What is a minimum spend? Everything you need to know when planning your event

What is it? How does it work? What are the best minimum spend venues?

Updated on 18 January 2022 • Written By Lawrence Calman-Grimsdale

What is a minimum spend? Everything you need to know when planning your event

A minimum spend at a venue is how much you and your guests must spend on food and drink. Usually, this means there is no upfront fee to book the venue. However, if the minimum spend is not met, you will have to pay the difference.

For example, if the minimum spend is £1000 and you have 50 guests, they will each need to spend £20 to hit the target. Simple, right? Well, it can get a bit more complicated, but we’ll cover all the bases.

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Many venues offer a minimum spend for a whole host of events, including private dining, parties, weddings, Christmas parties and even conferences.

Some venues require customers to preorder food and drink to ensure the minimum spend is met. This usually comes in the form of packages or bundles, such as “one pizza, one dessert and two drinks per person”. In this case, you can rest easy, knowing that you have met the minimum spend before the event even happens.

When pre-ordering is not an option, however, things get a little trickier. In this case, you have to estimate how much people will eat and drink, then predict whether you will meet the minimum spend. This is very important as if you don’t meet the spend, you will have to pay the difference. Some venues even add an extra charge, so make sure you read all the terms.

Planning an event can be stressful, and a minimum spend is yet another thing that needs to be taken into consideration. Every venue has its own rules, packages and prices, so comparing them can be tricky.

But don’t worry! This guide has everything you could possibly want to know - and then some.

How does a minimum spend work?

Exactly how venues decide their minimum spend is up to them. It typically depends on the price point of the venue and the size. The bigger or fancier the venue, the higher the minimum spend.

Pre-order

Some venues require you to pre-order all food and drink before the event. This means you have to pay upfront, so is best suited to office parties where the company foots the bill or dining events with set menus. For standing events, pre-ordering canapes is standard practice.

No Pre-order

If the venue doesn’t offer pre-ordering, or you aren’t paying for the event yourself, then everything happens on the night. In this case, the venue tracks how much your guests spend at the bar. This is better suited to large corporate events, where guests pay for their own drinks.

A bit of both

The third option is to have a combination, where some of the minimum spend is made up of pre-order, and the rest by the guests. This works well for events such as weddings, where you might pre-order enough bubbly for two glasses each, then the guests buy their own after that. Alternatively, you may be asked to pre-order canapes, but buy drinks on the night.

Things to consider with a minimum spend

Essentially, your estimated spend is the number of guests, multiplied by how much you think each guest will spend. However, there are a few more factors worth considering to make your estimate as accurate as possible.

Number of guests

It’s likely you’ll have to book the venue before knowing exactly how many guests you will have. Smaller events might see 100% attendance but as the guest list gets longer, this becomes less and less likely.

One rule of thumb for weddings is that about 85% of the invite list will come (as long as it is fairly local to them). For corporate events, this drops to about 65%. These numbers are only averages and should only be used as a rough guide - you'll know your audience best and be able to make the most accurate prediction.

How much will they eat/drink?

Estimating how much each guest will eat and drink is the most important step. If the estimate is too high, you might not meet the minimum spend. Take into account people who don’t drink too, as this may have an effect as well.

How long will the event last?

The longer an event, the more guests will drink. So don’t forget to consider length when estimating your spend. However, some guests may leave early or arrive late, so bear that in mind too.

Prices

Finally, consider how much the food and drink costs. Packages are a great way to save money, but spending is the aim so you don’t want to save too much!

How to estimate a minimum spend using a formula

The way to work out your estimated spend is as follows. Take your estimated (or confirmed if possible) number of guests, and multiply it by how much each guest will eat and drink per hour, the length of the event in hours and how much each drink or dish costs. 

So if you have 100 guests, who will likely have two drinks an hour, and the event is three hours and each drink is £7, the estimated spend will be 100 (guests) x 6 (drinks) x 7 (£) =£4,200.

But what if that doesn't match the venue's minimum spend?

In this case, you'll have to work backwards. For example, let's say the minimum spend is £5000, you have still have 100 guests and the prices are the same. Currently, you're £800 short of your minimum spend. The best approach is to preorder some bottles or canapes to bump up the number.

All you would need to do in this situation is ask the venue the best way to spend £800 more, which could be £8 of canapes per person or an extra 40 bottles of wine at £20 each. 

Top 10 London venues with a minimum spend

Boring but important maths aside, let’s get to the fun part - choosing a venue. Courtesy of our in-house experts, here is the cream of the crop: our top ten very best minimum spend venues. Each one has its own unique style, so there's bound to be one that suits your event.

Theo Randall at the InterContinental

One of the most sought-after destinations for events and private dining, Theo Randall at the InterContinental offers top-tier Italian cuisine, served to you and your guests in the Puglia or Amalfi room, or both combined.
Book now: Theo Randall at the InterContinental
Minimum spend: £3,100 for the evening

Aqua Shard

The private dining room at Aqua Shard boasts arguably one of the best views in the UK. Seating up to thirty, the room is perfectly suited for intimate breakfasts, lunches or dinners, with plenty of space to take in the skyline.
Book now: Aqua Shard
Minimum spend: £2,000 + 12.5% service for dinner in The Glass Dining Room

Galvin La Chapelle

This Michelin-starred venue offers double-height ceilings, marble columns and huge windows, providing the perfect setting for a truly unforgettable private dinner for you and up to 15 guests. Set menus and wine recommendations are available.
Book now: Galvin La Chapelle
Minimum spend: £2,500 + 15% service for dinner

Rail House Café

If you’re looking for a quirky spot for your event, Rail House Café could be perfect for you. The Cabin, Puffing Devil and Snug have capacities of 16, 40 and 24 respectively, each with pared-back wood interiors. Tucked away in Victoria, this cosy venue is extremely well connected.
Book now: Rail House Café
Minimum spend: £5,000 + 12.5% for exclusive hire from 6 to 11 pm

The Conduit

With aims to become an industry leader in sustainable and ethical hospitality, The Conduit in Covent Garden has a number of spaces available to book. The ground-floor restaurant Warehouse seats up to 16 for private dining, while the more spacious forum can host up to 120 seated guests.
Book now: The Conduit
Minimum spend: £3,000 + 12.5% service charge for dinner for thirty guests plus £3,000 for room hire

Frenchie Covent Garden

Gregory ‘Frenchie’ Marchand spearheads this chic venue in the hustle and bustle of Covent Garden, which can be hired in its entirety. This light and bright space can seat up to 100 for a three- five- or seven-course meal, showcasing Marchand’s seasonal creations.
Book now: Frenchie Covent Garden
Minimum spend: £10,000 for exclusive hire

Bentley’s

Bentley’s is seriously well-equipped to meet almost any event needs, boasting private dining, a bar with a 3 am licence, plasma screens for presentations and even a DJ booth. When it comes to dining at Bentley’s, seafood is front and centre, spearheaded by the award-winning Richard Corrigan.
Book now: Bentley’s
Minimum spend: £6,000 + 15% service for dinner

10-11 Carlton House Terrace

10-11 Carlton House Terrace is equipped to host a huge range of events, from conferences and meetings to parties and dinners. This St James venue lies in the heart of London, a short distance from both Westminster and the West End, making it easily accessible from almost anywhere in London.
Book now: 10-11 Carlton House Terrace
Minimum spend: £2,000 for dinner

Park Chinois

For a lavish event in Mayfair, Park Chinois boasts truly jaw-dropping interiors, private dining, a basement level club and a heavenly menu. You and your guests will be transported to Gatsby-era Shanghai for an unforgettable night of revelry.
Book now: Park Chinois
Minimum spend: £1,250 for off-peak seating at either 6 to 9:30 pm or 9:30 pm to 2 am, or £2,500 for on-peak seating across both sessions

Kanishka

Nestled between Mayfair and Soho, Kanishka offers private dininga and a garden room and can be booked in its entirety. With simple decor and hundreds of plants, this is the perfect setting for anything from an intimate dinner to an extravagant cocktail reception.
Book now: Kanishka
Minimum spend: £3,500 for the evening

What next?

Ok, that was a lot of info.

But now, you are a minimum spend expert. If you haven’t chosen a venue yet, check out our guide to the coolest venues in London. And, if this all seems like a hassle, our free concierge service will help you find the perfect venue for your unique event.