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Tracy Stuckrath's Essential Meetings F&B Checklist

Photo of Tracy Stuckrath sitting on a couch, talking with chef.
Image of Tracy Stuckrath holding a plate of food.
Tracy Stuckrath. Credit: thrive! meetings and events.

Planning food and beverage events is more than just selecting the menu items. As you select the ideal hotel or convention center for your event, use this checklist to assess the food and beverage offerings. It will help ensure the venue meets your standards for a safe, inclusive, sustainable and satisfying event experience.

Trainings, Inspections & Certifications

■  What is your current health inspection score? When was it last reviewed?
■  How many members of your culinary team hold a Food/Hygiene Certification?
■  What number of members on your culinary team are Certified Food Handlers?
■  How many of your culinary team have taken and passed the ServSafe Food Allergen training program or a similar program?

[Related: Free Site Selection Strategies Checklist eHandbook]

Food Sourcing, Transparency & Sustainability

If you’re looking for a more local food and beverage experience, ask these questions:

■  Where does your beef come from?
■  Where do the fish and seafood you serve come from? Does it have gill tags to ensure authenticity?
■  Who sources your poultry?
■  What farmers and local purveyors do you have relationships with in the region? How can we incorporate that into our menus?
■  How do you handle food recalls? Who oversees the response?
■  What certifications do you abide by when purchasing food to ensure the food is authentic—Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), GlobalG.A.P®?
■  What local organizations do you work with to donate leftover food?
    ■  What is the process for doing so?
■  How do you track the overages and donations?
■  How can we work with you to reduce overage?

[Free Tracy Stuckrath F&B Webinar: Tapping the Latest F&B Trends]

Food Preparation

■  How do you manage and prepare special dietary needs—food allergies, religious-based—meals in the kitchen?
■  Do you have allergy- and dietary-needs-friendly menus already noted and on file?
■  Who on your staff knows the ingredients in the food being served?
■  Who will be our point person?
■  Will this person be onsite with us for all meal functions?
■  How is the chef to work with in creating customized menus?
■  Is s/he flexible and capable to do so?
■  Can they use the accommodations to create a menu for all?
■  Is the chef willing to talk to specific attendees if needed to work within their parameters?
■  If you order specific items for customized meals, how do you receive, store and label the items when they come into the kitchen?
■  Is there a separate preparation area and utensils in the kitchen for preparing specialty meals?
■  If not, how do they manage cross-contact?
■  For guests who request Kosher, Halal and other religious-based dietary needs, how do you manage these requests? What local company do you use to source specific meals? What is the deadline to order them? Is there an additional cost for these meals? If yes, what is it? 
■  How are specialty meals communicated to the kitchen and front-of-house staff?
■  What is your process for labeling and distributing special meals so they do not come into contact with other meals?
■  How are personalized meals noted on banquet event orders?
■  Is it chef’s special or spelled out?

[More Meetings Today Checklists:]

Food Service

■  How does your front-of-house staff manage and serve dishes for guests with dietary needs—food allergies, religious-based?
■  How do you label food on buffets and passed hors d’oeuvres?
■  Does it include ingredients and/or note the allergens?
■  Who is responsible for creating the labels?
■  When is this done and can I proof them in advance? 
■  Is there one point of contact for guests with food allergies or other dietary needs?
■  Are servers trained on what is being served?
■  How do you communicate food allergens and other ingredients to the staff? 
■  If English is not your servers’ primary language, how do you assist them in communicating with our guests about the menu as well as specific ingredients and allergens? 
■  How/where do servers pick up customized meals?

[Related: Why the Cuisine of the Coastal Carolinas Is Such a Treat]

Photo of Tracy Stuckrath sitting in a booth.
Tracy Stuckrath. Credit: thrive! meetings and events.


■  What route do our attendees take to get to this space if they utilize mobility-assistance devices? 
■  What are the access points to the food and beverage spaces? 
■  Is your staff trained in assisting guests who are blind, use mobility-assistance devices or are deaf? 
■  Do you have a relief area for service dogs? Where is that located?
■  What is the height of your buffet tables? How do you typically set-up a buffet table? Do you have multiple heights of tables to assist attendees who cannot reach higher tables?

Decor, Equipment and Furniture

■  What size tables (diameter) do you have onsite, and how many do you have of each size?
■  Are they included in the room rental? 
■  What types and colors of linens do you provide? Are they included in the room rental?
■  What types of and how many chairs do you have onsite?
■  Are they included in the room rental? 
■  Are there any special food and beverage setup charges, such as carving stations, specialty bars or unique displays?
■  What equipment is included in the base price, and what incurs an additional charge?

[Related: 8 Tips for Meeting Planners to Collaborate With Chefs For Exceptional Group Dining]

Emergency Response

■  Do you have emergency medical team onsite?
■  Do they stock epinephrine?
■  What type of medical treatments can they provide?
■  Who on your staff responds to and oversees medical emergencies?
■  If you do not have an EMT onsite, how close is the EMT, and what is the typical response time?

Service Charges, Tips and Taxes

■  What are your current gratuity and taxes rates on food and beverage?
■  Are food and beverage taxed differently?
■  What is the service charge rate, and what does it cover?
■  How much of the service charge is distributed to the staff as tips?
■  Are there any additional gratuities or fees that we should be aware of?
■  What are the current tax rates for food and beverage services, and are they subject to change before the event date?

[Related: Learn 9 Prime F&B Takeaways From Events Experts]

Pricing Structure and Inclusions

■  Can you provide a detailed breakdown of all food and beverage services costs?
■  What is included in the per-person cost? Are there items or services that are billed separately?
■  Are there different pricing tiers or packages, and what are the differences between them?

Minimum Spend Requirements

■  Is there a minimum food and beverage spend required for the event space we are using?
■  What happens if the minimum spend is not met?
■  Can unused portions of the minimum spend be applied to other services or future events?

Photo of Tracy Stuckrath, sitting with a cup of coffee, with the words Gather and Eat in the foreground.
Tracy Stuckrath. Credit: thrive! meetings and events.

Cancellation and Adjustment Policies

■  What is your cancellation policy for food and beverage services?
■  Up to what point can changes be made to the menu or headcount without incurring additional charges?
■  Are there fees associated with last-minute changes or cancellations?

Food and Beverage Sampling

■  Can we schedule a tasting session prior to finalizing the menu? 
■  Is there a cost associated with this?
■  How are menu items chosen for the tasting, and how representative are they of the actual event portions and presentation?

[Related: Exploring the Food Heritage and Culinary Highlights of Tucson, Arizona]

Billing and Payment Schedule

■  What is the payment schedule for food and beverage services?
■  Are deposits required, and are they refundable?
■  When is the final payment due, and what forms of payment do you accept?

External Vendors and Corkage

■  Are we allowed to bring in external food or beverage vendors?
■  If so, are there corkage fees or service charges for using external vendors?
■  How do you coordinate with external vendors to ensure compliance with your hotel policies?

Exclusive Vendor Agreements

■  Are there exclusive vendor agreements in place that might restrict the use of outside food and beverage providers?
■  If using the hotel’s exclusive vendors, are their rates competitive, and what are the terms of their service?

Overtime Charges

■  What are the charges for food and beverage service that extends beyond the scheduled event time?
■  How is overtime calculated, and what are the incremental time blocks for overtime billing?

[Related: Wolfgang Puck on 25 Years in Catering, F&B Trends and His Legacy]

Seasonal and Special Menus

■  Are there seasonal variations in pricing or menu options that could affect the event cost?
■  Do you offer special menus for holidays or local events that might coincide with our event date?

Sustainability and Sourcing Policies

■  What are your policies regarding sustainability in food sourcing and waste management?
■  Are there additional charges for sourcing local or organic food items?

Bar and Beverage Service

■  What are the licensing restrictions or limits on alcohol service at the venue?
■  Are there options for an open bar, consumption-based billing or a cash bar, and how do each of these impact overall cost?
■  Who on the staff is TIPS trained? 
■  Do you have non-alcoholic adult beverage options (mocktails)?
■  What beverage options do you serve?
■  What size coffee urns do you use? What size are your coffee cups? 
■  Is there a daily/consumption package or is it by gallon only?  
■  Do you have a daily beverage package for coffee, tea, soda and water?  
■  Do you have water stations in each meeting room and throughout the property? Is there a charge for them? 

[Related: How to Slim Down Your Meetings and Events Food and Beverage Spend]

Insurance and Liability

■  What type of insurance is required for the event, particularly if alcohol is being served?
■  Who is liable in the case of food-related incidents or alcohol-related accidents?

Restaurants and Food Outlets

■  How many restaurants and bars are onsite? What are their hours of operation? 
■  What other food and beverage outlets are available onsite? 
■  Do you have room service? What are the hours of operation?
■  What restaurants are close to the hotel?

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About the author
Tracy Stuckrath | Professional Speaker, Trainer, Consultant

Tracy Stuckrath, founder of thrive! meetings & events and host of the Eating at a Meeting podcast, speaks and teaches how to create safe, sustainable, inclusive and cultural food and beverage experiences that don’t kill or offend eaters.