A Checklist for Function Space Management Part II.
By Jil Larson
Vertical space vs horizontal space.
I made this term up, but bear with me because there is a huge difference between the two. Often a group is evaluated as being “spacey”, requiring too much space for the catering revenues (or guest rooms) provided. However a group that is horizontally spacey is much more damaging than a group that is vertically spacey. Vertical space means the group needs too much space on the dates the guestrooms are inhouse. For example it fills half the hotel’s group room needs but requires all the hotel’s function space. That’s bad. But far worse is the hotel that is horizontally spacey, requiring the correct proportion of space for the dates the group is inhouse, but also requiring that same space for two to three days pre and post for setup and tear down. That’s really bad, and likely to displace much more business than a vertically spacey group. Few hotels pay attention to horizontal spaciness and get stuck with accepting the pre and post terms because they are too far down the line by the time this issue is noticed. Have predefined setup and teardown parameters established, determining what is acceptable and what requires approval to keep this issue on the front burner during the “discovery” stage.
Often trickier than space for the plenary session, the number, size, and assignment of breakouts is frequently glossed over during contracting which can lead to lost revenues down the line. At the very least, ensure every sales executive is armed with what can truly be accommodated the breakout rooms, as well as all charges associated with converting guestrooms into breakout rooms if applicable.
Agenda due dates.
Generally assigned based on the size of the group and the length of the booking window, but something along the lines of “everything booked outside a year, agenda is due eleven months prior to arrival, everything booked inside a year, agenda is due at time of booking” will ensure the hotel isn’t turning down short term leads by holding too much space with no agenda attached.
Whether table top or booth, separate charges for each exhibit should be considered in addition to room rental. This covers lighting, heating, cleaning, etc and is generally passed on to exhibitors so ensure it’s included.
Guaranteed room names.
Your convention services team may be happy to tell you how much business is lost because they are unable to re-assign function space due to meeting room names being guaranteed in contracts. There are groups that will absolutely insist upon it, but it is costly to the hotel and therefore should be charged if offered. Several hotels I’ve worked with will only agree to guarantee specific meeting rooms with rack room rental or a set fee (e.g. $5000.) Once there is a price to pay for guaranteed room names, clients occasionally find ways to be flexible on this issue.
Don’t leave this to guesswork. Take whatever your menu pricing is today, establish an annual escalation percentage, and provide your sales team with catering pricing for the next 15 years. The impact of annual compound increases is not well understood and often minimums are set far too low by the time the group actualizes, cutting into F&B profit margins.
Left the most popular topic for the end. In my opinion, freesale dates for function space are best established by revenue management. Your wedding manager is likely to believe the ballroom should be freesale two years in advance, your corporate group sales manager is more likely to believe the correct limit is four months. Revenue management doesn’t care who sells it, and can therefore evaluate solely on how best to ensure it is sold. More often than not, different spaces warrant different freesale dates, so if there is currently a “one size fits all” approach, it may be worth taking another look.This isn’t everything, but establishing guidelines for the above can improve both catering and room revenues by keeping function space as aligned as possible with the group room base in place.