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Jim O’Neill - Event Sales Director
Jim O’Neill - Event Sales Director
Eagle Oaks Golf & Country Club
(732) 938-9696 ext 316 or 352
Jim O’Neill was hired to develop the banquet sales department at Eagle Oaks Golf and Country Club in October 2006. He and his wife Dawn are residents of Keyport and have five children and two grandchildren.
He has over 25 years of experience in all facets of banquets and events, including The Garden State/PNC Bank Arts Center/ Robert B. Meyner Reception Center, Magnolia Inn, and Merri-Makers Caterers Off-premise catering division and has served in the capacity of Sales Manager, General Manager and Maître d'.
Comment on some common misconceptions that you run into working with potential new customers when discussing their respective event?
One of the more common ones is that venues are all-inclusive of all your needs; this may be true for some events but not all. When considering a site, take a look at the entire venue. The site may be conveniently located and offer great packages at an affordable price, but may be lacking in other areas. One important area is accessibility for people with disabilities. Survey the size of the room, the carpeting, the lighting, the staffing, décor, etc. In addition, visit the site the same time of day as the reception will take place. A warm, inviting room mid-day may look different at night.
Be sure to ask if everything is included in your package price. For example, the cost of your maitre’d, house service charge, gratuity, etc. You will find that house service charge is not a gratuity. You can expect to pay a gratuity - usually a percentage of the food and beverage bill.
Ask each site about additional services they offer; you may be able to get an inclusive deal. On the other hand, if you plan on involving outside vendors, ask the reception site about their rules on that subject. Some sites may have restrictions regarding using outside vendors and some may only allow specific times to receive outside deliveries. Does the site have their own audio visual equipment such as projectors, sound system, lighting, etc.? If the venue has such capabilities already on site, it can be much more convenient and could be more cost effective.
If you were on a limited budget what things could you do to help maintain an elegant, well produced event?
First, establish your budget. It’s very easy to spend more than you want to. Most of the budget will revolve around the number of guests you plan on attending. Limiting your guest count to family and closest friends is the quickest way to reduce costs.
Being flexible can help your wallet. Instead of having a wedding on a Saturday night, consider a Friday or a Sunday and take a look at holding your event outside of normal peak hours that command a higher price. Let holidays work for you. Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve will yield a lower price because reception sites are typically already decorated for the season and oftentimes days surrounding such holidays are less desirable, yielding a lower price. Ask about less expensive entrée selections and or other portions of the packages. Ask if they are willing to customize their menus to fit your budget.
Ask the venue sales people for their suggestions on which preferred vendors are more budget conscious.
On the flip side, what are some of the things available out there now that would help the less budget conscious consumer planning an event?
The first thing you need to do when you want to have a lavish event is to find those locations that are “special” in some way, whether it is a mansion, a yacht club or a country club. These more exclusive locations will provide top shelf service, high quality food and beverage and an unparalleled ambiance. Such remarkable locations will leave a lasting impression in the minds of your guests and will keep them talking about how impressive your event was. The next quickest way to increase cost is to have a sizable guest list. This not only provides a more festive environment but it also will make the event feel more elegant.
Talk to your on-site sales person and ask about the more upscale preferred vendors and other impressive add-ons that are available. I’m sure they will have a few suggestions.
And finally, if you want to take the more pampered route, speak to a professional event planner who will take care of all the details for you.
Lastly, are there any red flags that you would tell our audience to look out for when evaluating a potential facility?
You can reserve your wedding reception site, but you cannot reserve the sun and clear skies for that day. If your reception is taking place outside, then be sure to have an alternative plan in place with the reception site. Fog, excessive heat, frost, and rain are notorious party crashers.
One question that is rarely asked, if at all, is what plan does the reception site have in place in the event of electrical or power failure? Make sure that the reception venue is equipped with a generator that will keep not only the lights on but can also handle ovens, emergency exits, and both heat and air conditioning.
Furthermore, be sure the facility is equipped with defibrillators and that someone on site is certified to use it. I remember the first event we held in our new clubhouse, and we had to revive someone.
A few other items to ask about or to look for are…Find out how many open dates the location has. If you find that they have a lot available within the upcoming year, it could spell trouble. Ask if they hold multiple events at the same time – this may be more important for a wedding. Look at the bathrooms and at the kitchen. They are immediate indicators of quality and cleanliness. Even look at the chandeliers to see if there are any cobwebs. A quality location will do a food tasting for you. If they decline to do so, it may be saying something.
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