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Managing the Food and Beverage Costs of Your Meetings Program

How to manage rising food & beverage costs in meeting and events

As meeting professionals, setting customer expectations is key. We have a responsibility to educate our customers on the reasons for the increases in cost, how those increases directly impact our ability to drive savings, and what we’re doing to budget and plan for these increases in the future.

A buffet of food laid out at a meeting | Global Agency. BCD Meetings & Events

Reasons for cost increase

As of November 2022, the average price of food in the United States has increased by 10.6%, according to the latest inflation data published on Dec. 13, 2022. As recently as August, the food inflation rate at 11.4% was the highest since May 1979. More specifically for meetings & events, the index for “Food Away From Home” (restaurants, hotels, carry-out meals) increased by 12% since November 2021.

Unfortunately, analysts say it will take time for consumers to see relief. In fact, an additional 3%-4% increase is forecasted for 2023. There are several reasons why food prices are still on the rise:

  • Food costs have been directly impacted by outbreaks of COVID-19 that have slowed production and driven up prices.
  • The war in Ukraine has had a significant impact on the export of wheat – which is used to process flour and starch. Exports have decreased by 92% between May 2021 and May 2022 and, with the world facing a wheat shortage, production costs being passed to consumers have increased dramatically
  • The weather has had a major impact on growers; from unseasonably cold conditions to excessively warm conditions that sparked wildfires that have destroyed crops, warehouses, and production facilities.
  • Energy prices rose 23.8% from August 2021 to August 2022. Customers are likely feeling the pinch of the pandemic in their own food costs, however, hotels/restaurants are facing shrinking margins with higher food, fuel, labor, and transportation costs.

Impact to savings

As meeting planners, we are always looking for opportunities for cost savings for our customers. Historically F&B was a place where we could make an immediate impact by removing bottled water and pre-packaged snacks, opting for buffets over plated meals, or reducing the number of banquet staff. However, due to the pandemic, these traditional cost-saving measures are now secondary to attendee safety, which is our number one priority.

Budgeting for the future

While we might not be able to control costs, we can still be better prepared and informed. Here are some suggestions for F&B budget management:

  • Subscribe to Consumer Price Index (CPI) reporting and monitor food cost trends that will impact your meeting budget.
  • Account for a 3-5% YOY increase in the actual cost of your F&B from CY2019, i.e. a $100 dinner in 2019 would be closer to $117 in 2023.
  • Consider your market; when meeting in a high-cost market, account for a 20% increase by market, i.e. that same $117 dinner in Detroit would be $140 in New York.
  • Work with your hotel catering partners by locking in F&B menu pricing when possible.


Originally published Jan 10, 2023 7:00:00 AM
Last updated on Jan 18, 2023 9:04:06 AM

Written by Andrea Harvey & Karen Gravlin


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