There are so many factors that can influence attendance at your association meeting: destination, program content, speakers, economic conditions, etc. As a result, guaranteeing food and beverage numbers can feel like a guessing game.
But winning that game may simply be a matter of statistical analysis - a thorough analysis of past historical data and existing conditions. Historical data consists of pre-registration numbers, local registrants, arrival and departure dates, number of cancellations, no-shows, number of registrants by registration category, guests, etc. Don't limit your analysis to just one year; look back to several years to obtain the most accurate picture of these statistics. In addition, don't forget to examine current conditions that will affect the attendance at your meal functions. Current conditions consist of location, extra bodies (such as exhibitors or spouses) at meal functions, drive-in and local attendance, significant program changes and scheduling conflicts.
Once you have given guarantees to a hotel, they can never be decreased. However, they can almost always be increased because it means more revenue for the meeting facility. The key is to make an increase within a reasonable amount of time. That said, the majority of meeting planners know this trick. In response, many facilities are now instituting a percentage price increase or a per-person fee for increased numbers over your original guarantee. Other facilities are requiring clients to provide attendance estimates 10 days in advance with no more than a 10 percent reduction allowed.
Has your association experienced this new facility policy regarding increasing guarantees on-site? Have you found any insights that will help other association meeting planners?