It is still tricky and a little early to make predictions about how companies will approach their traditional end of year celebrations and how this may impact on the booking patterns and demand for Christmas party venues in London. But with encouraging news of a recent fall in infection rates and a fair bit of early intel from the enquiries our team at Venue Search London are working on (and a touch of “fortune favours the brave”), here are my key predictions for the long-awaited December season:
Testing, testing, testing
Whilst there remains uncertainty around the use of Covid passports for domestic events, we can be pretty sure that many will carry these for the much-awaited overseas trips, companies may well want to see proof of vaccination or recent negative test to allow their staff back to their offices as part of their Health and Safety protocols. It would surprise us if that policy was not extended to off-site social events, giving all attendees that extra degree of comfort.
A Limited role for Virtual Parties
Our recent Corporate Event Buyers Survey indicated that under 3% of Christmas Party organisers are planning a Virtual event this year. Whilst they played a vital role in delivering some much needed team spirit during lockdown, most recognise the huge value of live parties in bringing teams back together in person, especially after the enforced separation and challenges of the last 16 months.
The end of the line for the buffet
For decades, the buffet was the staple food service offering of informal dining – most of us will not shed a tear to see the end of the buffet queue – but the current regulations and perceived risks of cross-contamination will finally see the end of this service style. Caterers are still working on the best way to deliver food in informal settings, but we believe that bowl food and well-spaced canape trays will be brought to the fore this Christmas.
The return of the Christmas lunch
Keeping with the above trend, and with increasing awareness of the work/life balance and the growing company role and responsibility for wellbeing, we could well see a resurgence of daytime events, which would both reduce alcohol intake and enable attendees to get home at a more reasonable hour. We would anticipate that Fridays will be the favoured day for these events, many of which will include live comedy or other on-stage entertainment.
Mixing business with pleasure
For many companies, the Christmas event may be the first time the whole company is reunited in the same room for two years, and business leaders may well feel that combining a conference and/or internal awards with a lunch or dinner is a more suitable return to social events than the full-on party format. For evening events, this may lean towards a 3pm start, with the business element leading into a dinner, with a 10pm finish.
A long and late booking season?
Whatever the chosen London Christmas party format (and whether these predictions are proved right or wrong!), what we do know is that the booking patterns for 2021 end of year celebrations will be like no other.
Whilst some companies have already got events booked due to postponements from 2020 and others are booking now to secure their preferred dates, our latest event buyers’ survey shows that 66% of decision makers are awaiting greater confidence in reducing case rates and possible future restrictions before making a final call on their plans for this December.
My advice is that if you are even considering holding a live London Christmas party then start your search and shortlisting process now, to get ahead of what I expect to be a rush of enquiries from late August.