“It’ll be one of the very merriest holidays on record,” the New York Post reports. “As managers shake off the worst of the Great Recession, corporate America is hosting more office holiday parties.” But the Wall Street Journal isn’t so sure, revealing that “planned spending on office holiday celebrations is down nationwide.” So, which is it? Are corporate holiday parties back, or are they still down for the count?

Holiday Office Party

 

Bring on the Excess

The numbers suggest that holiday office parties are back with a bang! In one survey of US companies, though only 74% said they were throwing staff holiday parties in 2011, that number is back up to 89% this year! The results of a Challenger, Gray & Christmas survey were similar: 80% of companies said they plan to host holiday parties this year.

And party planners say that “companies are loosening the purse strings.” In places like New York City, “a bash with an open bar typically starts at $100 a head. A swanky corporate reception with dinner and cocktails typically runs $200 to $300 per [person].”

Every aspect of office party planning is seeing these increases. For example, the Challenger survey found that:

  • 62% of companies will serve alcohol, up from 54% in 2015
  • 43% of companies will invite spouses or family, up from 31% in 2015

 Office Party Drinks

Not So Fast-ive

Alongside these promising figures are some less positive ones. For example, while NYC offices might spend big, the median per-guest budget is only $55 this year, according to Bloomberg BNA. To compare, just last year, that median spend was $78 per head!

But how do you reconcile these trends? It looks like US companies are more likely to have office parties with bells and whistles, but they’re spending less.

We can think of two possible explanations:

 

1) The Haves and the Have-Nots

Spending averages don’t show how wide the range is. Perhaps the numbers reflect both big spenders and big savers. That $55 per guest could be a mix of the companies renting out $60K museums with those using their own office space to host a “house party.” From the museum exhibit to the live performance, the cost of Beyoncé’s holiday party alone could have been enough to skew the data.

Office Party Mousse and Caviar

2) Frugality Is Back In Style

Alternatively, maybe companies can now afford to do more with less. Everything from slow cookers to casual eateries are back in style, so being ‘on trend’ is more affordable than ever. For instance, food trucks are popular: the industry’s revenue increased by 12% between 2010 and 2015. They’re no less appealing at office parties: “food trucks serving grilled cheese or waffles, for example, are popular this year…The cucumber with the salmon mousse, no one wants that anymore.”

So, based on the data, we’re inclined to believe that office holiday parties are back, baby! We hope that yours was delicious and low on drama. Happy holidays!

 

 

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