ROOM 441 – The BEO




“I just want to confirm we are all set for the meeting tomorrow. It should be under the last name Harris.”

Meetings and events can be a daily part of a hotel’s operation. Most hotels offer some kind of meeting space based on the size of the property. Meetings could range from small, executive meetings for five to 10 people up to large events for 2,000-plus. Needs and requirements differ based on the scope and nature of the individual meeting.

Some meetings have extensive food and beverage needs while other meetings may only require a couple of pitchers of water and some glasses. Some meetings may require extensive audio/video needs, while others may just want individual pads of paper with pens.

To guarantee the needs of the meetings are satisfied according to the guest, a banquet event order (BEO) is assembled by the hotel’s event manager. The BEO contains every facet regarding the event from the location and time to the menu and tablecloth colors. Set-up, payment, schedule, menu, food service, audio/video, lighting, floral needs, and every other aspect of the execution is spelled out in detail on the BEO. Not one element goes unlisted.

The BEO is then reviewed for accuracy by the guest hosting the event. If both the guest and the event manager are satisfied with the blueprint of their event, the BEO is signed, and the wheels of execution begin turning. The BEO becomes the bible of the affair – the end-all-be-all document of truth for all involved parties to follow. It’s distributed to almost every department in the hotel so total transparency can allow all staff to execute a flawless production. Each department – from the kitchen staff to the events team – prepares for the big day. Food and beverage are ordered, tables and chairs are moved out of storage, and any projectors or lighting requirements are placed on the wings in preparation for show time!

On the eve of the event, the green flag is unfurled, and the show begins. Each team plays their individual role to meet the guest’s needs for the event based on the signed BEO.

A good event manager will be onsite during all three stages of an event. They will oversee all is going according to the BEO during the set-up phase of the event, be in attendance during the execution of the event in case any unforeseen needs arise, and make sure post-event billing goes smoothly.

In the case of Mr. Harris, his meeting was in the bag. It was a pretty simple meeting with minimal needs. He was at the front desk, checking into guest room 440. He had also reserved the meeting room for the following day for a meeting for 40 people. I had been the one to arrange the meeting and create his BEO. I took this moment to introduce myself.

“Hi, Mr. Harris. I’m Deven, your event manager. It’s so nice to meet you in person.”

“Oh, hey, Deven.” He reached over the desk to shake my hand, which I took.

“I have everything set up for you in Meeting Room B. Do you have a second now to go down and take a look at the set-up?” This step usually occurred just prior to the start of the event. I was glad I happened to be at the desk when he arrived, and I could have him verify the room set-up the night before.

Mr. Harris agreed to my offer. “Yeah, let’s go take a look.”

I quickly went back to my office and grabbed his signed BEO and led Mr. Harris down to Meeting Room B. I had checked the room earlier and was happy the BEO had been executed perfectly. I unlocked the room and Mr. Harris and I entered.

The room was set-up classroom-style. There were five rows of tables set-up lengthwise across the room with eight chairs neatly tucked under each row of tables all facing the front of the room, with an aisle down the middle. This set up matched the drawing stapled to the BEO which Mr. Harris had drawn himself and emailed to me. Sitting in front of each chair was a small pad of paper and a pen, both sporting the logo of the hotel.

There was a projector mounted to the ceiling pointed toward a screen that was hanging in the front of the room, both of which would be utilized the following day for the event. There was a podium and a presenter’s table at the front of the room. Standing next to the podium was a wooden easel holding a large flipchart, complete with a brand-new box of colorful markers resting on the shelf of the easel. There was also a long, empty table in the back corner of the room. All the tables were covered in crisp, white, freshly pressed tablecloths.

“Tomorrow morning, the kitchen staff will bring in pitchers of water – two for each table, and place glasses at each seat next to the paper pads. The table in the corner will house your coffee and snack station as described on your BEO.”

Mr. Harris was completely satisfied. “This looks great.”

“There are 40 chairs set, as requested. Lunch has been ordered for 40 people as well and will be served in our restaurant at 12:30. Is that correct?” I’d learned it’s best to confirm all these details with the guest to put their mind at ease.

Mr. Harris looked around the room in approval. “Super.”

I continued, “Lunch will be set up on the buffet and your guests will plate their own food, as stated on the BEO.” I then asked, “Is there anything I’m missing, Mr. Harris?”

“No, I think we’re all set,” came the reply. Music to an event manager’s ears!

We left the room, turning out the lights and locking the door behind us. As we walked back toward the front desk, Mr. Harris told me that the meeting was for the sales team of his software company. They were doing some training and going over last quarter’s sales figures.

We paused when we reached the front desk. “Well, I’ll be here in the morning to make sure everything is off to a good start. Just come to the desk and I’ll walk you down and unlock the room. I’ll be here to meet the caterer and make sure they get lunch set-up. I’ll also be here all day if you need anything during the meeting.”

“Thanks, Deven. I’ll see you in the morning,” and Mr. Harris walked down the hallway toward the elevator to his room.

The next morning at about 7:30, Mr. Harris approached the desk. I walked him down to the meeting room, unlocked the door, and took a quick glance around. Everything was as it was the night before, except there were now water pictures on each table with the accompanying glasses. The smell of freshly brewed coffee hung in the air as the back-corner table was now filled with the requested beverage station and an array of snacks, including fruit, granola bars, and pastries.

I confirmed once again that everything was in order and that Mr. Harris was satisfied. Before departing I said, “I’ll be at the front desk if you need anything at all. Just come grab me and I’ll make it happen.”

I didn’t hear from Mr. Harris the rest of the morning. When breakfast concluded for the hotel at 10:30, I helped the kitchen staff clean up the buffet in preparation for the caterers who were scheduled to arrive around noon to set up lunch.

The hotel didn’t offer lunch or dinner to the guests. Consequently, the only food we had stored in the kitchen were breakfast items for the buffet. When a meeting wanted lunch or dinner items, the hotel didn’t prepare the meal, rather, it was ordered from a local caterer.

The hotel had a copy of the caterer’s menu with marked-up prices, of course. While planning the event and creating the BEO, the guest is able to make their food and beverage selections from the extensive menu. Once selected and the final BEO is signed, I would then send the final order and the caterer delivered the food to the hotel on the set date and time. The caterers would set up the food then return later that day to collect their equipment. This arrangement worked out well for me as the event manager, because the third-party did all of the work as far as set up and take down was concerned. The guest paid us, we paid the caterer, and all parties involved were satisfied.

As scheduled, the caterers showed up at noon. I greeted them and they went to work setting up the buffet. The menu included 40 sandwiches on ciabatta rolls, arranged on three beautiful trays, and two large bowls of salad – one potato and one pasta. There also was a large fruit salad, as well as a basket of individual potato chips. Finally, there were 40 assorted cookies, beautifully arranged on a large, silver tray. The caterers arranged the food all on the buffet complete with kelp surrounding the dishes for a look of elegance. While two caterers were arranging the buffet, another was placing pictures of iced tea and water on each table. I’d been using this catering company for about a year and always was satisfied with their service level and quality of food.

The team of caterers left about 12:20, and shortly thereafter, I heard a crowd coming down the hallway from the meeting room. Dutifully, I grabbed my clipboard and stood near the restaurant so I could oversee the meal.

I watched as each guest took a plate, chose a sandwich, and served themselves their individual side choices. Everything seemed to be going just fine, but just as about half of the meeting attendees had gone through the food line, I realized something horrific. I noticed that the trays of sandwiches were vanishing rather quickly. I rapidly scanned those who were already seated and eating to see if perhaps some of the guests had taken multiple sandwiches, but I only counted one sandwich per plate.

I did a quick headcount and my heart dropped. To my dismay, the total number of guests, both with and without plates of food, totaled 55.

My heart sank and thoughts of despair flew through my head like bees buzzing around their hive. Had I made a mistake? I had confirmed 40 people, right? We were going to run out of food! My boss is going to kill me, not to mention, Mr. Harris!

I quickly looked at the BEO to ease my doubts, and to my relief it listed the total number of attendees as 40. Likewise, I scanned down the BEO to the food order, which again confirmed sandwiches, sides, and drinks for 40 people.

With approximately 35 people still in line, and only 20 sandwiches remaining, I knew I had to act fast. I quickly searched for Mr. Harris who was already sitting and eating his own lunch at the table with three other people. I walked over to him, and bent down, quietly saying, “Mr. Harris, we have a small situation. Can I speak with you for a moment?”

He wiped his mouth with a napkin, stood up, and we walked to the side of the restaurant.

“Sir, I don’t mean to alarm you, but there are more than 40 people eating lunch.”

“Oh, yeah, this morning my west end branch called and said they could make the meeting after all, so there’s about 15 more people than I thought there would be.”

“But I had the room set for 40. Where did you put 15 extra people?”

“Oh, we checked the meeting room, next-door – Meeting Room A? And there were some chairs in there that we just grabbed and brought over to our room. We just squeezed in and made room for everybody.”

“Good,” I commented. “I’m glad you all fit and are comfortable in the meeting room, but there’s not enough food. I only ordered 40 sandwiches.”

Mr. Harris’ demeanor changed, and his eyes widened. He suddenly looked over at the buffet line and realized there were fewer sandwiches than there were people waiting in line.

I spoke up to proactively defend myself. “The signed BEO is only for 40 people, so that’s the amount of food I ordered. Unfortunately, you changed the number without notifying me, so I’m not prepared to feed 55 people.”

“Oh…,” he said. “I see.”

I had anticipated an argument. Often, when you point out that a guest has made an error, especially an error this grave, anger is the result. And generally, guests in these types of situations tend to blame anyone (and everyone) other than themselves. I have been raked across the coals many times for situations like these that weren’t the fault of the hotel. I treasured the BEO I was holding in my hand, for it was physical proof I’d executed my end of the meeting according to the signed contract. Mr. Harris’s signature was clearly scrolled across the bottom, attesting that he was in accordance with the information in the document. There was no way he could pin this on me.

Fortunately, Mr. Harris realized that this was his error, and did not take out his own blunder on me.

After thinking for a moment, he offered a solution. “Can you just have your kitchen staff bring out more sandwiches?

“Unfortunately, that is not an option. This food has come from a third-party caterer. The hotel does not stock any food other than breakfast items. I can see about making some waffles and eggs for the remainder of your staff, but I do not have the ingredients to make the menu we have on the buffet.”

Mr. Harris folded his arms and placed his finger on his chin. He looked at me and said, “Can you call the caterer and get more some more food?”

Strike two for Mr. Harris. “The caterers require 48 hours notice for any changes to the original order. I don’t think they could throw together some more sandwiches and get them here anytime soon. I could run to the sandwich shop down the street and order a few more sandwiches. Better yet, I could run to the store and buy a couple of trays of premade sandwiches, as well as some potato salad and fruit salad. They even sell cookies. It’ll take me about 15 or 20 minutes to be back, but if you don’t mind waiting, we can do that.”

Mr. Harris had a different solution. “I got an idea”, he said and to my good fortune, he then took matters into his own hands.

He turned towards the group, just as the final few sandwiches were being taken from the serving tray, he clapped his hand three times and spoke very loudly saying, “Excuse me, excuse me. Could I have your attention for just a moment?”

Once the crowd quieted down and Mr. Harris had their attention, he continued. “We are all super happy that Darrell and his team from the west-end were able to join us for today’s meeting. As you know, their attendance was a last-minute, welcomed decision. Consequently, their group wasn’t counted in the lunch order, so we’re short some food.”

Surprisingly, there was not a single word from the crowd. They quietly anticipated Mr. Harris’ suggestion.

“Deven here has offered to go get more food, but that will take time and we have much to still discuss, so I am going to order some pizzas to be delivered here in about a half hour. Those who don’t get food from the buffet can eat while we continue our meeting. I’m super sorry about this, but we’ll get you guys fed in just a minute. Fill up on the potato salad and chips, and pizza will be here soon.”

I was elated that he owned the problem and devised a solution. More so, I was elated that he was not blaming me for his error.

The conversation noise level returned to normal, and Mr. Harris looked at me while reaching in his back pocket. “Will you do me a favor?” he asked me. He had taken out his wallet and was fishing and credit card out of one of the sleeves. “Could you call and order pizza and just put it on my card. We’re short 15 lunches? Go ahead and order seven pizzas. Pepperoni, sausage, whatever you think is fine. Go ahead and order breadsticks, and a couple of salads as well. Then just set everything on the buffet next to the sandwiches.”

In my state of relief, and with a potential crisis averted, I agreed to his request. I instantly went to my office and placed his order as requested. I then went into the general manager’s office to relate to him all that had happened.

The general manager validated my own thoughts. “It’s a good thing you had a signed BEO with the correct information, huh?” I couldn’t have agreed more.

About 25 minutes later, the pizza was delivered. Mr. Harris and his team were still at lunch, so he had those that had not eaten yet fill their plate and take a few moments to enjoy their food. When they finally did return to the meeting room, Mr. Harris passed by the front desk, where I happened to be standing.

“Deven, I’m sorry if I caused you any worry because of the extra people. I should have told you about them this morning and we could have prepared.”

“Mr. Harris,” I responded, “Thank you. I’m happy to help in any other way possible.”

The remainder of Mr. Harris’s meeting occurred without any incident. He and I remain good friends to this day, and he continues to use the hotel twice a year for his software company’s sales meetings. We re-use the BEO from the previous meeting, adjusting the date and adding one additional menu item for lunch.

Along with the sandwiches, Mr. Harris now has me order a few pizzas in case any additional members of the sales team attend the meeting unexpectedly.

Deven Matthews is a hotelier who has worked in the hotel industry for more than 23 years. A professor of hotel management at the College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas, Deven enjoys instructing the future managers of Las Vegas hotels. He holds a master’s degree in business management and is fascinated by all things hospitality. When not immersed in hotels, Deven enjoys playing the piano and spending time with his wife and their six children.


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