Financial Administration

Food & Beverage

If provision of food and/or beverage is allowable under UW System policy (refer to Appendix A), the following factors should be considered when negotiating:


  • Specify room choice, i.e., room with a view, banquet room with/without partitions, etc.

  • Specify table decor, i.e., color of linen, props, flowers, etc.

  • Ask about hidden charges such as tax, gratuities, service charges, setup fee, decorations, carving person, labor, bartender, etc. In some cases, the conference site will automatically utilize a "plus-plus" system that adds an automatic surcharge for gratuity which, in turn, is then taxed. These are no small items and can add more than 25% to the total bill.

  • Ask how far in advance a property will confirm menu/reception prices.

  • Ask for references from groups that have held food functions at the facility within the last two months.

  • Ask when the site's program coordinator for the event will arrive to check on last-minute details. This should be at least 30 minutes before the food function is scheduled.


  • Provide the hotel sales management with your meal budget. When maximums must be adhered to, make certain tax and gratuities are factored into your calculations. Ask what menu items can be done well for that amount.

  • Review the gender makeup of the guest list when determining the choice of menu.

  • Ask for a complete set of current menu suggestions, prices and policies for catered events and for room service.

  • Consider a customized menu. Check with the chef to find out "what's good now." Include vegetarian meals in this consideration. Ask if other special diet needs can be accommodated.

  • Ask about guarantees. How many hours in advance must the property be notified of the minimum and maximum number expected to attend? What is the tolerance for estimated versus actual and the charge for no-shows?

  • Average out no-shows from past experience to avoid paying for food that's not going to be eaten. Weather conditions and the quality of the meal speaker will have a bearing on the number of no-shows.

  • Inquire as to how many extra meals are available for purchase. Most vendors provide 5-10% above the agreed upon guaranteed number.

Refreshment Breaks/Receptions
  • Ask where the refreshment break/reception table/bar will be set up during the event.

  • Ask if there is a charge for a bartender/cashier. If yes, find out the cost. In a cash bar reception, find out if there is a minimum sales amount required to waive the cost. Be sure that you comply with UW policy on alcohol.

  • Determine if hostess service will be needed at the reception. Find out the cost.

  • Buy soft drinks by the case, milk and juice by the pitcher, and only allow properties to charge based only on actual, not estimated consumption.

  • Inquire and have input on where entertainment (piano, musical group, etc.) will be stationed.