Company holiday parties making a modest comeback

The office holiday party, a traditional social gathering that became an endangered species during th

The office holiday party, a traditional social gathering that became an endangered species during the Great Recession, appears to be making a comeback. But a modest one.

Corporate events are smaller now, and it’s much less likely that companies will be offering their employees beer, wine and liquor.

“It’s a new normal,” said Susan Baker, vice president for sales and marketing at Mazzone Management Group of Scotia, which operates catering and event facilities including the Glen Sanders Mansion in Scotia, the Saratoga National Golf Course and the Hall of Springs in Saratoga Springs.

Baker said holiday party bookings are up at all the Mazzone facilities, compared to 2008 and 2009, when many companies were cutting jobs and parties seemed like an expendable frill.

“In 2008, we didn’t want to answer the phone, because it was someone canceling their event,” she said.

The National Association of Catering Executives reports that 60 percent of its members anticipate increased holiday business this year, twice as many as were optimistic a year ago.

“Despite continued uncertainty in the economy, companies do see the value in gathering to celebrate the achievements of the year and in sharing that enthusiasm with employees as motivation,” said Bonnie Fedchock, the association’s executive director.

The Chamber of Schenectady County is launching a new event this year, a Dec. 9 holiday party at Stadium Golf Club intended for small businesses that otherwise might not throw one.

“We realize over the last few years there’s been a decline in these types of celebrations taking place, and we want to offer an affordable alternative to our members,” said Robin Granger, the chamber’s vice president for communications.

Morale booster

Granger said holiday parties can be important for employee morale.

“We spend most of our time with our co-workers, and the opportunity to connect on a personal level is important,” she said.

The chamber event, from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., will feature a disc jockey, hors d’oeuvres and a buffet dinner for $25. Donations to the U.S. Marine Toys for Tots program are also going to be accepted. Reservations should be made by Monday, Granger said.

Baker reported that companies booking parties are looking to reduce their costs, and cutting back on expensive amenities like open bars is common.

“We’re working with companies to reduce the cost,” she said.

Holding parties later — as in after the holidays — is also becoming a trend, she said.

“Starting about two years ago, we’d see companies holding off on holiday parties until January,” Baker said. “It saves them money, and there’s not as much of a rush.”

Some long-established companies that haven’t held parties in recent years are bringing them back, she said, and some technology companies new to the area are also planning year-end parties.

“Certainly at Saratoga National, we’re seeing more from GlobalFoundries,” she said. “Maybe not GlobalFoundries itself, but certainly because of that industry.”

Gerri Thompson, catering and sales manager at Longfellow’s Hotel, Restaurant and Conference Center in Saratoga Springs, said bookings there are about the same as last year, but that is an improvement over the downtrends of 2008 and 2009.

“We’re seeing a trend toward smaller gatherings,” she said.

There is also less alcohol being offered, which may be due to the strictness of drunken-driving laws or just because employers want to save money.

“From a cost perspective, it’s a lot cheaper if you don’t provide alcohol,” Thompson said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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