In the 52 hours leading up to the big football game, Catering Manager of The Guthrie Theater, Elizabeth Sherry, hosted 8 events. Earning a quarter million dollars revenue. Here’s what she learned…

Businesses Book “Last-Minute” & Are Meticulous With Details

Don’t Panic If You Haven’t Booked Anyone Yet

Even though site visits with sponsors at The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis began eighteen months before the Big Game, nobody booked their first official piece of business with us until the four-months-away point. Yikes!
Then the intense contracting process began, a fast back-and-forth with negotiations– more meticulous than any other client I’ve ever worked with before.

Many Details Are Slow Coming In & Last Minute Changes Are Inevitable

Be Prepared with Flexibility

Why? It’s not the event planner’s fault. No. It’s the “influencers” around the planners that add curve-balls at our plans.

Example: a CEO of the sponsoring-company approached my contact 1 minute before the program start time. And just like that, our entire timeline for the program was changed because the CEO interrupted. And we had to roll with it, with no prep for the change. In retrospect, I could tell, the event planner and their entire team was not only flexible to it, but was likely expecting it. That’s foresight!

Elizabeth Sherry catches an NFL football

What Should VENUES Charge?

Charge Higher Rates But Be Reasonable Based on Your Assets

What to charge? This is the big question that is being asked by planners at The Guthrie Theater and other venues in the Twin Cities for many years prior to “kick-off.”
We all had heard you can charge higher. Things like “think Saturday wedding rates but not much higher.”
I certainly have a good understanding of our competitive set in the neighborhood on a normal day, but then thought more about the national companies and caliber of planners who we would be working.
Sitting at my desk, I ask myself: What is their standard competitive set they are used to seeing?
I’ve heard many times in the past from out-of-town wedding couples that the main reason they decided to host a wedding in Minnesota is it’s cheaper than where they are now. And it’s true, we are.

So the advice of “a little higher than our Saturday rates” is what I use as a starting point, adding-up from there, based on a couple factors:

  • We didn’t want to be a “party” or “club” location during Super Bowl 52.
    Meaning, we wanted higher-end guests and clients.
    We had heard of extremely cool and beautiful parties that take place during the time of Super Bowl week, and sure, they bring in celebrities and other big names, but the idea of our internationally-renowned space being exposed to all of that additional wear-and-tear… we knew early-on, THAT we did not want.
  • Another piece to hosting these types of parties was how common it was to have a beverage/ alcohol sponsor. With our liquor license in consideration and other logistical challenges we made sure that all events that had sponsors for specific F&B items a non-negotiable.
    I think there was only one piece of business that we lost due to this but we were able to fill the space with something better instead. 
  • We balanced out the rental rate to pair with the food and beverage minimum.  Meaning… we did not have an extremely high rental rate and left the minimum low to give the opportunity or excuse to cheapen out.
    Most times our rental matched the F&B number or close to it.
  • We were mere blocks away from US Bank Stadium on Super Bowl Sunday.
    The couple days leading into it all the action of Super Bowl LII was largely elsewhere, which was fine, as we kept that in consideration when it came to pricing. Our backdrop was still US Bank Stadium, not to mention the Mississippi River just behind us, with sweeping views, oh, and with a hyper-cool building.  As a result of our pricing comparison, consideration of location and capacity we were able to do a quarter million in rental rates in two days during Super Bowl 52.

Keep Expectations Realistic

You Likely Won’t Become A Millionaire

Yes, I know. I just said that number. A quarter million. How is that remotely realistic for the general venue?!
When I say, keep your expectations realistic, I still mean it. Especially when it comes to revenue.
Really understand the value of your space, services and accessibility.
A common misconception about the events we hosted is that they were crazy parties with thousands of guests, running through-out the night. And while those parties do exist at Super Bowls, most are events that end by 8:00 pm because the party hosts want to have their guests on wards to the next activity or party.
Please note, that I also host a couple day-time corporate meetings that were not related at all to Super Bowl 52, which aren’t much different from a regular program during a non-Super Bowl week.

Everyone Wants Everything, Just Like You Do

The Nuts & Bolts

Be ready for Every Other Planner to have the same vision and Needs/wants As You

I am thinking of all of the amazing décor providers here in the Twin Cities when I say this. Because for this particular Big Game, it is all of the faux-fur accents, leather, and other Nordic inspired elements that are the hot commodities of the week, and everyone wants them at the same time.

Ice is in Short Supply Everywhere

Also, believe it or not, in the middle of winter in Minnesota, ice was in short supply!
There are only so many folks that work with ice after all, and I have half of my events with an ice bar, luge, statue, mug, and ice buffet of some sort.

Elizabeth Sherry, Twin Cities event planner

Catering – It’s Tricky

With catering, I see one of two different F&B scenarios, either something truly Minnesotan like Juicy Lucy’s (burgers stuffed with hot cheese inside), hot dishes and local brews, or food that represented the locations of the two teams in the football game. I think you can guess the logical challenge with the last one which is until 2 weeks prior to the game. No one knows who the teams are going to be, so one week before you find yourself working with eight different scenarios of what might be served for your largest events of the year… which are happening in just a couple weeks! It’s intense.

Making an Entrance

Most if not all of my clients like the idea of being the only ones entering or exiting a certain way out of the building.
All wanted to make sure they felt like they were the only event happening in the building at that time.
With our space that has multiple entrances around the building that are far away from one another, we were able to achieve this.

Anything is Possible (But It Comes with a Price)

And this could almost be built out to be a sixth note/ reminder but be ready to do whatever they want.
I always say, anything is possible but for a price.
All the planners I worked with knew it and respected that. So make anything possible for them because it makes their job easier. I know the planners enjoyed working with my lovely co-worker and me because of our quick response time and our willingness to go with whatever their needs and wants were.

Bonus Tip

Set realistic expectations for you and your staff on engagement with VIP and celebrity guests. This is not the time or place to take selfies or have pictures taken with the talent, entertainment, or guests that arrive. 

Loved this article? Listen to Elizabeth live on the Event-Industry Insider podcast where she talks more about her experiences with the Big Game