Venue Criteria: How to Find the Right Event Space
When you are hired to cater an event, you – and your client – are faced with a long list of decisions, ranging from date, to décor, to food, to timetable. Before anything else connected to the event can be decided, however, choosing the venue is priority #1. Since your clients already chose you to cater and manage their event, this means that you must play the role of psychologist, adviser, and friend from the time your involvement is established to the morning after the event (and, often, beyond).
Guide your Client to the Perfect Event Venue
From the outset, you have to follow your client’s lead: Some customers want and need just a little guidance, while others will rely on you for everything. Be prepared, patient, and knowledgeable – no matter what is expected of you – and you will be able to add one more satisfied customer to your resume.
The first decision that you and your client will have to make after they sign your contract is “where.” The type of venue you choose for your customer’s event can impact when the date is held, or the date can affect the venue, so it’s best to be flexible with one or the other. For instance, if your client is set on a winter wedding, it rules out open gardens; alternatively, if a garden is a must, you should cross off the sultry months of July and August, along with the dead of the winter. If you are an experienced caterer/event manager, you should come armed with a list of appropriate event venues that will fit a client’s needs; if you are less experienced, you will have to learn as you go along, using the Internet and social media to help you.
Don’t Let a Small Budget Hamper Your Event Venue Search
From the get-go, discuss what the client expects from you. Start with the premise that the customer’s finances are non-negotiable and that you have to be able to work within those guidelines just as successfully – and graciously – as if funds were limitless.
If they view you as a full-service caterer, they will want you to provide tables and chairs, linens, and centerpieces. (You can rent all these items if you are just starting out, but the goal is to build up stock as you go along.) However, they may only want you to cater the food – and they will see to the rest themselves.
The Right Venue Can Make a Huge Difference
When you are searching for the right venue, you must keep a long checklist of criteria in mind.
Location is Critical in Your Venue Search
In many cases location is dictated by proximity to the host’s home or to the homes of most of the guests. Often, however, most of the attendees will be traveling to the locale –perhaps even flying – in which case, a hotel close to an airport could be convenient. And speaking of traveling, as the caterer/event manager, you will be called on to stay one step ahead of your client. Although there may be alcohol at the event, the client may not be thinking far enough ahead to realize the impact that has on the guests getting home safely. Point out that it is helpful to have taxis or Ubers on call for when the event ends. They’ll be impressed (and relieved) that you’re thinking of everything related to choosing the right venue for their event.
An Event Venue’s Ambiance is a Key Factor
Many higher-priced venues have built-in design elements that preclude the need to invest too heavily in décor. The flip side of this is that bare-bones spaces require upgrading, décor-wise, which adds time and expense. Even a casual event has to look good and the starker the surroundings the greater the effort needed to get it up to snuff.
Assess Services and Security When Choosing the Right Event Venue
If your client’s budget is very tight, you may be asked to find a simple venue without, say, a well-equipped kitchen. This could necessitate cooking the food beforehand and bringing it to the site in insulated food carriers to stay warm. Other amenities to ask about are audio-visual equipment, sound amplification, and lighting.
Another venue-related criterion that probably will never occur to your client – unless you point it out – is that the event in question may need security. When choosing the ideal venue, especially for large events, take that into consideration. In some areas, a large-scale event requires that guards or police officers be on hand; it is also vital – regardless of the size of the event – to ensure that the venue has working fire extinguishers, sprinklers, and fire alarms, as well as first-aid kits. Power backup – a generator in the event of a power outage – is also a must and, these days, free wi-fi is expected, as well.
Think About Capacity When Choosing an Event Venue
Your client should know in advance how many guests to expect, which will, in turn, dictate the size of the space. You don’t want your guests to be crammed into a too-small space but, on the other hand, a small crowd in a big room is awkward. If you do locate a fab venue and it’s a bit big for the crowd your client is expecting, you can always use decorative partitions to minimize the space and create a more intimate setting. Some halls expect a minimum number of guests and will charge more for a smaller number; this sometimes makes it more economical to commit to a greater number of attendees at a lower per-person cost, so come equipped with a calculator.
Parking and Accessibility Are Key in Venue Selection
It may not seem like a major issue but a guest who just spent 20 minutes circling for a parking spot, is not a happy camper. Valet parking is a nice extra – but it can add to the overall cost. In the very least, a hall should have a parking lot or two nearby, and there is always the option of the host footing the bill for parking charges in a case like this. In addition, you may think that in this day and age, all venues are wheelchair accessible, but it’s not always the case, unfortunately. Even if you are not certain that there are handicapped people among the guests, or whether an elderly grandparent will be in a wheelchair, rule out venues that are not wheelchair-friendly, more on principle than for any other reason.
Finding the Right Venue: The Key to the Perfect Event
The bottom line is, the importance of the right venue cannot be emphasized enough: Your client is depending on you to come through with the ideal location. While it’s only the first big step on a long road to a great event, remember to stay cool and calm in the process, while keeping track of every detail. When you’re starting out, helping your client find the right event venue could be, in the worst case, a huge challenge, and, in the best case, an adventure. Remember, though, once you have experience, you’ll not only know what you’re looking for in the Great Venue Search, you’ll know where to find it. Your clients will be grateful and their events will be fabulous – thanks to you!