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The question of in-house catering is one that rears its ugly head from time to time. It is often a totally exasperating aspect of events organising that leads to arguments and misunderstanding, all the more so because there doesn’t appear to be a nationally recognised set of rules and regulations.
Some venues are happy for you to bring your own caterers and drinks. Others will let you bring outside help but will charge corkage. Many simply don’t let you do it at all – you use our caterers and suppliers or none at all.
For many people it all seems to be a bit of a take-on. Look at the price you pay for a sandwich in any given supermarket and compare it to what you would have to shell out in an exhibition or conference venue. One high profile London venue used to charge £12 for a bottle of mineral water, there simply can’t be any justification for that.
The venues of course argue that they have overheads and this is to a certain extent fair enough. They have to keep their kitchens to the highest of standards for catering for large numbers of people, one bad health and hygiene inspection can close a place down.
There is also a convenience factor. If you use the venues in-house team you are at least assured that everything will be provided, many’s the time, for example, that someone has booked an outside firm only for them to turn up with no tables or plates because they assumed these would be available at the venue.
The fact still remains, however, that you can often end up paying per head the sort of money that you’d expect to hand over in a top London restaurant. I remember being told by one venue representative that they loved rock concerts because the amount they could whack on the price of a bottle of water represented a highly lucrative revenue stream.
Cynical exploitation or sound business sense? Like all things there’s good and bad and it is up to the event organiser to talk to as many venues as possible in order to come up with the right deal.