Taking the Stress Out of the Office Party
by: Stefanie Rose Miles
There’s a growing holiday trend among businesses of all types--from the newspaper office around the corner to the national headquarters in a high rise downtown. The All-American Thanksgiving tradition has extended beyond home and family and become a cause for celebration at the office. For many, this is the new occasion for the annual, corporate holiday party. It’s not a rejection of Christmas; in fact, it may be more out of respect for all of the December holidays of faith celebrated across the country. In keeping with the true tradition, corporate Thanksgiving parties provide an opportunity for everyone to come together and commend the contributions of each for the benefit of all. And at the heart of every celebration—the ritual that brings people together—sharing a meal.
So, you’ve decided on a Thanksgiving party at the office this year. Don’t make one of the most common mistakes and assume that using a caterer couldn’t possibly be something you (or your company) could afford. If you haven’t organized or executed a similar type of party, then planning and budgeting for such an event will be a challenge, to say the least. And if you’re trying to piece the party food together, well that’s just the beginning. There are logistics from start to finish, plus other things you’re likely not to think of until you realize you don’t have them. Now put a number on all that. If you understand the notion that “too many cooks spoil the broth” then consider how too many co-workers, expected to fully cater, could end up costing far more than just hiring the pros. Can it be done? Yes. But plan on multiplying the unknowns, adding the forgotten items, and tacking on chaotic coordination. Feeling stressed? It’s not even the Christmas season yet! For these reasons (and more) we will share in this article why a catered, corporate Thanksgiving party is the way to go. It can be done for all types of businesses with a wide range of budgets.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT CATERER
A good caterer will work with you to tailor party fare to suit all your guests. Perhaps late afternoon is slow at your office, making hors d’oeuvres and cocktails the best choice. Or maybe breakfast is a better time-- before the demands of the day get in full swing and everyone’s running in and out and in all directions. Will it be traditional turkey? You may need ham as an alternative. Don’t forget your vegetarian friends! The best caterers can do home-cooked, comfort food just as easily as they can do cutting edge, fusion gourmet.
Something you may not have considered is that generally, caterers do/can provide barware, tableware, and silverware; but they usually offer provisions for these needs in disposable and/or recyclable options. They show up, set up, keep things warm (if needed) and replenished while they serve it all up. Then they clean up, pack up, and not only make your and everyone else’s lives easier, they allow you to be a gracious host and everyone to have fun during the party.
Ok, so you got it, you’re sold on how a catered corporate Thanksgiving party makes the most sense, but you just can’t stretch the budget to cover the per person cost you want, even with the most basic menu. Share the idea with co-workers and see what the overall response is. If you can offer to cover half the cost per person, that shows your appreciation for them and your desire to celebrate that in an exceptional way. Far and away, employees are more than happy to pitch in around $10 for an office party with good food they don’t have to cook (and all that goes with that) and to get to knock off a couple of work hours. If you and/or others feel something is missing by not having that potluck participation, the perfect compromise is leaving dessert for the office bakers extraordinaire. Get them in on the act by giving them ownership of this tasty task by having them coordinate a dessert menu. They can choose the items and organize who’s doing what.
DOING THE THANKS
You’ve checked off the biggest and most important item on your party list—the food. You’re doing it up right, now you want to make sure you have maximum participation. Be sure you’ve chosen the best location to provide adequate seating, plenty of space for the food, and for any and all other things/activities you wish to have during the party. Set the tone and expectations and get everyone excited about the bash by sending out fun invitations (we recommend the easier, less formal email invites) that reflect the tone and style you envision. Include all pertinent information, necessary details, and request an RSVP by a set date. Most all caterers require a final, close-guess number of guests before your event date.
You’ve chosen your party space, now you should plot and plan all tables, chairs, special party activity areas and plan your decor. Depending on your event and budget, your caterer may provide tablecloths. Alternatively, you may want to choose and purchase disposable table covers that correspond to your chosen theme and colors. Traditional Thanksgiving decor can be both easy and elegant. Collections of colorful, autumn foliage with squashes, pumpkins, and/or Indian corn make great centerpieces and accents. For a little twist and sophistication try oversized, decorative, glass containers of varying heights and group them in clusters. Fill them with cinnamon sticks and a variety of nuts in their shells (e.g. walnuts, pecans, almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, and/or buckeyes.) Integrate dried or real, whole cranberries and maybe some pine trimmings or fresh mint for color. We also like decorating with magnolia leaves, white candles or votives, apples of any kind, pomegranates (whole or cut open), and oranges or tangerines pierced with whole cloves. Just be aware of leaking juices if you pierce and display citrus fruits.
Active appreciation is a must for every company Thanksgiving party. What you choose to do or offer, should be determined by the time of day of your party, your venue accommodations or limitations, the number of guests, and their collective, anticipated level of engagement. One popular thing many companies do is to ask employees to write one or more brief thank-yous to other co-workers on post-it notes and display them on a “Thank You Wall” in a central location or high-profile area within the party. For something similar, we suggest asking each co-worker to write what they appreciate about the others on slips of paper, or if there are too many people, have everyone draw names. Have a small decorative box or some receptacle labeled with each co-worker’s name, and ask everyone puts his/her notes in the corresponding boxes. Everyone has a party favor of, personal, appreciation notes. Still too many people? Make a power point, and on each page put one or more names with something that is uniquely appreciated about them, either written by you or others and play it on a loop on a big screen during the party.
DOING THE GIVING
Ask everyone to email you a favorite recipe—Thanksgiving or otherwise, and you can print and distribute or compile and send digitally as a book or recipe document. Maybe you want to do a community service project and have everyone bring non-perishable items to donate to a food bank or request coats for a winter coat drive. You could kick off the holiday season and invite everyone to choose an angel from an angel tree for whom they will purchase a holiday gift. Another idea is to assemble care packages during a designated time. Many VA hospitals see patients on a daily basis who are there for a full day of appointments, to be seen by numerous doctors. These veterans often are unable to get lunch due to these schedules, so care packages with some non-perishable snacks are in need and most appreciated. There are also plenty of opportunities to make and send care packages to various branches of the military across the world.
A fun game or two is always a hit among co-workers. Do you remember MadLibs? Have someone creative write a very short story about the office, then pick out keywords to replace with a blank, requesting the corresponding type word (i.e. noun, verb, adjective.) You may even want to get a bit more specific with those generic requests just to add humor. Read it at the end and let everyone vote for the best answer for each of the blanks and then read the story in its entirety, filling in the blanks with the winner words.
No party is complete without music. You can kick off the season with a compilation of holiday songs to play throughout the party or at least during the meal and social time. if you’re not quite ready for full-fledged sounds of the season, have fun with it and make a party playlist of your own. If you’re going with a “Thank you” theme, we can get you started with some of our favorite tunes: Thank You (Sly and the Family Stone), How Sweet It Is (James Taylor), Thank You (ZZ Top), Kind and Generous (Natalie Merchant), Thank You for Lovin’ Me (Bon Jovi), Thankful (Kelly Clarkson), and Thank You for the Music (Abba).
This year take time to enjoy and share in the appreciation of not only family but your work family and associates also. If you’re looking for corporate Thanksgiving catering in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, we’ve got you covered! It would be our honor to deliver a delectable culinary experience for you and your guests. We are especially grateful for all of our valued clients, and send our best for this season of Thanksgiving.