Sharing the pain with partners, getting clients to commit, and staying on top of the rapidly changing rules—all important steps for the hospitality industry to grapple with coronavirus. Five event and catering experts made recommendations for this thorny issue at a pop-up panel last week during The Special Event + Catersource, held at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.
Note: This session took place March 10; since then, various cities have imposed tighter restrictions on events.
In the face of evaporating business, “get clients to commit” to spending money, said Ronnie Davis, managing director at Great Performances in New York. He suggested that rather than giving clients a refund for a cancelled event, “Give them a credit if they host the event within a year.”
Several panelists stressed the need to make clients and their guests feel safe at events. Steps such as putting hand sanitizer stations in plain view “will quiet the fears,” said Kristin Banta, founder of Los Angeles-based Kristin Banta Events.
Along that line, boosting staffing and serving food with tongs and toothpicks will add a sense of safety, said Michael Stavros, partner and director of business development with M Culinary Concepts in Phoenix. Such steps will increase labor cost but the message they send is important, he added.
‘SHARED RISK’ In regard to the touchy issue of vendor relations when clients cancel, Michael Massari, chief sales officer with Las Vegas-based Caesars Entertainment, suggested to attendees that no one party should bear all the costs of lost business. He believes in “shared risk,” he said.
“We’re not in the cancellation or the collection business; we’re in the events business,” Massari said.
Several members of the panel stressed the importance of considering event insurance, including business-interruption insurance. Such coverage is not a cure-all but can help in certain situations, Davis said.
At all costs, “Get out in front” of the issue, said Emily Negley, special events manager at Amazon in Seattle—a market hit hard early in the coronavirus outbreak. Sharing what steps your business is taking to cope with these challenges is “putting a stake in the ground,” she said. “People will follow you.”