Beyond The Contract: What are Banquet Event Orders?

Perfection Events - BEO TemplateThe contract was signed eons ago and the planning process has been smooth, but now I have to sign a huge stack of something called BEOs?  Didn’t we cover all of this in the contract?

The answers are yes, you have to sign the BEOs and no, it wasn’t all covered in the contract.  In general terms, the contract you signed holds the space for you and includes all of the legalese that is required in contracts.  It does not include the very specific details about each function, like how the room should be set (i.e. theater style, reception, classroom, etc), the exact menu you will be serving, the specific audio-visual equipment you want in a particular room, the special request for bottled water instead of pitchers of water in a meeting room, etc.  All of those ultra-specific details are now included in the Banquet Event Order (BEO) or sometimes Event Order, for short.

Some form of a BEO or Event Order is used by all hotels, but some catering facilities or venues will have a different format because they do work very differently than a hotel.  Your BEO should include everything you need the facility to know about a particular function, like:

    • Room name, with rental fee clearly noted (if applicable)
    • Function name (i.e. Client Executive Board Meeting)
    • Date and time
    • Number of people expected and how the room should be set (i.e. boardroom style for 20 people)
    • Number of people guaranteed (if this is a meal function)
    • Menu to be served, with pricing clearly noted
    • Audio visual equipment ordered, with pricing clearly noted
    • Special requests you may have (i.e. place pitcher of water and glass at each seat)

The five key things you need to know about BEOs are:

1. A BEO is a binding contract – review every letter on a BEO very carefully to ensure that you fully understand what you are agreeing to when you sign in (both in terms of cost and service execution).

2. Pay very close attention to the numbers listed for expected, set, and guarantee.  The expected number is pretty straight-forward; it’s the number of people you expect to attend a function.  The set number means the number of chairs or seats you want a facility to provide.  The guarantee is the minimum number of people for whom you should expect to pay.

  • For example, you may be expecting 185 people for lunch, you may set for 200 people to provide some breathing room at tables, and you may guarantee 180 people because you typically have a few no-shows.  At the end of lunch, if your final count was 176 people, your bill will still reflect lunch for 180 people because that was your guarantee.  However, at the end of lunch, if your final count of people served is 200, you should expect to pay for 200 because that is the number of people the hotel/venue actually served, even though you only guaranteed 180 people. 

3. The BEO is what the hotel/venue staff lives by while your event is happening.  You must review carefully (see the first bullet above) and ensure that the hotel or venue has translated all of your needs appropriately.  If there are any discrepancies, the will be settled based on the (you guessed it!), the BEO.  Make sure that everything the hotel staff needs to know about each function is listed on the BEO.

4. As tedious as it may seem, make sure that you have scheduled time at your pre-conference to review each and every BEO.  In-detail.  No matter how carefully you have reviewed them, there are always last-minute changes that need to be communicated.  Take the time to review these with the appropriate hotel departments to ensure all expectations are in alignment.

5. While BEOs are mini-contracts with the hotel or venue, do NOT fail to put things in the general contract that you assume can be put in the BEO.  BEOs are only to be used for the purpose of your use of meeting space and banquet services.

Yes, we know the 220 page PDF file of BEO’s is overwhelming.  Yes, we know it will take you hours to comb through. Yes, we know it will take time to call out the changes you need to make.  The key thing to remember is that the BEOs are what will make your event actually happen at your facility.  They deserve all the time it takes to get them right.