December 17, 2012

Recovering businesses spread more holiday cheer

Photos / Pablo Robles
Photos / Pablo Robles
The Connecticut Society of CPAs held its annual party for young and new professionals Dec. 6 at The Society Room in Hartford, including (clockwise from bottom left) attendees signing into the holiday event, mingling in the facility's large ballroom, eating appetizers from roaming servers, and enjoying the buffet offerings.

This season, Connecticut office holiday parties are making a comeback.

Following the hard financial times that have plagued the country since 2007, company office parties in Connecticut were either cut or scaled back. This year, companies are finding ways to bring back their holiday cheer and show appreciation for their employees without breaking the bank.

The Society Room of Hartford has seen a substantial pick up in the number of holiday parties this year, said Jessica Correia, corporate sales manager.

"With the exception of Christmas week, we only have three days that do not have events booked, which is exceptional," Correia said.

The Society Room hosted Connecticut Society of CPAs "Mingling and Merriment" party Dec. 6, which has grown since 2008.

"Our first year, we saw a great response with 75 people attending, but this year that number is close to 150, so the event has only been growing," said Alicia Strong, CPAs academic and career coordinator.

The objective of the party is to celebrate young professionals who are members of the Connecticut Society of CPAs, Strong said. The party featured a cupcake bar and highlighted the national nonprofit Stockings for Soldiers, encouraging donations to the charity at the party.

"It really is a time when young professionals who are a part of our organization get to celebrate the holidays and have fun," Strong said.

Other venues have experienced an influx of planned events as well. The Hartford Club booked around 50 holiday parties this year, most with a guest list numbering 40 to 70 people. Maneeley's Banquet & Catering in South Windsor reported an increase in the number of parties they will host this year to around 250.

Harford law firm Pullman & Comley hosts its party around January after the rush, chaos, and costs of the holiday season have subsided. Since the recession, the firm has chosen to focus not only on thanking their employees, clients, and friends but also to highlight Hartford area charities.

The charities are invited to the Pullman event and are asked to set up a display of their organization and their mission.

"It is a great way for our guests and clients to learn about them, and great for the charities to gain exposure and gain revenue," said Greg Servodidio, partner with Pullman and Comley.

Despite the positive upturn in the sheer number of holiday office parties, a lot of businesses have tried to celebrate the holidays in more frugal ways.

One trend Christine Pollack from the Hartford Club has seen is the prevalence of after-hour cocktail receptions instead of a full dinner.

"The real difference we are seeing this year is a move towards cocktail parties as more employees are individually contributing to their parties financially," Pollack said.

Maneeley's has expanded its catering business to include an express pickup option, where a company can drop by and pick up large pans of food to bring back to the office.

"This has created a cheaper option for businesses as well as helped us out during the week," said Joe Maneeley, catering director at Maneeley's.

More businesses have been doing catered breakfast parties as an alternative, said Maneeley.

Despite the increase since the downturn, a 2012 national survey showed fewer companies are having holiday parties since 2005, said Kelleigh Marcquad, metro market manager for Robert Half, which conducted the survey.

"There has been a downward shift from 2005 to the present, but hopefully as the market continues to recover we will see companies throwing more holiday parties," Marcquad said.

Marcquad has seen similar trends to Maneeley's such as businesses doing an in-house catered breakfast or lunch meal. She has seen companies hold parties in January when venues are less expensive, similar to Pullman & Comley.

"One of the most important things to think about is less companies are having holiday parties than historically were, and people really enjoy holiday gatherings. But if budgets are tight companies are going to think of other options," Marcquad said. "These are inexpensive ways to spread holiday cheer within a business without spending a lot of money."

Even though some businesses are employing cost cutting measures, there has been no regression in company decisions to hold holiday parties since the recession.

"More companies are definitely having open bars, evening events, and the biggest thing we are seeing this year is an increase in the large parties with over 300 people on the guest list," Correia said.

Comments

Type your comment here:

ADVERTISEMENTS
Most Popular on Facebook
Copyright 2014 New England Business Media