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Planning the Office Holiday Party

By Mario Cywinski |

With winter fast approaching many offices are now starting to plan their company’s Christmas party. Some choose to plan the party on their own, while other decide to hire a professional.

This is where Jimmy Georgoulis comes in. He has been an expert office party planner for 10 years as well as being the owner of three restaurants in Toronto, including Fuzion.

October is the start of the holiday planning season and it has been a busy one for Georgoulis. He has learnt that having the right staff party is the best way to keep staff moral up.

For starters it is very important to select a good venue, theme, menu and the right type of entertainment. All this has to be decided early on in the process and all staff should be considered.

“Be aware of what makes your staff tick and what they consider to be a just reward for a year of hard work. A badly planned party could mean disaster. Avoid planning pitfalls by setting realistic budgets, conducting staff consultations and developing checklists months before the event,” said Georgoulis.” Organize a planning committee to empower staff and make the process fun and interactive. Reserve your venue early to avoid disappointment.”

Georgoulis shares some tips on how to avoid holiday party disasters. First, he believes that holiday mixers are the way to go as they allow for staff to be more relaxed.

“Holiday mixers with food stations are casual gatherings with buffet style food combinations. They allow maximum interaction without the commitment of sitting at a table with the same people for an extended period of time,” said Georgoulis. “The idea is to create flow and casual conversation. Foods are pre-selected and budgetary costs are kept to a minimum.”

Casual group lunches and after work parties are always a good choices for office organizers. They allow for more people to be able to attend, as many might have other obligations

“Casual group lunches and after work cocktails are smaller affaires. They are usually celebrations with teams, departments or companies with a small number of employees. Employees will eat and drink less and the gathering will only be a few hours long,” said Georgoulis. “The travel home will ensure most employees will watch the amount of alcohol they consume and avoid embarrassing drunken situations.”

Georgoulis suggests booking your parties between Tuesdays and Thursday, as these will most likely not be already booked. He also cautions against spending too much of your budget on one aspect of the party.

“A great food and restaurant experience will always be more memorable than anything else,” said Georgoulis. “Choose a great restaurant venue that staff wouldn't have the time or money to try and allow them to experience everything the venue has to offer, like appetizers, dessert and of course different wines. Purchase a small but memorable gift they can take home at the end of the gathering.”

One really serious aspect to consider is alcohol. Many provinces have strict drinking and driving regulations, which could put the organizer of a party at the risk of liability. Make sure you are aware of the laws and regulations in your area.

Georgoulis suggest pre-selecting food and drinks before the gathering as a way to keep cost down as well as avoiding staff allergies and cultural sensitivities. Georgoulis' suggests having, 1 meat dish, 1 fish dish, 1 chicken dish, 1 vegetable dish and a dish for anyone with allergies.

“Make sure to pick the proper location that suits your staff and company culture. Just because you like a certain pub or restaurant it doesn't mean your staff will,” said Georgoulis. “Ask your staff for suggestions. You cannot please everyone but you can try to set menus that work best for quick and efficient service.”

An integral part of any party should be research and planning. Picking the first venue you see may make life easy in the short term, but may cause headache in the long run. Here are the some questions Georgoulis suggest:

  • look for reviews of the restaurant;
  • check what the quality of the food is;
  • try dining at the restaurant as a secret shopper beforehand;
  • is it wheel chair accessible, does it have a vegan menu, does the chef cook with nuts or nut oils;
  • how long has the venue been in business;
  • is there a coat check available;
  • is there a private area or separate room for a gathering available;
  • Does the venue take all types of payment options; cash, credit cards, debit;
  • Check for cleanliness of restaurant, especially washrooms.

Last but not least, make sire to meet with the management and try the food before your party. Also do a walk through of the venue before your event.

“During the evaluation process managers should make a reservation and experience the venue (secret shopping). Also they should set up an appointment with management to discuss the event and take a tour to get an explanation of all the services and options,” said Georgoulis. “Once you have made a reservation, do a venue tour to make sure all requests are in place and there are no last minute surprises.”

Lastly, “don't forget to take good care of your servers and bartenders. Servers work on tips. Tip them on the level of service: 5% for bad service, 10% for okay service,15% for excellent service, 20% for fantastic service and finally 25% for extra ordinary service,” said Georgoulis.

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