Cracking Down on Costco at Indian Wedding Venues

When I help couples and their families find a venue for their Indian wedding, one thing they always ask about is how to serve breakfast to the guests that are staying overnight. Indian weddings are known for their warm hospitality. You want your wedding guests to feel welcome and comfortable throughout the wedding weekend. And of course, a component of that is serving breakfast.

Venues are happy to work with you to provide solutions that will work within your budget but also ensure their standards.

Indian weddings are expensive. The costs add up really fast and a recurring challenge I see between the consumers and the venues is that everyone wants to serve breakfast but they don’t want to pay the venue for it. They just want to pay the caterer for the food but not for service and labor at the venue. And for a while it worked. Venues would waive fees and throw in a hospitality room as an amenity during the final negotiations.

And consumers would have their outside caterer setup nashto, samosas, finger foods and chai. But now consumers are also bringing in items from Costco (and other stores) and the venues are starting to crack down on that.


Note: I’m just starting to hear from venues about their changing policies on the Indian wedding hospitality room. Like Indian weddings themselves these things will take time to permeate into the new norm, but I am seeing stricter hospitality room policies slowly start to happen. So don’t assume that your costs will just be to the caterer on this. The venues you select might charge you for the room, beverages or per person fees. Keep reading below in the recommendation section, for the best time to negotiate this.


{Why Are The Hospitality Room Policies Changing?}

Because the hospitality room still need maintenance – even though it seems that the room is fully self contained by the outside caterer and their own food – the trash still has to be picked up and taken out, cups have to be replenished, and dishes removed. And even with outside catering there is still labor involved and the hotel incurs those labor costs…costs that the consumers are not paying for.

{The Rub}

The challenge is that the venues are a business. They want to maximize revenue. And bringing in your own food is like bringing in outside food to a restaurant. In the past they were ok with it because they were getting so much revenue from the wedding but the feedback I’ve received is that a lot of consumers are abusing the hospitality room.

A lot of consumers are bringing in Costco with big boxes of snacks and beverages surrounding the perimeter of the hospitality room. And it’s available all weekend. I already had one high end resort venue share with me that they’re no longer allowing their clients to do that. One, it doesn’t match the resort’s brand image and two, again because no matter what, it costs the hotel’s labor to maintain the room – labor that consumers are not paying for and three, that’s revenue the resort is missing out on. You could be ordering more items from them instead of that outside food.


By the way, when I say that venues cracking down on Costco, that doesn’t mean you can get stuff from Whole Foods or some other store; it means that they may not allow you to bring in any outside food except items provided by an outside caterer. 


Naturally, consumers feel like they’re already paying a lot to the venue so the venues should have no issues with this, but many do. So the compromise is the new hospitality room. But before I get into what I mean by the “new hospitality room”, I want to make a recommendation.

{Recommendation}

Talking about the hospitality room should be later in your venue selection process. There are a lot of venues to choose from. My recommendation is start with finding a venue that you like, that matches your vision and budget. Then work with them on the hospitality suite/breakfast. They’ll be much more willing to work with you once they know that you are serious about the venue and once they have a full scope of the amount of business you’re bringing them for your whole Indian wedding weekend.

When I work with couples to find and book their venue, the hospitality room is part of the second or third round of negotiation. The best way to negotiate is to put yourself in their shoes. Imagine how many calls and requests venues get everyday and how many people they prepare quotes for who simply ‘fall off the earth’. The more you understand about how their business works, the stronger negotiator you’ll be. They have no way of knowing how serious you are at the outset. So if you start with talking about the hospitality room etc. they’re going to give you their highest price because they aren’t sure whether you’re a serious prospect or not.

ProTip: You could buy one or two food items from the hotel like donuts, pastries or bagels so that they feel that they are making at least some revenue from the hospitality room.

Side Note: Another item to save for later in the negotiation is parking. Some venues include complimentary self parking in their wedding package. For those that don’t, refer to this guide.

Assorted donuts served for breakfast.
Photo: VEK Photo

{The New Hospitality Room}

Many venues are now waiving the hospitality room rental fee but you’ll be required to buy coffee, tea and juices from the hotel. Additionally, more and more, venues are restricting the timing on the hospitality room. In the past I’ve seen hospitality rooms setup to be open all weekend for guests to freely grab snacks and go. But venues are starting to put time limits on the hospitality room, making it available only for a short period of time, for example, a couple hours during breakfast and a couple hours in-between the ceremony and cocktail hour.

And depending on what and how elaborate the meal is, the venue may start charging a room rental fee, plus a per person fee, similar to how they charge for an outside catered lunch or dinner. Keep reading for a variety of ways to serve breakfast at an Indian wedding.


If you haven’t, check out our guide on How Venue Fees Work For an Indian Wedding as well as understanding Service Charge and Tax at Venues.


{Breakfast Alternatives to the Hospitality Room}

Vouchers – this is the easiest way to arrange breakfast. Each voucher is worth a set amount. Pre-distribute vouchers in the welcome bags and guests can enjoy breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant. You don’t have to bring in a caterer, nor arrange a room setup, nor worry about the venue’s staff and your caterer refreshing the room. However, they won’t serve chai, nashto and other popular breakfast foods we all love. Instead you’ll get continental, pancakes, cereal etc….but is that so bad? You’ll pay the venue ahead of time for the vouchers.

We did this at my wedding and our guests really appreciated it. And my family loved the non-hassle of it – not having to arrange an outside caterer and all the logistics was one less thing to worry about. Of course I wasn’t at the breakfasts to see how it all went but my cousin distributed vouchers at her wedding and personally I liked it much more than a hospitality room.

Breakfast with the room block. If you didn’t get a chance, check out our guides on hotel room blocks. This one shares tips on how to get guests to book their hotel room through your room block vs. with a 3rd party site online. This is a detailed guide about everything you need to know about room blocks. Basically you might be able to negotiate breakfast within the hotel room rate.

Grab N’ Go – Some venues work with you to minimize breakfast costs by allowing you to distribute grab n’ go breakfast. The caterer sets up pre-packaged lunch boxes. This way the hotel’s labor, materials and setup are virtually nothing, so they won’t charge you much – just for the beverages. Guests can take the pre-packaged meals to their rooms and sit by the pool etc.

Though we don’t advocate this as it’s not environmentally friendly, some venues may allow you to serve breakfast in paper/plastic plates etc. so that you avoid the costs of utilizing their china, silverware etc. Just breakfast though, not for other meals.

Ceremony Site Breakfast – some venues will help you save money by setting up breakfast in the ceremony area. This feels like a cocktail hour, where guests can mingle or sit in the ceremony chairs (no tables to put their plates down). The cost savings come in because you’re not occupying additional function space at the venue. That way they don’t have all that setup. This is not common and generally not preferred by venues but they can do it. And there’s also an element of not being in the ceremony space before everything starts, but if that doesn’t bother you, then no need to worry about that.

{Take Aways}

  • Venues are cracking down on Costco at Indian weddings. They may not allow you to bring outside not provided by the outside caterer.
  • There are a few different ways to serve breakfast at your wedding venue.
  • There will be costs incurred but you can keep them to a minimum as detailed above.
  • Negotiating is all about compromise. Good negotiators understand the other party’s position and have a good understanding of their own bottom line. Negotiating someone into the ground won’t get you far in the end. You won’t build goodwill and on the wedding day instead of going out of their way to go the extra mile for you, they’ll just do whatever is contractually required. That’s human nature. And that’s not the ideal position to be in for your wedding day.
  • You might also like these ShaadiShop guides:

First Steps of Indian Wedding Planning 

Understanding Room Blocks for an Indian Wedding

Defining Venue Food and Beverage Minimums


I hope this article has been helpful to you. If it has, please let me know in the comments; and you might like to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest – whatever your preferred media is, as we frequently publish articles to help make  planning an Indian wedding just a little bit easier.

Congratulations and cheers!

Samta Varia
Founder & CEO
ShaadiShop: Indian Wedding Venues

 South Asian-friendly Wedding Venues

ShaadiShop is a free service to help couples, planning an Indian or any South Asian wedding, find their wedding venue. We walk you through the whole process from discovery to booking. And, venues extend better pricing and amenities to our clients. Visit our main website or contact me to start your venue search today!

 

 

 

 

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