Companies go back to sit-down meal for Christmas parties

Irish Hotel Federation estimates increase of 30 per cent in business from parties

The days of starving employees jostling over platters of cocktail sausages and vol-au-vents at the annual corporate Christmas party appear to be nearing an end

The days of starving employees jostling over platters of cocktail sausages and vol-au-vents at the annual corporate Christmas party appear to be nearing an end

 

The days of starving employees jostling over platters of cocktail sausages and vol-au-vents at the annual corporate Christmas party appear to be nearing an end, with companies and hotels reporting an increase in spend and a return to the sit-down meals of the good times.

The downturn saw companies move away from the flamboyant spending of the boom years, when employees were treated to five-course meals and all-night open bars. General spend was cut back, meals were replaced with finger food and bar tabs strictly monitored.

Incremental rises

Irish Hotel Federation

IHF president Stephen McNally says there is “no doubt” people are going back to the model of a sit-down meal with entertainment. “It’s a three- or four-course meal,” he says. “It’s not outrageous like the heady times, but certainly we would have seen a lot of finger food and stand-up options in recent years. They’re all sit-down options this year with a full menu. It’s a confidence thing.”

He estimates the increase in business for hotels this year is in the region of 30 per cent compared to last year. He also says bookings have been made far earlier in the year than recent years when they were more “last minute”.

“It was difficult for companies a few years ago because they were letting employees go on the one hand and then trying to celebrate Christmas on the other, so it just didn’t match up,” he says. “A lot of them now are in the growth stage so it’s not as much of a problem. That’s a big difference.”

Mr McNally says there has been no return to the all-night free bar, but that companies are offering some concessions to staff. “There are a number of companies who have a free half an hour, or free vouchers or something going on,” he says.

He adds that around 95 per cent of companies are footing the entire bill for staff, whereas recent years have seen the bill split between the company and employees.

‘A little fancier’

Dublin Chamber of Commerce

He says the additional spend has been primarily directed towards entertainment. “They are looking for a band, dancing, DJ and things like that,” he says. “A few years ago, they might have been happy with the meal, but now they are looking for a package that includes the lot.”

Restaurants Association of Ireland chief executive Adrian Cummins says bookings are up about five per cent in Dublin since last year, and holding steady across the rest of the country. Compared to 2012, he says they are up 10-15 per cent in Dublin and up 5 per cent elsewhere.