Audrain: Make the Venue Your Partner

When David Audrain’s ExpoDevCo opens the second edition of the Atlanta Foodservice Expo Oct. 13-14, it will be in partnership with the venue, Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center.

That partnership started a year ago with the launch of the show that serves the restaurant and food service industry. Trade show managers and venues have partnered in various ways for several years, if not decades. But the trend seems to be picking up steam as more and more exhibit space becomes available, venues look further afield for business and show managers have more options.

Audrain spoke last month with Expo Executive Editor Michael Hart about the launch and explained some of the reasoning behind the partnership.

Expo: Why did you decide to launch this show in partnership with the Georgia World Congress Center?

David Audrain: The show we launched was a brand new show. With the Atlanta Foodservice Expo, we did the traditional step of garnering support from a number of associations that continue to be supporters of the event.

The difference in the model we launched here is that we did go to the city and building, in particular, to garner their participation in helping us to get the show launched.

Expo: Can you give me the basic outline of the partnership?

Audrain: In this particular case, we didn’t ask the building to invest any money in it. What we did do is we traded off rental for a revenue share, to keep it nice and simple. They’re not profit-participation partners but they are revenue-share partners with us.

Expo: Why is that a benefit to you?

Audrain: The first, obviously, is from an expense ratio point of view. Building rent is one of our biggest expenses. Being able to eliminate at least the fixed part was a good savings for us.

We structured it so the revenue share was over a certain volume. So that gives us almost a break-even point before we had to start paying rent.

The second benefit was that the building really did act as our partner. It was a lot easier to structure changes from the norm in terms of negotiating special rates for electrical drops, to work with the in-house catering company, to eliminate some of the rules on exclusives and things because we’re a food show.

From a building I have always considered a flexible, friendly building anyway, they were even more friendly and more flexible.

Expo: How did the fact that it has become a “buyer’s market” when it comes to renting exhibit space play into the strategy?

Audrain: I’ve been doing shows in Atlanta for 15-plus years, so I had a good long-term connection with the building. If they hadn’t known me from Adam I suspect it would have been a lot tougher to do it.

Having said that, we agreed on dates and a space that, frankly, a year and a half out they had open. The likelihood of them needing that space was pretty slim. They weren’t turning away business.

Expo: Can we expect to see more show management-venue partnerships in the future?

Audrain: At the end of the day, cities have a big investment and a lot of space that, for the most part, isn’t fully occupied. Cities have always been open to ways to bring new business to fill their halls. This is just another tool or another way to bring new business to a building.

Expo: In the final analysis, is this a good way to do business now?

Audrain: We lost money on this launch and that’s not unusual. Launches generally aren’t money makers the first year. We would have lost a lot more money if we had not had the arrangement with the building. I don’t know that we would have taken that big a risk otherwise

Expo: What is the most important advice you might give a show manager considering this kind of partnership with a venue?

Audrain: The key is it has to be fair. It has to be a win-win for both sides. As that continues to be the case you’ll see more of it. I believe that we need the building as much as they need us. Launches haven’t gotten any easier. This is just one way to mitigate and share some of the risk and, hopefully, create a greater opportunity.

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Posted by Michael Hart

Michael Hart is the executive editor of Expo. Reach him at mhart@accessintel.com.... View all articles by Michael Hart →