Today (September 29) is National Coffee Day.
I started drinking coffee when I was in college. It was summertime, and I had a temp job doing data entry. The office where I was working was overly air-conditioned, and no matter how many layers I put on my hands would always be cold. There was a small office kitchen which was stocked with boxes upon boxes of Swiss Miss cocoa packets.
“Hot chocolate!” I thought. “Delicious!” And I proceeded to prepare cocoa to warm my hands and my insides. At first, this was great. Then one day I looked at one of the Swiss Miss boxes. It was nearly empty, so easy to pick up and look at more closely….and so I read the nutrition and calorie information. By that time, I was probably drinking four cups a day, and was horrified to see that I was consuming as many calories in cocoa as I was in food.
Coffee was my only other option. But the kitchen had no sugar, and only powdered creamer, which didn’t look appetizing at all. I eased in by making myself mochas using the Swiss Miss. Little by little, I cut back on the amount of cocoa until I was just drinking black coffee. It took a while, but I learned not just to drink coffee, but to enjoy the taste as well.
These days I don't drink as much coffee - except for when I’m at an event. The days are long, the nights often include social activities, and I never sleep well in hotels. Caffeine helps give me the jolt I need to get through the events and keep a smile on my face. Luckily, all large hotels and convention centers now have chain coffee shops or coffee kiosks, and many have coffee-making facilities within the sleeping rooms to help the busy traveler get their fix.
Event managers always have coffee available for attendees – it’s a given. But usually it’s coffee by the gallon, and even if they’re able to put a few different syrups out, it’s still a pretty basic experience. And no matter how good the coffee is, when it’s prepared in bulk and sits out for a while, it can be classified as “decent” at best.
Back in the days when I was managing Sybase’s annual user conference, we held the event at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas for a few years running. Like most large multi-day events, we had a staff office for our core event team. We’d have a mini fridge stocked with water and soda, and would have coffee and tea service all day.
As every planner knows, coffee comes with a hefty per gallon price tag, especially when you add in the “plus pluses”- tax and gratuity. Plus, not everyone even likes the coffee. Most of my team was regularly making Starbucks runs to get their fancy coffees, leaving the conference coffee to go to waste.
I don’t like wasting money, even when it’s not my own. And seeing that the team did want coffee – just not THAT coffee – gave me an idea. I worked with our convention sales manager to get a master account set up at the on-property Starbucks closest to the meeting space.
It was easier than I had thought: I simply provided a list of 8 people who were authorized to order coffee on this account, and we had to inform the cashier that this was a TechWave master account order, and show our ID (conference name badge would suffice). They’d check the list to make sure the name was on it, and we’d sign the check in the same way you would if you were billing it to your hotel room.
This was a new concept, and it was a little challenging at first, as not all the Starbucks staff knew how to put these entries in the system. After the first couple of days had passed, however, it worked like a dream. We could all have exactly what we wanted, at a fraction of the cost we’d usually pay. And my team loved it: they saw it as a sign of appreciation and recognition that they were working hard and putting in long hours to run a successful event.
While not every venue can implement a program like this, it’s always worth asking your sales, hospitality, catering, or convention services manager about the option…..maybe over a cup of coffee.