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Heather Jones

Love at First Bite: Creating a Flawless Venue Tasting for Special Events

How to create a perfect tasting at your event venue.

It is by far one of the highlights of any engagement--the menu tasting! Hours of budgeting and list-making and prioritizing pay off in an experience unlike almost any other during the planning process.

Most couples consider the tasting a perk, not a chore. This is your opportunity as an event pro to shine in a moment of relative relaxation and excitement with a flawless tasting.

Need strategies to make your tastings memorable? Read on!

Set the Mood
No, not necessarily with candlelight and fresh-cut flowers, although the more that you can mock up the ambience of the actual wedding day, the better. 

Rather, establish an environment where open communication is both welcome and encouraged.

By the time you are sitting at the tasting, you should have already made your clients completely aware of your booking policies, anticipated fees and procedures. This should include any fees you may have for the tasting, and limits on the number of guests who many participate. The focus at the tasting should be on the menu.

Ready for the First
You can generally expect that this will be the first tasting your clients have ever attended, so explain as you go along what is going to happen, how they can participate beyond just eating great food, and what their roles are. 

Be responsive to subtle cues that your couple is either confused or intimated and unable to express their opinions, and make it safe for them to respectfully share their insight.

Be Efficient
Even though tastings are enjoyable, they still shouldn’t drag on for hours. Have not only food and wine ready on arrival, but also answers to all of the important questions they might ask about their menu, food service and policies.

The chef should be on hand to respond to specific food-related inquiries, and a manager or supervisor who is able to make higher level decisions in response to client questions should at least be available quickly, if needed.

Foster Trust
Your client experience will benefit greatly from a mutual trust, and you can do your part by demonstrating that details are important to you. 

For example, your couple might want to know how they can be sure that their food will be the same as the tasting on the wedding day. Be proactive by taking a photo of each course as it is served, making detailed notes and recapping those notes before the end of the meeting.

Also, follow up quickly with any promised paperwork, such as the contract, proposal and/or BEOs. The fewer rounds of corrections that are necessary, the more confident your couple will be on the Big Day.

Upsell Carefully
Your tasting is a great opportunity to show your clients what else you can do to enhance their event. Linens, decor, menu items, wine packages--whatever you can demonstrate as a natural part of the tasting will make them feel special and help spark further ideas. 

This is one great reason not to wait until the very end of the planning process, when everything is already booked and decided, to hold your tastings. Wise up-selling can boost the bottom line, so it’s worth perfecting it.

Every tasting and every venue is unique. Let your tasting help you wow your clients, establish credibility and set you up for a completely successful event!

Heather Jones is the catering sales director for Wente Vineyards, a family-owned property in Livermore, Calif., that is home to a winery and vineyards, a golf course, restaurant, and a range of unique facilities for hosting weddings and special events.

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