Service: Getting What You Deserve

By Lain Ehmann
It’s hard to impress meeting attendees when your room setup is 50 seats short, the LCD projector is broken and the gourmet meal you carefully selected is ice cold while the atmosphere is muggy and hot. While poor or even downright negligent service seems out of sync with recent increases in food and beverage gratuities and service charges – 21% to 22% instead of the previous range of 17% to 20% say industry experts – higher prices don’t necessarily mean better quality.
The discrepancy between what companies are paying and what venues are delivering stems from several factors – labor disputes, meaning less experienced staff; higher occupancy rates, resulting in a seller’s market in many metropolitan areas; and plain old lack of customer-oriented performance. 
So how do you make sure you’re going to receive your money’s worth at your next event? Try these tips.
  • Establish relationships with vendors. The closer you are with your suppliers, the more likely it is you’ll receive top-notch service. This might mean sticking with the same caterer year after year instead of shopping around, but the higher level of service often can more than make up for lack of variety – and good caterers should be able to spice up their menus to keep things interesting.
  • Scratch their back. It’s not enough to keep using the same restaurant. Go out of your way to be a good client. Pay promptly, keep contract changes to an absolute minimum and add a little to the gratuity if the service warrants it. Make your account the one suppliers are dying to hold onto.
  • Add service details to the contract. While many planners assume that great service comes with the territory, savvy professionals spell out specifics such as the time within which meals are to be served, the average amount of time to check in guests, who will be responsible for responding to and resolving any issues and so on. While the venue might balk at putting many of these details in writing, at least you can stress the level of service you’re expecting. Ideally you’ll get some sort of assurance.

Check the stats. If you’re thinking about working with a new hotel or restaurant, perform a background check. Look at sites such as Smarter Living’s Trip Advisor ( or Hotel/Motel Reviews ( to get the scoop on hotels, and the Zagat Guide’s website (, which offers worldwide restaurant and hotel reviews. While these ratings and reviews are from a consumer viewpoint, they should give you a feel for whether the venue is known for lackluster or top-notch service.