charged with planning a couple of tasteful, evening social functions for this summer, but with limited budget, which seems to be a deal-breaker phrase.  I can't get into details yet, but will be able to later on, and hope to share my experiences here.  If I can get past Square One.                                                                       

One event will host possibly 250 guests, and the other will include 80 at the most.  We're avoiding Saturdays, so we wouldn't be taking more popular (and expensive) booking nights.  We've decided to keep the fare simple and inexpensive for the larger event...Cake and punch.   Easy.                                                                                                                                                                         
My hours and hours searching the internet, sending emails, and making phone calls have come to little.                                                                                                                                                             
Most of my paths dead end at a road sign screaming "FOOD MINIMUMS."  If not prepared to serve the crowd expensive, sit-down dinners, or hors d'oeuvres passed on a tray at $48/head, a lot of venues offering event space won't bother to even respond.  The days of DIY events seem to be gone, unless for something on picnic tables under a rustic roof... Great for a family reunion picnic, but not a more formal evening event.                                        
The banquet manager at a local event-hosting site, which has their own cake baker, did respond.  I asked to visit and discuss options.  The request was ignored or overlooked, and she asked for my budget.  I told her my goal and the type of event I had in mind.  She said it wasn't possible.  After thoroughly reading and considering their rental and pricing information, I felt I was close, so asked why and requested pricing on the event I envisioned.                                                                                                                                                    
To start, she wrote, they add a 20% service fee to all of their pricing, which, although I consider a bit outrageous, I actually knew and had included in my calculations.  She also claimed there was an extra charge for linens.  Since their website stated plainly that all linens were included, I asked her about that discrepancy.  I also requested she review the numbers I'd figured out by using their price list, and let me know what I was missing in figuring the event costs.  Again I asked how much more I should budget for the event ...clearly indicating I was willing to be flexible, because I was really interested in employing them.  No answer.  I felt that I more than did my part, trying to get them to take my money, but she didn't have 5 minutes to type numbers into an email for me.  Their literature boasted they had no food minimum requirement, but they must have a budget minimum that makes someone worthy of their manager's time.                                                                                                                                                     
In a better experience, I've been speaking with one very gracious person at a regional conference center, who has been trying to 'think outside the box' to help me out, as they rarely have events without dinner.  But line items like punch at $27 per gallon (includes table, vessel, cups, etc.)  are likely to rule them out.  On a July evening 250 people could easily drink $600 in punch.                                                                                                                                            
The conference center actually includes a lot with their service.  I said today that comparing venues 
wasn't even as easy as comparing apples to oranges.  It's more like comparing fruit bowls to fruit bowls, since they all offer different things and in different amounts.                                                                                                        
Even government and business buildings have jumped on the lucrative bandwagon of offering space for rent.  The catch to facilities that aren't in the food business is that most require a 'licensed caterer' to oversee the event.  (The monster of liability in a sue-happy society raising its ugly head.)  But no licensed caterers seem to do cake.  They work with bakeries who make the cake, then the catering staff serves it, but to get the caterer we're back to 'food minimums' that are over the maximum of my budget.                                                                                                                                                         
I currently have my hopes pinned on 2 locations, both park buildings which won't require us to have a caterer to serve cake... They only require that the cake was made in a commercial kitchen.  No problem.  So what is the problem?  I leave messages and they won't get back to me to confirm dates.                                                                                                   
Phew.  I'm tired, and it's only the start.  But I am positive about making something work very nicely.  This will be the big bump to ascend, then the rest should be an easy glide downhill.                                                                                                                
But the time and attention involved is affecting my life a bit... I just burned the granola!

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