Staff Christmas parties are moving into full swing this holiday season, according to hospitality managers who say bookings are up this year.
While unpredictable health restrictions and capacity limits disrupted the hospitality industry during the last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, many venues, restaurants, and catering staff are now expecting pre-pandemic levels of work.
“We noticed so much more this year than last,” said Mike Smith, owner of Joe Kool’s, Fellini Koolini’s and Toboggan Brewing Co., adding they’re continuing to stay flexible with bookings.
Smith’s restaurants are also getting used to bringing all hands back on deck for the holiday party season. He noted companies are using the holidays as a time for staff who worked from home to reconnect in person.
“After two years of staying at home and not doing things, that has become a complete way of life for some people. But I think for most, they miss socializing with others and getting together, and (Christmas) is a good chance to do it,” he said.
And as many groups are planning to celebrate the holidays at a restaurant, others are opting for a catered event.
“This year, we had our first Christmas party already booked in July, but we’re still booking as the days go on,” said Jessica Mitchell, catering event manager for Culinary Catering Services who also handles parties at the Old Court House in downtown.
The catering company is still trying to take in more holiday parties this year to make up for time lost due to the pandemic, Mitchell said.
“I feel like the animated objects in Beauty and the Beast, where it’s like we actually have a purpose of doing something this year,” she added.
According to Nicole Keenan, the director of sales and marketing at Four Points by Sheraton London, this year has been much different, as their conference halls are almost fully booked for corporate social gatherings.
“I think people are really trying to get out and get back into the swing of things,” Keenan said.
“We’re starting to see a lot more social gatherings for holiday get togethers and Christmas dances with corporate events. So it’s been a lot different this year,” she added.
More exclusive venues, like the Sunningdale Golf and Country Club in the city’s north, are seeing a rise in event bookings nearing pre-pandemic levels.
“Obviously, this is way better than 2020 and 2021, where there were literally zero Christmas parties,” said Brad Adams, the general manager at Sunningdale Golf and Country Club.
“Honestly, our main hope is just that the events enjoy their experience, and people just get that feeling again of camaraderie and being back together.”
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