This is a discussion of basic reunion planning questions for catering managers, CVB directors, and program directors for hotels, banquet halls and other large event locations.
Non-professionals who plan their own reunions should make an informed decision when selecting the right location for a reunion. The place needs to be large enough to handle the expected turnout and yet enticing enough to encourage attendance. We want our reunions to be well attended, lots of fun and financially successful. Let’s begin with some key questions for the catering / event manager.
For any location you are scouting, some of following questions can be helpful in making a final decision
1. Look at all the available rooms. Do any of them have the ambiance you want? Are there outdoor facilities, views, smaller meeting rooms? Does it feel spacious enough? Too spacious? Are there windows?
2. How and where can a dance floor be set up?
3. Look at the menu selection and prices. Is there the serving option of food stations or buffets as opposed to the usual sit-down dinner? What is the complete total price per person including tax and tip?
4. If the deposit requirement is more than your current cash flow can accommodate, can the deposit be paid in installments?
5. What are the cancellation procedures? Do they require a signed contract? How much are you liable for in the event your reunion may have to be cancelled?
6. Is there a separation between the reception area and the dining room? If not, does the establishment have a lattice or other room divide to separate the two areas? This is important as it allows for a smooth check-in process.
7. Are there any restrictions, rules and/or time limitations for setting up the room/s? Is there a time limit for how late you can play/perform loud music? What is the quitting time for bartenders, servers, cleanup crew? Do they offer and can you pay for extended hours?
8. Can you bring in your own liquor?
9. Is there a cash minimum for bar sales? How is it handled if the minimum in bar sales is not met? Will the committee be reimbursed a percentage of the bar sales sold above a base amount?
10. What overage above the guaranteed meal count is allowable for unexpected guests? Are there food choices available for people on restricted diets?
11. Is there a clear and spacious area for the photographer to accommodate the inevitable long lines for taking individual pictures?
12. Do they use specific vendors or can you outsource your own?
13. Are there additional costs for a dance floor, reception tables, chairs, storage facilities considered “extras” and are you charged as such?
14. Can a podium, bulletin boards, movable blackboards, sign posts and easels be provided?
15. What is the smoking policy?
16. Are all entrances/rooms/pathways accessible?
17. Where and how can banners, posters and other decorations be displayed?
18. When can outside vendors make their deliveries?
19. Is there a designated spot and sufficient electrical outlets and power to accommodate your sound system?
20. What type of sound system, audio visual equipment, TV, VCRs or microphones are provided? If none, can you bring your own and will there be a staff person to answer your questions or help with potential equipment or technical issues?
21. If children are invited, are there enough highchairs and booster seats?
22. If a slide show is planned, can a projector and screen be provided? What is the additional cost?
23. Is there an additional fee for the room if people want to stay later?
24. Do you have vendor suggestions for bands, disc jockeys, photographers, florists, etc.?
25. (Hotels only) Is a free guestroom and/or hospitality suite offered with the event? Negotiate or the maximum discount room rate. What is the latest possible reservation cut-off date?
26. Does the hotel have a brochure with directions to include in your mailings? Pictures or maps can be copied or scanned and placed in reunion mailings.
27. What and where are nearby accommodations? (If not held at a hotel)
28. When is the final head count and payment due?
29. Do they have a location to check in coats, hats or umbrellas?
30. Is liability insurance required?
31. Do you have parking lot guards or security guards patrolling the area during the reunion?
32. Is there valet, self or free parking? If so, what is the cost?
There are other factors beside cost that determine your reunion spot. Is this place close to your school or other nostalgic location? Where is the largest concentration of family members? Is it near an airport? Is it easy or difficult to get to? What activities interest your group? Are there facilities for them nearby? Choices of services, restaurants, tourist attractions? Lots of reasons will affect your eventual decision.