Talk to a meet-up organizer and he or she will tell you how hard it is to find suitable locations for events. Hotels always want money up-front -- like dinners or rental fees. Bars and restaurants have a flat fee that must be paid to secure their private rooms.
Apparently, it's a hassle to get any shred of hospitality.
I've had my own personal experience with this cold shoulder.
I've mentioned before how I organize monthly Pizza Tweetups, where dozens of people flock to a pizza restaurant of our choice and have a big party. It amazes me how few restaurants will accommodate a large group without some kind of purchase guarantee or money up-front.
On the other hand, we've also found some venues that are more than happy to have us -- and not just because they're generous. They realized quickly that a large group is definitely going to be ordering food, drink, and more. We get a place to converge on for our monthly soirees, and the restaurants enjoy new customers, a night of strong sales, and often a lot of blogging and tweeting about how great they are, courtesy the night's attendees.
Don't take my word for it, though. Listen to Alberto Aletto, owner of Tucci's in Boca Raton: "The results of the events we have had here were astonishing. We keep getting people eating here who attended one of the events and numerous others who come here saying their friends told them about our restaurant after they came to an event here."
Marco Tornobene of Nino's of Boca says: "Why wouldn't you want to give out a few free pies to have these events? You couldn't possibly get your food in front of new patrons this easy. Think about how much a place spends on advertising."
The consensus is that restaurants are usually the most accommodating when it comes to events. But if the event has a tech bent, that may not be the right location. Computers and food aren't always a good mix, and most restaurants don't have multiple outlets, networking, and other essentials.
So most tech events happen in hotels and event centers, where organizers have to pay for the privilege. As a result, meet-ups can't always happen in those places. There's something wrong with this.
If a small meet-up of, say, 20 people is getting together for a night of network gaming, they can all fit into one person's house -- maybe. If the event is to have any speakers or anything else, however, then it's not likely that having 30 cars packing a neighborhood to meet at someone's house is going to go over well. You need a venue.
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SHOW ME HOW
I fail to see why a hotel wouldn't give the group one of its smaller rooms knowing that it will make money on drinks, assuming the bar's open. Further, the event might just be starting out, and next year, it could be triple the size. If they've already come to your hotel once, they might come again. This time with more people and more money to spend.
Restaurants have grabbed onto this idea for a long time, and I think it's time that other businesses got the idea too.
These events invariably grow. They become annual -- even monthly. And the visitors tend to become loyal to their venue, blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, or otherwise publishing venue-specific details.
For the hotel, restaurant, bar, or event center, there's little to lose in these scenarios -- and plenty to be gained.