How To Choose The Right Venue For This Year’s Christmas Party…
Many people who are tasked with arranging the Christmas party are not full-time event organisers, it’s just something that gets added to your ‘to do’ list and, let’s face it, it can be hard to please everyone. The choices are endless – from budget and food type, to location and activity. So here’s our run-down of things you need to consider when looking to arrange the right event for your team or clients.
So here’s what you need to consider…
Oh Party.. where art thou? – how to choose your location
If your work is in central London, will your guests need to get trains home at a certain time? Would it be helpful to have your event near a train station or convenient tube stop. If everyone lives in different directions, the easiest option is to find a place to hold your event near work – after all everyone manages to get there – don’t they!
If your work is out of town, do you want to get everyone into central London for your celebration. This has the benefit of feeling like a special occasion but you will need to consider transport – both into town and also out again – last trains can be a real party pooper.
To buzz or not to buzz? Ambience is the question…
Do you want to have an event that is just for you and your colleagues in a private room – such as a gourmet dinner or sharing style-family meal, or would you rather soak up the atmosphere in a venue with other groups, parties noise and buzz? Many of the larger venues or yachts and boats on the Thames cater for several parties at once, which can add to the night’s fun.
It’s also worth considering is the type of ambience you are looking to create at your party. Is it a buzzy fun night with dancing, dj’s and games or is it an elegant dinner with a few speeches and convivial chatter?
Top tip: for groups that either don’t get along or have little to say to each other venues with semi-private spaces or sharing menus can be excellent ice breakers, as can a communal activity like making a cocktail, dish or meal.
Timing is of the essence
Lunch vs Dinner is always a toughie. Lunch is great if you have guests who need to get home for the evening – often women and men with families, but you will need to check with the powers that be in the office whether they are happy to sanction that time off for everyone.
Dinner obviously doesn’t miss any ‘work time’ but do be aware that the team may not be at their most productive the morning after!
Also consider Monday-Wednesday events if your guests have busy schedules or your budget is tight, as venues are more able to be flexible when they are less busy.
Young & Hip or Hip replacements – what’s the age of your guests?!
Let’s be honest, if you’re a gang of intrepid entrepreneurial creative types, a formal venue in Mayfair probably won’t be your thing, but somewhere you can play ping pong or have a cocktail while playing records at tree table might be. Conversely, if your co-workers or clients are a little longer in the tooth they may not be too thrilled at the prospect of a night at a crowded bar with the music so loud no one can hear – Cliché’s you may think, and of course everyone is different, but it is worth taking a moment to consider what type of venue will fit the taste and needs of your guests best.
The art of the deal – Room Hire vs Minimum Spend
Venue charges come in all shapes and forms, some charge room hire for private dining, some don’t charge room hire but have variable minimum spends dependent on the time and date of the event, others charge both, others charge neither. So beware – especially if your budget is tight – look for a venue that can give you what you want at a minimum spend you know you will achieve (and try to negotiate this if you need it to be lowered). That way all your money goes on providing food and drink during your event, not just on the room hire.
Food, glorious food – check your cuisine
You do need to be careful with cuisine. Clearly if you have a lot of vegetarians and vegans in your group, don’t go for a carnivorous haven, or if you have a lot of folk who don’t like spice, perhaps steer clear of Asian food. If it’s your work colleagues you’re planning for, talk to them to find out if there are any clear preferences/allergies/dislikes. If it’s a larger event, a menu with choices is preferable, and check on the invitations what guests’ dietary requirements are so you can be well prepared and arrange an alternative in advance.
Oh Sit Down… or Stand and deliver
Depending on your budget, size of party and guest preference, your party could comprise a sit-down meal or light canapés, substantial snacks or bowl food. If guests want to mingle, a standing reception may be preferable, however, if a significant proportion of your guests are at the older end of the spectrum, it may not be ideal.
For larger parties, you will probably be required to arrange a set menu. Most venues will have a range of menus at a variety of costs. Don’t forget to check that they are able to cater for all dietary requirements of your guests – most venues are great with this nowadays, but it’s always worth asking the question and make sure you know what’s involved in your meal cost – does it include canapés or amuse bouche, wine, water, coffee, service charge etc?
If you’re not planning a sit-down meal, there are a wonderful array of different options to choose from – whether it’s a sharing platter or family sharing style meal, to a banquet, canapés or bowl food.
Just Eat? Or do you need an Activity?
Some people love nothing more than a long leisurely meal, but if your crowd isn’t that type, there are plenty of places that cater for guests with more get up and go. Think ping pong, karaoke, skating, bowling, dancing and ice-caves as well as a whole raft of venues that include food and wine tastings/pairings to get the party goers relaxed and amicable.
It’s all about the money, money, money..
Budget is a bit of a party-pooper of a word, but it is essential. As a corporate event, you will have a budget and you will need to stick to it.
Beware of additional costs such as room hire (as above) but also VAT and service charge. Many event venues will have a mandatory service charge for parties above a certain size. Water, after dinner coffees and teas, Christmas decorations can also add a hefty whack to the bill – ensure they are either budgeted for or included in your menu cost.
Special dietary requirements
Veggie/Vegan – As we all know, is the new trend! But there’s so much more to consider from nut allergies, to lactose intolerant and gluten free options. Most venues and chefs have cottoned onto special dietary requirements now, but it is always worth checking both on your invitation and with your venue, what can and can’t be catered for.
Disabled/ Elderly Access
For disabled and wheelchair bound guests and anyone with mobility issues, it’s always important to check the ease of access to the private room. Consider if it is up on a higher floor – is there a lift? Is there a toilet on the same floor?
And one last thing…Beware of Overly Festive Frolics
With alcohol & Christmas spirit, people always relax, get chatty and enjoy the festivities – that’s what a Christmas party is for, after all. But it’s worth gently reminding colleagues that alcohol is no excuse for unruly behaviour or unwanted affections. Better to mention beforehand and avoid embarrassment …or worse… the morning after.
And don’t forget many venues reward you for booking early with free drinks on arrival or other goodies, so don’t delay & book your party early to reap the rewards!