Sep 25, 2015

The Office Christmas Party: 11 Steps To Choosing The Right Venue

Did you get lumbered with organising the office Christmas party this year?

Are you filled with Christmas cheer at the prospect or quaking with dread at the high expectations of colleagues?

Well there’s no need to worry!

Armed with these 11 steps and our top tips, you’ll be able to pick the right venue, with the right ambience at the best price to ensure that not only everyone has a great time but that you get the most festive bang for your buck!

1. Who

Before you even hit ‘Google’ you need to know how many people are going to be involved – roughly at least, so work it out by sending round a ‘save the date’ email and get people to respond! Don’t forget to decide whether you are inviting just staff or partners too? (Also see step 8).

2. Budget

Again there’s very little you can do before you know this and the amount you have to spend will obviously affect what and where you are able to hold your party. Check if you are you getting funds from your company, are staff paying for themselves or is it a combination of both? Note: If there is a bill to pay, we recommend getting the funds in from colleagues before the event to avoid tricky bill-splitting (& dodgy alcohol-disabled maths) on the night. Make it clear what the price includes – is it a 3 course meal, ½ bottle of wine and tea or coffee – or is it just the food with everyone buying drinks themselves.

3. Location

Location is key. If your office is in the ‘burbs but you’d like to hold the party in central London – think about transport – is the venue near to a suitable tube or rail station – would providing a coach back to the office allow employees who wouldn’t otherwise be able to come, to attend? Do you want to be central, would you like views? Top Tip: There are many stunning skyscraper venues around and this always provides an added ‘wow’ factor

4. Private vs semi-private area

It’s always nice to feel special at Christmas and having an event in a private or semi-private area makes events seem just that little bit more exclusive. If you plan on having speeches or table games, a fully private space may well be more suitable, but if it’s just a group meal then it can be nice to have some ambience from the main restaurant, especially if you have quiet colleagues! In the Know: many venues now have the option of both by drawing back sliding doors, so check this out when you’re investigating venues.

5. Ambience

Do you want a formal dinner, black tie event, a slap up meal, drinks and a dance or perhaps some late night blackjack or live music. Or something in between? If your workplace doesn’t socialise that much then it might be better to have some form of entertainment – like a supper club but if they all get on and are happy chatting away then an informal affair might be just as fun. If it’s been a bumper year and there’s cash to splash why not opt for a Michelin-starred venue – you’d be amazed how many have private rooms.

6. Ents

If you just want a meal and drinks, that’s fine, but many people want to go larger for the big Christmas bash – from smashing plates Greek-style to cabaret, comedy, discos and even themed events like murder-mystery or cookery practicals.

7. Food type

There’s obviously the fine-dining vs casual distinction but there’s also every type of cuisine under the sun available these days. Do you & your colleagues fancy sushi or ceviche, Italian or French, Chinese, Indian or Thai, Persian or Moroccan – you get the picture. It’s worth remembering: many cuisine-types lend themselves to sharing plates and platters which can really help the evening feel relaxed and encourage people to talk to each other – even if it’s only ‘please can you pass the…’

8. Dietary requirements and allergies

It seems that everyone has some kind of food-related issue these days – when sending out your save the date (step 1) make sure you ask about special dietary requirements and allergies BUT also bear this in mind when looking at the type of cuisine – It’s no good booking a steak restaurant if half the staff are vegetarian, so know your audience. Top tip: for example many Mexican and Japanese restaurants often lend themselves well to Coeliacs, while many Oriental/Asian cuisines work well for vegetarians.

9. Negotiate

By now you will have a clear idea of a handful of venues that suit your budget and style. Talk to your venues and see what they can offer. Christmas is the busiest time of year for most operators, so it’s unlikely they’ll give you discounts, but it’s worth trying to negotiate room hire or minimum spend rates. In the know: note that a minimum spend is often better as if your party is going to spend that amount of money on food and beverage anyway, then the venue is essentially free. Room hire can be dead money. It’s also always worth asking for a complimentary welcome drink or table covers such as bread/dough balls, tortillas, olives as gestures of goodwill. Being Christmas many venues also offer complimentary crackers, hats or festive bits but it’s important to check.

10. Peak vs Non-peak

Bear in mind that the more peak the time and date of your booking, the less the venue needs to incentivise it. So if you’re booking on a Monday night in January, you’re more likely to get concessions and deals than a peak pre-Christmas Friday night in December. Be smart:  for instance many City venues are looking to encourage business at weekends, while other venues in town need more lunch custom on weekdays – by filling these slots you can make sure you get the most bang for your buck.

11. Water

Don’t forget that water in restaurants can be expensive – but it can also be free! Some places offer not only complimentary tap water, but free filtered plain and sparkling water – when booking it’s worth asking about this as it could make a huge difference to your budget.

Follow these steps & you’ll end up with the right type of atmosphere, with the right food, at the best price in a good location, which will allow you all to enjoy the night to the max. In fact, all you’ll have left to worry about now is sorting out the Secret Santa and finding some mistletoe!

For more help with finding the right venue for your event, be it Christmas, birthdays, work or just fun email our free bespoke venue-finding service.