Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Company Parties on a Budget

Like many of you, through the years I’ve been recruited to pull together the annual company holiday party. Whether I was working for a large, international corporation or a Mom and Pop shop down the street, my bosses always had the same request: “Make it nice, but don’t spend a lot of money.”

Well, here are some tips I came across recently, courtesy of Linda Ferone, director of catering for The DoubleTree by Hilton Tarrytown in New York. Linda has some great ideas how businesses can host a fun celebration that employees will appreciate and remember, without breaking the company bank. 

Timing is everything. Host a luncheon instead of a dinner, but don’t make your employees go back to the office afterwards. You can go lighter on the menu, and not have to spend precious dollars on extravagant d├ęcor or entertainment. Plus, your employees will love the extra time off.

Go straight to the meal. The traditional heavy hors d’ouevres reception with various cuisine stations can actually cost more money because you need so many stations to make up for not serving a full dinner. Consider cutting back on the cocktail reception or dessert and keeping the primary focus the main meal.

Do-it-yourself centerpieces. A collection of elegant candles purchased at discount stores can easily become a centerpiece. During the holidays, small poinsettias are often discounted heavily at big box stores. Start with a decorating committee. You will find hidden talents in your associates while developing camaraderie at the same time.

Ask your vendors to contribute. You purchase from your vendors all year long, so why not utilize that relationship for your holiday party? Vendors can sponsor the open bar or the dessert reception, provide a favor for guests to take home or donate a nice raffle prize. Be sure to brand what they are providing with their logo or name prominently on display, making it a great advertisement for them.

Play games.  Trivia is extremely popular with guests, whether it’s tied to the holiday or company. Or, organize a scavenger hunt. For example, the first one to show an out of state driver’s license wins $5 or an extra raffle ticket.

 Bundle items. If you are getting a DJ and also want a photo booth, try getting them both from the same vendor in order to save money. Many vendors will offer discounts for buying more than one service.

Save on the bar.  It’s smart to cut the bar off at least one hour before your party ends. Switch to desserts and coffee before your guests depart. Not only is this providing a more responsible party, but you will save money on the bar tab at the same time. You can also limit the drinks you serve, such as offering only beer, wine and soda. Another option is to offer a special cocktail of the night that relates to your party theme.