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Preferential treatment

How do agencies, venues and consortiums choose who to work with, and what is their criteria?


As far as a venue is concerned, the most important supplier to get right is the caterer.

As the old wedding adage goes: guests always remember the bride and the food. The same is true with events, minus the bride. An organiser is placing a great deal of trust in a venue, and the venue’s reputation is on the line where the food is concerned, so how do they pick their suppliers?

Greta Pezzotta, event manager at Glaziers Hall in London Bridge, says: “We have eight preferred caterers offering plenty of bespoke options to meet a range of budgetary requirements. 

“The list includes some well-known names in the London event scene such as Moving Venue as well as some more niche caterers like Swann About and Grazing, who are also located in the South Bank area, as we’re also keen to support fellow local businesses. 

“To become one of our preferred caterers, initially we meet and invite them for a tasting to assess the quality of their offering. If that goes well, we then sponsor an event, so we can see how they work in a busy environment, which helps us assess and ensure the quality meets our high and exacting requirements in a live scenario. That’s a good way to see how adaptable they are. Naturally, we also have to ensure all of the necessary health and safety paperwork is in place.”

Once their foot is in the door, how does Glaziers Hall monitor performance on an ongoing basis?

“We like to take a more personal partnership approach with our suppliers,” says Pezzotta. “Typically, their performance is monitored throughout the planning and the actual event and then via the post-event feedback, which we personally seek from our clients the day after. We have more formal six- monthly review meetings.”

We live in suspicious times, and more and more organisers are looking for transparency when it comes to breaking down costs. Glaziers Hall insists that organisers use one of their eight caterers, and in return not only they promise quality, but transparency on rates too. Pezzotta says: “We are completely transparent. Once the enquiry comes in, we will compile a proposal that breaks down each of the charges, unless they would prefer a daily delegate rate. 

“We work with a lot of event booking agencies on a regular basis. Many venues offer agencies 8% commission for choosing them, but we offer 10%, which is normally well received because it is quite competitive.”

That’s the view from a standalone venue, what about something bigger, like a marketing consortium? Lisa Hatswell, managing director at Unique Venues of London, says that having a list of preferred suppliers across a range of venues helps make life easier for event bookers. She says: “The preferred supplier model offers huge advantages for event bookers. Primarily, you have the reassurance from your chosen venue that they are happy to work with these organisations, be they caterers, production companies, entertainment specialists or florists. 

“Many venues that choose to use a supplier list will have subjected the potential organisations, looking to link their businesses to theirs, to a holistic tendering process to ensure they are suitable to provide services within their premises.

“With KPIs and targets set and analysed on a regular basis, venues can offer assurance to MICE bookers they are endorsing accredited and trusted services, guaranteed to deliver a unique experience.” 

Agencies depend upon supplier networks to ensure the client gets the best event possible, as their reputation relies on it. Michael Charles, creative director, Julia Charles Events Management, says that an agency gives a client protection against suppliers. He says: “We are like an antivirus software; we vet suppliers, allowing the good ones in but protecting our clients from the bad. Having the opportunity to work with a list of preferred suppliers is one of the many benefits of working with an agency. We have a wealth of knowledge and also the experience of working with the suppliers who will actually deliver the goods. 

“It’s often impossible to gauge how a supplier will act in the heat of an event. It is easy for a caterer to create an amazing menu for a handful of people, but will they actually be capable of delivering that menu for the hundreds of guests you have coming to your gala dinner?

“We, as an agency, will bear the risk if something goes wrong – it’s not just our reputation that’s on the line, we could lose a client if a supplier lets us down.”

In an industry built largely on trust, make sure you listen to what your partners have to say.