Fewer parties. Less alcohol.
That’s the trend this year for company holiday parties, according to the annual survey by Chicago-based Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., a national outplacement firm.
Its 2017 survey found that 72.7 percent of companies plan to hold holiday parties, down from 76 percent last year. Of those having parties, 15.6 percent are budgeting less than last year, and 49 percent are serving alcohol – down from 62 percent last year.
The survey also shows that 37.8 percent will be inviting family, spouses or partners to attend, down from 42.9 percent in 2016.
Still, though, three out of four are having holiday parties. Which is to be expected with low unemployment, a roaring stock market and a strong index of consumer confidence.
“Businesses are making sure that they are taking care of their employees,” said Marlyn Kissner of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce.
She said many businesses use the holidays to show their appreciation and thanks for a great year, even in ways that are more informal.
“If they want to cut back and maybe not do a big holiday party, they do an upscale lunch or thank you gift or just a thank you personally, face-to-face in front of people,” said Kissner, executive vice president of the chamber’s northern region.
NO SIGNIFICANT CHANGES
Lisa Moretz, co-owner and chef at Saucon Valley Acres & Catering, Lower Saucon Township, said there have been changes over the past decade in what companies are spending for holiday parties, but no major changes this year.
“Things pretty much stayed the same,” said Moretz, whose company offers facilities for events and parties with a room that seats 50-60 people and a room that accommodates up to 250.
“We’re a unique venue in that my clients bring their own alcohol,” Moretz said. “Some companies find that to be of benefit because they can save money but some companies also don’t like that because they would prefer to be a facility that has a liquor license.”
Moretz sees a decrease in the number of guests for an event recently scheduled for a company.
“I have some other repeat customers that will choose a Wednesday or Thursday, usually just for employees, not spouses,” she said.
Moretz also sees some companies opting to use in-house catering, a demand met by her stepson, Charles Moretz, owner of Bethlehem’s Voracious Deli & Catering.
“I’m not seeing any downturn,” he said. “It was bad eight years ago, but since then it’s been pretty good, pretty steady.”
Voracious offers corporate- and home-based catering throughout the region.
“When the market crashed, nobody spent money anymore, the whole stay-cation,” he said. “Now it’s fine. I’d say people can complain but I don’t see them stop spending money.”
A Berks County firm plans to spend more this year as a result of increased business.
“We’re having dinner for our employees and their guests at a local restaurant in Kutztown,” said Joe Mrochko, vice president of account services for Strunk Media Group, Kutztown. “It’s bigger than last year by nature of additional employees we hired since last year. It’s a way of building closeness with employees and their families and a way of giving back and celebrating success in the year.”
Giving back is important at the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce and to its members.
“We, as an organization, are a great resource,” said Kissner, executive vice president of the chamber’s northern region. “When someone says ‘Where can I have a party?’ and we have this opportunity to send them to our members, they are not only having fun and supporting their staff by saying thank you, but they are also putting back into their local businesses and community.”
Thanking people reflects the philosophy behind Allentown’s Base Engineering’s plans to hold its holiday gathering at America on Wheels Museum in Allentown.
“We have been having it here for the past three, four years,” said Amit Mukherjee, president and principal engineer at Base. “We wanted a place where we would have a good deal or a lot of parking spaces for our clients and friends to be able to come and not worry about parking.
“We do have a fairly large group of people who are our repeat clients and over the years have become friends. This is a way for us to say thank you to them.”
The company invites employees, clients and other family and friends to share in its holiday celebration.
“We always felt that we are a family oriented company,” Mukherjee said. “Every employee is a valued person and like extended family. We also like to think that those who are our clients … become kind of family, also.”
Family underscores the philosophy of a creative gathering for Fleetwood Bank, which does not have a holiday party.
“On a personal level, I know December gets so crazy with different activities that sometimes you don’t feel like you have a chance to get your breath during the holidays,” said Kristen Kintzer, bank marketing officer. “Over the summer, we have an employee family day at an amusement park. The employees voted they would rather do that versus a holiday party.”
The bank holds its employee family focused event at the beginning of summer, which was held the past few years at Knoebel’s Amusement Resort in Elysburg.
“It’s a nice start to the summer season,” she said. “You don’t have the craziness of schedules that are tying up with other holiday events and things like that. I’m sure different people feel different ways, but it works for us.”