How to Get the Best Rentals for Your Outdoor Event

Caption: Courtesy of Party Reflections

Five tips for using rental to create a memorable production outside

By Tracy Johannsen, American Rental Association

Successful production of an outdoor event is a multi-faceted challenge for catering professionals. When it comes to equipment, every event has its own unique demands, depending on size and scope, décor elements and guest expectations. Fortunately, a professional event rental company can help create an outdoor environment that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

For tips on how to get the best rentals for an outdoor event, we turned to Dan Hooks,  president and CEO of Party Reflections, an American Rental Association (ARA) member rental provider with four locations in North Carolina and South Carolina.

Hooks, a Certified Event Rental Professional (CERP) and the chairman of the ARA Party and Event Services Shared Interest Group, offers these five recommendations:

1. Choose Your Rental Partner Wisely: A caterer may have only one chance to impress a client or meet expectations. That makes it critical to select the right vendor for the event. Hooks suggests going beyond pricing and getting to know each potential rental equipment supplier.

“Caterers should focus on finding a rental partner that delivers quality and value,” he says. “As Ben Franklin once said, ‘The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.’”

2. Involve the Rental Provider Early: Challenges caterers may face with an outdoor event include managing the logistical flow of equipment on delivery and pickup, meeting the expectations of attendees, optimizing the flow of guests through the event, determining the proper size of the created venue, and reacting to the weather—just to name a few.

Although professional event rental companies have expertise at finding solutions to event challenges, Hooks says involving a partner early in the planning process is key to ensuring a smooth outdoor production.

“When you bring in your event rental vendor early, challenges can be addressed and solved long before the project begins,” he says.

3. Look Before You Rent: Today’s most popular items for outdoor events include tenting, flooring, HVAC, cooking equipment, bars, outdoor furniture, lighting options and linens. Hooks advises making a trip to the rental location to see inventory first-hand.

“Professional event rental vendors are constantly adding new inventory to meet customer needs,” Hooks says. “Rental operations encourage visitors so caterers can see the breadth of inventory and identify items that they did not know were available but are perfect for their events.”

Caption: Courtesy of Party Reflections

4. Consider Tent Form and Function: Event rental equipment companies can create a safe and inviting environment within a tent for any type of gathering under abnormal weather conditions. All tents can provide shelter from the occasional rainstorm, but certain tents are better for certain applications.

Some tent styles are ideal for their adaptability to the site and their connectivity to one another and adjacent buildings. Others are better suited for hanging weight from sound and AV equipment, and providing the most efficient HVAC environment. And some are made to shade the site with an elegant covering for guests.

Almost every tent or structure provides a blank canvas with which to work and design the décor elements of the event. Some are made with less framework to hide and more elegant lines, while others are designed to support large facades or hang large chandeliers.

“Considering the combination of form and functional elements will set a caterer up for success,” Hooks says. “Great communication with a rental company throughout the planning process will reveal the best possible tent solution.”

5. Lean on Your Rental Company: Professional event rental providers offer extensive experience in all types of events with various budgets. Hooks stresses that caterers can expect event support from their rental partner from beginning to end.

After helping select the correct tenting and equipment for the event, rental companies can assist with the onsite execution of logistical plans, including the installation of products as well as coordination with other vendors, such as florists, lighting professionals and band crews.

Support from the local provider may include a technical onsite professional to make sure tents, gutters and HVAC items are performing as they should. In the event of an emergency or severe weather, these onsite professionals can provide guidance regarding when to evacuate the structure.

After the event is over, the support takes on another logistics role as the rental provider helps return the venue site to its original condition.

“From start to finish, a great relationship with your local rental provider should include the understanding that if the caterer’s need cannot be fulfilled by the local vendor, that vendor should assist with sourcing the correct solution,” Hooks says.

Caterers have embraced the challenges associated with outdoor events and have viewed them as a new opportunity to expand their offerings, from picnic-style events to seated dinners under the stars. By using these five tips, caterers can work with their rental equipment provider to develop an inviting and safe environment that creates lasting memories for clients.

About ARA
Tracy Johannsen is the director of marketing and communications for the American Rental Association (ARA). Based in Moline, Ill., ARA is an international trade association for owners of equipment rental businesses, and the manufacturers and suppliers of construction/industrial, general tool and party/event rental equipment. ARA members, which include more than 10,000 rental businesses and more than 1,000 manufacturers and suppliers, are located in every U.S. state, every Canadian province and more than 30 countries worldwide. Founded in 1955, ARA is the source for information, advocacy, risk management, business development tools, education and training, networking and marketplace opportunities for the equipment rental industry throughout the world. For more information, visit