Why's everyone so scared of the F&B minimum?

Posted by Mike Mason

Jan 21, 2013 7:19:00 PM

The reason people gather for face-to-face meetings each year is the riveting content presented at those meetings. But what people really remember are the banquet events (i.e., catered breakfast, lunch, and dinner). They provide the opportunity for attendees to take a break, come together, and create bonds. It’s here where much of the day’s sessions are put into perspective, discussed and debated, and where the real value of the event often begins to take shape for each attendee. It’s also where a fair portion of your meeting budget is spent and where hotels make a nice chunk of profit. In order to protect this revenue stream, hotels almost always include a minimum Food & Beverage spend in their contracts.

During my hotel sales days, I always found it funny when a customer would attempt to negotiate down our hotel food and beverage minimums, when it was clear by the size of the group that they were going to end up spending more than what we were asking. Now I get the premise: Less committed spend means less overall commitment to the hotel. But when groups do blow past their F&B minimums, they get no additional benefit for the spend.


Topics: Meeting Planning, RFP Tips, Negotiations

To get the most out of your eRFP, you have to include the rest of the alphabet.

Posted by Mike Mason

Jul 17, 2012 11:38:00 AM

To get great results from your eRFP, think a-to-zRFP.

This is part 1 of a 2-part series in preparation for a webcast that’s being presented by Successful Meetings and Visit Orlando on July 24, titled “Electronic RFPs: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” Click here for registration information.

If you use an eRFP tool, fill in this sentence: “I _________ (love; cherish; muddle through; can’t stand; despise; want to shoot into space) my eRFP tool.”

There. You said it. Doesn't that feel better? Chances are, based on the many discussions we've had with meeting planners about their eRFP tools, you were somewhere between muddle through and put that sucker on the next SpaceX rocket launch.

So what’s really going on here? eRFPs are simple enough, right? Fill in some information about your meeting, ask all of the questions you need answered in order to make your decision, select a bunch of hotels to send it to, click send and BAM, magically, the eRFP elf delivers your meeting lead to your selected hotels and you have bids back from each hotel, complete and on-time.

Huh? What’s that? You’re NOT getting bids on time? And they’re not complete? Hold on, did you just say that often you don’t even get bids back? And you’re then forced to send it out to more hotels, adding more time to the process?

The reality about eRFPs is this: it’s not necessarily the tool that’s the problem (OK, some tools are difficult to use, but that’s for another time.) It’s how the technology is used that’s causing such angst. But there’s good news: With a little extra thought, you can avoid the problems of eRFPs and create compelling a-to-zRFPs.

Think like a hotel salesperson
You want timely, complete, and compelling bids from your hotel partners? Then motivate your sales manager to drop everything and respond to your meeting request. How?  By including unique details (from A-to-Z) that will make your eRFP stand out. For the salesperson, this means making your meeting lead more bookable. The more bookable the sales person believes the eRFP to be, the more likely they’ll drop everything and deliver to you a kick-butt proposal that’s complete, on-time, and at a rockin’ value.

(Fact: Most hotels have seen triple-digit growth in lead volume in the past few years, while their closure rates on those leads have plummeted. Your goal is to make your meeting stand out from the sea of leads (aka RFP Spam) that hotel sales people receive each day.)

Your a-to-zRFP: 5 steps to making your meeting more bookable
Step 1: Salespeople are jealous, so don’t date too many hotels. The fewer hotels on the eRFP, the higher the chance for each hotel to book your meeting. This is the single greatest motivator for sales people. But it only works if you tell them. So turn up the volume on your lead by providing each hotel with how many and who they’re competing with, and limit the number of hotels to 6 or less.

In my next Zmail, I’ll deliver the remaining steps for building your a-to-zRFP and creating the most bookable lead your sales person will receive in their day. 


Topics: Meeting Planning, RFP Tips

How to book space-only meetings without breaking out in an itchy rash.

Posted by Mike Mason

Jun 4, 2012 11:54:00 AM

Let’s face it, nothing brings out more redness, puffiness, and scratchiness than trying to book a space-only meeting. Whether it’s a one-day employee rally, a dinner meeting, or a 14-city roadshow, it’s pretty much always painful to try to rent meeting space when you have little or no sleeping rooms.

I bet that many of you have resorted to completely eliminating hotels from the mix – opting for restaurants, theaters, and club houses instead. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Hotels want your business. It’s how your business affects them that makes all the difference.


Topics: Meeting Planning, RFP Tips

A little flexibility can help save money on your meetings.

Posted by Mike Mason

Apr 9, 2012 4:18:00 PM

Using flexibility after you've signed the contract

Last week, I told you the one sentence you should never, ever put in your meeting request. This week we’re going to continue flexing with a unique idea that could have a dramatic impact on your bottom line, after you’ve signed the contract.

Hotels are constantly working to complete their “occupancy puzzle.” After they’ve booked your meeting, they’re out to find other business that will neatly fit on top of, at the back end of, or before your meeting, on their quest to maximize their occupancy and profitability. But as we know, most things in life aren’t so “neat,” and finding that perfect-fitting group is all but impossible. That’s when this phone call is made.


Topics: Meeting Planning, RFP Tips

The one sentence you should never, ever put in your meeting RFP

Posted by Mike Mason

Apr 2, 2012 4:19:00 PM

"These dates are not flexible!"

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve seen this sentence on a meeting RFP, I could buy a gumball for every Zentila user and still have enough left over to open my own candy store.


Topics: Meeting Planning, RFP Tips

What is a Second Option?

Posted by Mike Mason

Mar 19, 2012 4:20:00 PM

Hotels receive many inquiries for meetings, some of which may fall over the same dates. The first group to inquire over a set of dates has the 'First Option' hold on those dates. If another group comes along and is interested in the same dates, they can request a second option contract and, once signed, the hotel will approach the first option group and give them a short window (typically 48 hours) to either:


Topics: Meeting Planning, RFP Tips, Negotiations

Tips to help take some of the pain out of the attrition conversation

Posted by Mike Mason

Mar 12, 2012 4:23:00 PM

Over the next few weeks I’m going to explore the wild and wooly world of hotel contracts, with the goal of giving you the additional insight and confidence to successfully navigate through your negotiations.

This isn’t a “How to Negotiate” series – there are 1.3 million books written for that purpose. Instead, we’ll be taking the most contentious hotel contract clauses and diving right into middle of your sales manager’s brain to better understand what they’re thinking when they’re working through the negotiations with you. By understanding their perspective, you’ll find your confidence growing, which will lead to solid negotiations that form the foundation for a successful hotel relationship and meeting.


The Contract Clause That Swallowed the World

During my hotel sales days, of all the contract clauses I would negotiate with my customers, none created more tension than that hairy attrition clause. I could even go further and say that of all the industry events I’ve attended (MPI, PCMA, etc.) this little attrition clause has garnered more time in breakout sessions than any single topic ever. Yes, this baby has been beaten, battered, and stomped on. But before I jump into the briar patch, let’s start out with a short definition.

Attrition is the difference between your contracted rooms (your room block) and what actually checks in (your pick-up).

So what gives?  Why has so much time been centered on attrition? It comes down to 3 simple words: Out-Of-Control. And no outcome is more out of our control – both for planners and hotels – than trying to predict attrition. Here are just a couple examples.


    1. Your company sells a division: Bummer. Eastern region doesn't show up. Subtract 65 rooms.
    2. Flu hits Chicago: Throw-up central. Midwest sales team is down for the count. Subtract 25 rooms.

So what can you do to mitigate your risk while providing the hotel with the revenue assurances that they need in order to seal the deal?


Topics: Meeting Planning, Negotiations

Do you know what hotels are saying about your meeting? Part 3

Posted by Mike Mason

Feb 13, 2012 5:00:00 PM

How do I love thee? Let me count the square feet.

Welcome to the week of love. At Zentila, we’re all into the love thing. We have a core value dedicated to it – Love and be Loved – and even have it in our phone number (it's 407-656-LOVE. Don’t believe us? Go ahead and call. We’d love to talk with you.).

It’s in that spirit that this Happy Monday Morning Zmail comes to you. Specifically we’re going to focus on how to get hotels to LOVE your meeting. (If you’d like to see the prior email in this series about the hotel’s business review (RevMax) and the two things you absolutely should always do regarding flexibility, click here.)

But what exactly does the hotel look at to best judge whether your meeting is the best match for them or not?  Besides driving occupancy and room rate, there are other factors that you should understand to best position your meeting for the LOVE it so well deserves. Let’s head back to the revmax form and talk about one key measurement: The Space-to-Rooms Ratio.

Space-to-Rooms Ratio:  This is the amount of space you use for every guest room you occupy. And it’s by far the most important metric a meeting hotel uses to determine how much LOVE they can give a customer. You should always ask up-front for each hotel’s ratio. In order to get the best possible deal from a hotel, your meeting space should stay within the hotel’s space-to-rooms ratio.  When hotels decline RFPs, it’s not personal – it’s likely a space issue. So what can you do?

Simple tip #1: Know your own meeting’s space-to-rooms ratio. 
It’s a simple exercise and will help you in your negotiations with the hotel. If you’re below their ratio, you have some big leverage to drive your best possible deal. If you’re over, you can work with the hotel to find ways to reduce it (I’ve listed a few ideas at the bottom of the email). Here’s an easy way to calculate it:

Space-to-rooms ratio = (The total number of seats in all meeting room set-ups by day X 25) / Sleeping room block by day. 

Here’s a typical four-day meeting with 100 attendees:

You’ll notice a couple of things here. First, your arrival day is way under (25 sq.ft/guest room) because you’re occupying sleeping rooms but haven’t begun to meet. Your checkout day, however, is very high (5,000 sq.ft/guest room). This is a naturally occurring event with most meetings, but it’s here – around the edges of the meeting – that hotels have the greatest exposure and work the hardest to reduce the space given.

Simple tip #2: Focus on minimizing the Ratio on your pre and post days to get better deals.
Hotels rarely struggle with the space ratio during the main days of your program; it’s the pre and post days that will often kill the LOVE. So, what can you do to keep the fire going? Here are some ideas on saving hotel space that have little or no impact on your overall meeting results but have huge impacts on your ratio.

    • Keep your set-up to the first day of arrival. If you set up prior to when your room block starts, say Saturday for a Sunday arrival, you’ll lower your chances dramatically in finding availability and the right deal.
    • Reuse your main meeting room for one of your break-outs and dinners: Hotels would rather turn a room set-up than use an additional room. With the example above, your space-to-rooms ratio drops from 101 sqft/room to 67 sqft/room – a 34% decrease in space usage, without really affecting your meeting.
    • On the last day, ask if there is alternate space you can use for breakouts: Most hotels have restaurants, suites, other areas that would work fine for your last half day of meetings. If you’re willing to do it, the hotel will show their love in $$$ of savings.


When it comes down to it, meeting hotels are more concerned about managing meeting space; after all, they rarely run out of sleeping rooms before they run out of space. Knowing how your meeting affects their meeting space inventory and more importantly, what you can do to help them sell more space, will make every hotel fall in love with you. And in this case, it’s more than just roses and a nice dinner you’ll get: With the right space-to-rooms ratio you’ll be able to negotiate one hot deal. Who said money can’t buy you love?


Topics: Meeting Planning, RFP Tips, Negotiations

Your meeting RFP, and simple tips to get hotels to stand up and take notice (part 2 of 3)

Posted by Mike Mason

Jan 9, 2012 5:10:00 PM

Timing Is Everything

In last week’s Zmail (see it here), I talked about the idea of RFP credibility and some key habits you should get into before sending the request to hotels.

This week, we’re going to continue down this same path and build even more credibility into your meeting RFP. Like before, we’re going to head behind the curtain and into the hotel sales office. This time, we’re going to take a seat at their daily business review meeting, better known to hotel folks as the Group Rooms Control review (GRC for short).


Topics: Meeting Planning, RFP Tips, Negotiations

Your meeting RFP, and simple tips to get hotels to stand up and take notice

Posted by Mike Mason

Jan 2, 2012 5:11:00 PM

7 Tips to Get Hotels to Jump When They Receive Your Meeting RFP

This is the first of a three-part series focused on delivering concrete, actionable steps you can take to ensure you get timely and complete responses from your hotel partners. By offering just a couple of extra bits of information in your meeting requests, you’ll help your hotel salespeople do what they love to do: Fight for your business.

Behind the Curtain of the Hotel Sales Office

The key to getting hotels to work hard for your meeting and submit a killer bid is to understand how to get your meeting RFP to stand out among the sea of leads a hotel sales team receives every day. In order to do this, you need to first understand the hairballs that sales managers deal with, and the key information you can provide that will make them seek out your RFPs and jump for your business.


Topics: Meeting Planning, RFP Tips, Negotiations

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