As part of our ongoing interest in developing community and sharing cool ideas, our team helps out on a variety of local events here in AZ. From Microsoft User Groups to PodcampAZ, we love to throw or help throw free or low-cost events available to anyone with time to show up.
Will It Scale?
But as these events grow, our needs increase. Just yesterday, we spoke with a local venue about having an 800-person event in their space. The cost was appropriate and we had funds to cover, but after a quick budget review, we knew there was no way we could comfortably feed everyone using one of the venue’s “preferred” (preferred means required in the event industry, it seems) caterers.
Show Me The Money?
While we appreciate the skill caterers bring to serving food and refreshments to large groups, not having a huge corporate budget makes paying for things like $4 bottles of water tough. But if we DO decide to go with a catering company, we’d like it to be locally owned.
Yesterday, in the middle of negotiations with a venue, our co-founder went on about the importance of supporting local businesses. He asked questions about the catering companies we were considering, and then it hit him: going local may be as easy as walking out the door.
Walk out the door we did. About 20 feet outside the main entrance was a locally owned restaurant that gets really busy during spring training and events, but not so much during the hot summer months. Seeing as how our event is in the middle of June, we figured they might like the business and we’d be able to save some money in the process.
Right we were. Because we wouldn’t have to pay for servers, delivery costs, marked-up water bottles and soda, the 300-seat restaurant across the way seemed like a perfect choice. Sure, we wouldn’t be able to have everyone sit down, but this free community event doesn’t require us to provide a four-course, sit-down meal. We wanted tasty sandwiches, a salad, and canned soda or bottled water.
Make ’em Happy
The owner/manager was thrilled. Not only was he making our jobs (okay, my job) much easier, we’d be able to save money AND go local. No worrying about clean up, no fretting about anyone charging us $4 for a $.50 Costco water bottle and no worries about set up and strike time.
While we know that asking a small restaurant to feed 800 people in just under 90 minutes isn’t going to be easy, we’re working with them to limit choices so they can have as much pre made that morning as possible. We’ve also discussed paying in one lump sum, so we can save time checking out each attendee.
While this may not be available at every venue you come across, we can’t help but recommend that more event planners take a gander around the area, even if you have a healthy enough budget to buy whatever food you want. Lots of people win here and we’re happy to know that we helped.
Remember, going local doesn’t just mean buying from companies located in state, it also means supporting the businesses within the immediate vicinity. We definitely love working with locally owned catering companies when our budget is sufficient. Be sure to look around every time!