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This is a very helpful section with pulling together numbers on amount of coffee needed, or amount of food and drinks to have on-hand.

  • Most hotels are reluctant to quote/guarantee food prices more than 6 months in advance. Be sure and include a % increase in your budget over the current food/beverage pricing
  • Don't forget to include tax and service charge in your budget!
  • When signing banquet event orders read terms and make sure they are the same as your contract…if not, mark through them and put something like "see contract"
  • Once guarantee is given you will be charged for the guarantee or actual number, whichever is higher
  • Once guarantee is given, you cannot decrease the guarantee - but you can increase
  • Hotel will typically set room and prepare for 3-5% over your guarantee
  • Request that all food/beverage set up be complete 15 minutes prior to scheduled serving time
  • Make sure beverages served in individual bottles/containers are charged on consumption
  • The larger the attendance the more flexibility (and options you can offer) with your order
  • To control cost & depending on size of item (cookie, Danish, brownies, bagels, etc.) - request they be cut in half/smaller sizes for serving
  • For small meetings - many hotels will charge a service fee for groups under 25/30 people
  • Methods for determining actual attendance for buffets will vary by hotel - ask the hotel what their policy is. Some base the fee on seats occupied, plates used, etc….

Timeline for Ordering Food and Beverages

Contract Stage Provide hotel with F&B estimates/history; Give them the big picture for your event
Planning Stage Keep hotel updated with changes and estimated attendance
1-2 Months Prior Send food/beverage order to hotel (can specify quantities 1-2 weeks prior).
Hotel will then send you Event Orders to sign & return
48-72 Hours Prior Provide hotel with your final guarantee for food/beverage events

Hotel Terms

Sales Manager Hotel contracts
Convention Sales Manager (CSM) Contact person throughout planning process and on-site
Banquet Manager Contact person that is assigned to oversee your event & hotel staff
Banquet Staff Hotel staff actually working your event
Set up Staff/Facilities Hotel staff responsible for setting up tables, chairs, etc.
Event Orders (EO) Banquet Event Orders (BEO's) or Banquet Prospectus (BP)- event sheets hotel staff works from; includes your F&B orders, timing of events, etc.
F&B Food and beverage
Host Bar Drinks paid for by the "host" organization
Cash Bar Drinks paid for by the individuals
**Can have a bar that is a combination of cash and host
Charged on Consumption Only charged for items consumed (soda, indiv. wrapped snacks, etc.)

Beverages and Coffee Breaks
Morning Regular Coffee: Attendance x 60%
  Decaf Coffee: Attendance x 25%
  Tea: Attendance x 10%
  Soda: Attendance x 25%


Afternoon Regular Coffee: Attendance x 35%
  Decaf Coffee: Attendance x 20%
  Tea: Attendance x 15%
  Soda: Attendance x 70%


Coffee: 12-20 cups per gallon (check with hotel to see what size coffee cups they use….8oz, 10oz, etc)
128 oz in a gallon, so if coffee cups are 8 oz then you will get 16 cups per gallon.


EXAMPLE: 500 people × 75% = 375 people
  375 cups / 16 cups = 23.5 gallons
  23.5 gallons × $75/gal = $1762.50
  $1762.50 × 27% = $ 475.88

$2238.38 for morning coffee break


    When in doubt - order a smaller amount and increase beverage order when you are on-site
  • If you are meeting multiple days - check with hotel staff to see how much you used on day 1 and increase/decrease* your order accordingly for the following days (*if hotel allows you to decrease)
  • If limited budget - you can place a minimum order and let the staff know they can continue to replenish up to a specific amount and to check with you before replenishing anything over the set amount
    ***Based on example above - order 8 gal regular, 6 gal decaf, 2 gal hot water/tea & hotel can add up to 7 gal as needed
  • Ordering by the gallon or by the dozen is usually more cost effective than paying per person - use a comparison to see how it prices out (costs can increase quickly if ordering per person!)
  • If ordering per person check on any stipulations (limited to 30 minutes of service, etc.)

  • 50% of attendees will stay for cash bar after a meeting
  • Consumption per attendee typically averages 1.5 drinks per person for a 1-hour cash bar
  • 80% of attendees will stay for a host bar
  • Consumption per attendee typically averages 2.5 drinks per person for a 1-hour host bar
  • WINE = Estimate 5 glasses of wine per bottle
  • WINE = Estimate 3 glasses of wine per person for a 2 hour reception
  • WINE = Estimate ½ bottle of wine per guest at a seated dinner
  • These numbers might be different for you -know your audience & your group history!

Tips for Food

  • Foods that require the use of plates, forks, etc. tend to be more expensive - true "finger foods" are usually less expensive
  • People tend to eat less if they don't have plates to load up!
  • Butler Service is where servers are passing trays of food - another way to control consumption (if people have to ask what each item is before they choose it also slows consumption a little)
  • Have trays/food set out on a time schedule rather than all at once - also decreases consumption
  • If reception is scheduled right after a meeting - consumption tends to be less
  • If people have an opportunity to go back to their room, change clothes and rest - they are more relaxed and will enjoy the food/beverage more (and consume more)
  • The tighter the space for the reception - the less people consume
  • Salty, greasy, spicy and sweet foods create thirst that guests will quench with additional drinks
  • Seating for 20%-25% of the guests is optimal (if you don't want to encourage guests to sit and eat)

Tips for Bars:

  • Bartender fees are standard costs and are usually based on a set amount of time per bartender
  • Bartender fees will sometimes be waived based on a minimum dollar amount in sales at the bar


On average, guests will eat seven hors d'oeuvres during the first hour of a reception. Additional Guidelines:

Type of Reception
Type of Eaters
# Hors d’oeuvres per person
2 hours or less
(dinner following)
3-4 pieces
5-7 pieces
8+ pieces
2 hours or less
(no dinner following)
6-8 pieces
10-12 pieces
12+ pieces
2-3 hours
(no dinner)
8-10 pieces
10-12 pieces
16+ pieces


Bars (Host and Cash) Guidelines

Number of Drinks per Bottle:

    1 ounce 1 ¼ ounce 1 ½ ounce
Liter 33.8 ounces 33 27 22
750 milliliters 25.4 ounces 25 20 16


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