I think it’s safe to assume we all know that the phrase “a la carte” is French for “by the card” or “according to the menu,” but what does a la carte mean in terms of event planning?
First, let’s start by figuring out the benefits of being able to order or offer services a la carte.
The opposite of a la carte is a table d’hôte, which means a “meal served at a fixed price.” Everyone gets the same plate of food, whether they like the sides or not.
Elaine, a seasoned event planner with 13+ years of experience left the corporate world to start her own event business using our Boost Your Event Business program. After a year, she found herself too busy to manage all the events and knew it was time to increase her prices. She booked a private 1:1 call with me so we could review her pricing structure and we soon realized two things:
- She wasn’t charging enough for her services
- Offering a one-size-fits-all service was no longer working for her, her current clients, or the dream clients she really wanted to work with
We updated her entire pricing structure so she offered an a la carte menu for her event services, which worked much better for the variety of clients she had.
What Does A La Carte Mean to Your Event Business?
A la carte allows the customer to:
- Fully customize their package
- Get everything they want, and nothing they don’t want
- Create a richer and more meaningful experience
- Feel like they are getting the most value for their money
- Create their true dream event
When listing the services you offer, think about it from your potential client’s perspective.
An event without compromise is the goal, and you can accomplish this by not forcing them to select from packages that don’t fulfill their vision.
Don’t make your clients choose between what they envisioned for their event and what you offer.
Offering a la carte services is just as important as offering an all-inclusive option.
Thinking of how you can deliver your services in a variety of ways will land you the most gigs.
And if you are able to get someone to hire you for one of the less expensive offerings — and they love you — they will probably be willing to hire you for more.
Consider having the following options:
- All-inclusive or full-service packages
- Partial Planning
- An a la carte menu
- Hourly consultation packages
All-Inclusive or Full-Service Planning
Offered as a premiere planning package, this is designed to help your client with every component of their event planning from A to Z.
You become the primary (and in many cases) the only point of contact for all things planning and coordination of vendors and details.
You will coordinate every element of the event from vendors to venues and sponsorships to guests.
With the full-service planning package, you will be with your client every step of the way to guide them through the planning journey.
The package should include unlimited meetings, site visits, e-mails, or phone calls, so you can be there whenever your client needs you.
The price should reflect the level of service provided and the availability you’re offering.
The package can include services like:
- Booking & Vendor Management
- Contracts & templates
- Budgeting Management and Tracking
- Rental Management
- Logistical & Layout Planning
- Itinerary Creation & Coordination
- Full Coordination of setup & breakdown
- Meal Service Coordination
Partial Planning Service
A partial planning package is designed to allow you to help offer guidance to your client throughout the planning process.
This package allows the client to be more hands-on in the execution of the planning and to take on more of the execution of the recommendations and guidance offered to them throughout the planning process.
You will still do things like making custom recommendations of vendors, venues, sponsors, etc.; however, the client will be in charge of making contact in order to secure them for the event.
Instead of securing and obtaining recommended services and products for the event, you will help direct your client to do so for themselves.
If you’re just getting started or your business is not well established, I highly recommend you do not sign vendor contracts on a client’s behalf. You can still negotiate the contract but the client should be responsible for all payments.
You could even go a step further, and grant your client limited, guest access to the planning software, putting them in control of inputting the major elements of the budget and plan as you move through the planning process.
Your ultimate goal is to work with your client to ensure that a sound plan is in place and it logistically works, ensuring that nothing is forgotten or has fallen through the cracks.
This package should also include having you and/or a team member be present on the day of the event to make sure everything goes as planned.
A Planning Guide
Offering your client more of a DIY option with a planning guide to make sure they don’t miss a step in the planning process is not for everyone – event planners nor clients alike. However, it is something to consider if it works for you and your event business.
This would include an initial one-hour consultation and a one-hour meeting one to two weeks prior to the event to ensure everything has been done properly.
Planning Guide includes
- Access to Planning Software
- A one-hour initial consultation
- A one-hour wrap-up meeting
- Contact list of venues and vendors
- Guest access to software
A La Carte Menu
This option allows your clients to pick and choose a custom package that gives them everything they need to make their event successful.
The rates for this plan will vary by service option. For example, developing a budget might start at $800 and day-of execution might start at $1000.
Your clients can select as many or as few canned planning options are they like:
- Developing a budget
- Designing a planning calendar and checklists
- Researching & securing vendors and venues
- Researching, hiring, and managing vendors
- Sourcing services like florists, A/V, DJs, and custom swag
- Creating floor plans, seating arrangements, and decor
- Food & beverage catering
- Sourcing and hiring entertainment
- Day-of-event execution
Hourly consultations are designed to give highly targeted advice throughout the planning process exactly when and where the clients require it.
This option is ideal for clients who are at the beginning stages of the planning process and aren’t sure where to begin.
Your main goal here is to identify where they need help and tailor your advice accordingly.
The consultation can include advice on:
- Vendor and venue recommendations
- Design and decor
- Timelines or workback schedules
Offering one or all of these options will help you secure more clients, and help to ensure your client gets the event they envision.
In the comments below, I’d love to know…
Have you ever felt confused about what steps to take when it comes to your service offering?
Or, have you used any of these options in your business?
Have an event-full day!