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The Journal Gazette

  • Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette Chef Mike Newsome carves roast beef at Don Hall's Guesthouse, 1313 W. Washington Center Road. Caterers in Fort Wayne say company holiday parties are still popular.

Sunday, December 10, 2017 1:00 am

Companies hesitant to party this season

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

Holiday Party Survey

Will your company hold a holiday party this year?

  2017 2016 2015 2014
Yes, we always hold holiday parties 72.7% 76.0% 69.0% 77.8%
Yes, we are having a holiday party after one or more years of not holding one due to economic downturn 4.6% 4.0% 13.0% 11.2%
No, we never have holiday parties 11.4% 16% 13.0% 6.5%
Not this year 11.3% 4.0% 6.0% 4.5%

If you are having a party, is the company budgeting more of less this year?

  2017 2016 2015 2014
Budgeting same 65.7% 68.4% 92.0% 76.0%
Budgeting more 18.7% 21.1% 0.0% 18.0%
Budgeting less 15.6% 10.5% 8.0% 6.0%

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas

Employers may be a bit more edgy about holiday parties this season with reports of inappropriate sexual contact in the workplace becoming more prevalent.

Nearly 73 percent of respondents to a survey by Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. said they plan to hold holiday parties as usual, down slightly from 76 percent in 2016.

But 11.3 percent indicated they won't hold a party, up from 4 percent who responded that way last year and the highest percentage since 2009 when 25 percent of companies did not have parties. 

The annual survey on holiday plans was conducted in October and November among 150 human resource professionals, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a global outplacement firm in Chicago, said in a news release.

“Employers are currently very wary of creating an environment where inappropriate contact between employees could occur,” Andrew Challenger, vice president of the firm, said in a statement.

Jason T. Clagg, a partner in Fort Wayne with the law firm Barnes & Thornburg, said sexual harassment issues are “front and center” because of media coverage of complaints against some high-profile individuals.

“Employers have reason to be concerned. The current environment is absolutely intolerant of any kind of sexual harassment, and rightfully so,” Clagg said. 

“There are plenty of lawsuits about misconduct at office parties, so it certainly does happen and can cost money.”

Clagg said employers can be proactive and reduce the potential for problems, starting with making sure employees know normal “rules still apply.” Hiring a professional bartender if alcohol is served, for example, might make it easier to control consumption, along with proving coupons or tickets to limit the number of drinks attendees might have. It's also worth considering providing at least one private security guard – in case there are any problems – and having at least one “clear-minded” management-level employee who can help monitor the party.

Results of the survey indicate 47.8 percent of employers will serve alcohol this year, down from nearly 62 percent of company parties that offered alcohol service in 2016. Last year's total was the highest percentage of employers serving alcohol since Challenger began the survey in 2007.

Just under 60 percent of survey respondents said their companies are hiring caterers or event planners, down from 66 percent last year.

Any unease employers may be feeling hasn't seemed to affect calls to some Fort Wayne area caterers.

“Comparatively, we absolutely have seen more business this holiday season than we have in the past,” said Alex Kenny, event designer with Empyrean Events and Catering. The business has a capacity for 300 guests in its space on the 26th and 27th floors of the PNC Bank building in downtown Fort Wayne. About half of its catering jobs are there and the rest at other venues.

Goeglein's Catering expects business to be “at or above” last year.

“It really feels fairly positive,” owner Greg Goeglein said.

Weekdays can be the busiest, particularly when events involve company celebrations at work, sometimes covering three shifts of employees, Goeglein said. 

“A lot of it is off-site, probably 65 percent plus is off-site,” he said.

Challenger's survey suggests nearly one-third of companies are keeping the party on company premises compared to 28 percent last year. Additionally, more companies are holding the party during the workday: 51.4 percent in 2017 versus 47.6 percent last year.

Hall's Catering Services is also seeing steady demand. Full dinners are popular, said Lisa Morel, corporate events and sales manager.

“The week of Dec. 11 through the 17th is just crazy busy for us. People seem to be focusing on that week,” Morel said. “Most are having us bring the food to them at their place of work.”