On the menu: Targeting the holiday party business

The interior of Wild River Grille's River Room.

The interior of Wild River Grille's River Room.

Most Reno-area restaurants and hotels are expecting an increase in holiday parties this year with an improving economy.

The uptick in business continues a recovery in holiday business after many companies eliminated or drastically cut their party budgets at the height of the recession.

The Wild River Grille and its sister restaurant next door, The River Room, provide flexible meeting space for gatherings — especially parties at the upcoming holidays.

The business, located at 17 S. Virginia St., looks to the special event business, such as meetings and professional gatherings year-round to help boost the bottom line. That includes holiday parties. This year the December calendar is booking up fast.

That’s according to owner Chuck Shapiro and Valerie Neish-Moore, general manager of the business and also in charge of coordinating all special events taking place there.

The holidays can be an important time for restaurants and hotels as they enter the winter, traditionally a slower time for business. About 10-20 percent of Wild Grille’s annual revenue comes from hosting holiday groups of families, friends and businesses, said Shapiro.

“It went pretty quiet there for a while,” he said of the recession when companies either cut out holiday gatherings for employees and clients altogether or pruned them back severely.

“They went with buffets instead of a plated” function, said Neish-Moore. Or they just hosted cocktail parties with appetizers.

Feeling a little more flush as the economy right sizes, clients are now requesting fully hosted bars and want to order off menus.

Some companies find money in their budgets at the last minute for a party, she said, which means that while Fridays and Saturdays in December are pretty well booked, there are a few spots left to reserve space for the festive gatherings, which often include awards ceremonies.

The Wild River Grille team might suggest an afternoon time slot during the weekday if the client is flexible.

The business isn’t in the business of turning business away. “Ninety percent of the time, there is something I can do for you, even if it’s a small-budget affair,” said Neish-Moore.

Interestingly, hospitality and retail-oriented clients book their affairs in January once the intensity of the holidays are behind them.

Shapiro said there is a lot of returning clientele who like the ambience of the riverside venue. “You’re not in a room enclosed by partitions. There’s a ton of character and personality here,” he said of the building, which is located in one of Nevada’s most historic buildings, designed by Frederick DeLongchamps and has decor paying homage to the town’s vibrant heyday.

Another strength is the level of Wild River Grille service, said Neish-Moore. “Staff members are cross-trained so servers, for example, can jump in and help if there is a bar rush.

“We also have a dedicated kitchen (for special events) in the River Room and City Room, a private dining area than can accommodate up to 20 people,” she said.

For more information on booking meetings or functions, visit WildRiverGrille.com.


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