Prosperity means return of holiday parties

When the Great Recession hit nearly a decade ago, companies scaled back their budgets and often among the casualties were holiday parties and events.

But as the economy continues to rebound and even thrive in the recent surge across Northern Nevada, companies are bringing back lavish holiday parties for their employees.

The Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in Reno, for instance, is seeing more business as the economy has driven growth for companies and given them the financial muscle to afford special occasions.

“I think 2017 has been a really good year for a lot of companies,” said Renee McGinnes, director of banquets and catering for the Atlantis. “We’re seeing high demand for companies wanting to put on events and spend a lot of money to make them special occasions for their employees.”

Sydney Heath-Williams, director of catering and events for Hidden Valley Country Club in southeast Reno, indicated the venue is booked solid in the early part of December.

“We had one date (Dec. 7) that everybody seemed to want, but we’re making it work however we can,” Heath-Williams said.

The venue has booked events for small companies or even large firms or organizations such as Wells Fargo or the University of Nevada, Reno.

With large and small companies in the greater Reno-Tahoe region jockeying for employees amid record-low unemployment and wanting to retain their staffs, perks such as holiday events can require some careful consideration.

So companies are catering more to what their employees want, officials said, by treating them to something special even if it’s a simple luncheon or going for an all-out extravaganza complete with a band or DJ for entertainment.

Gigi Werbeckes, general manager of The Grove at South Creek, an event venue at South Virginia Street and Foothill Road in south Reno, said many companies go for less expensive luncheons while eliminating perks such as no-host bars. That relieves them of the responsibility and liability that can come with alcohol consumption.

Christmas-themed parties are making a comeback, such as a winter wonderland spread with turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie leading the menu.

“We’re seeing a lot of sparkly décor with mixed metals right now,” McGinnes said.

She said at the Atlantis, companies are spending the extra dollar for décor or five-course meals or lavish dessert buffets for employees.

Dress attire can vary from company to company depending on employee preference.

“You may see, say, a law firm where they wear suits and ties all the time, want to go more casual,” Werbeckes said.

That doesn’t mean everybody goes conservative. She added that at least a few companies typically don’t hesitate to go for lively parties such as ones that involve hoedown dancing.

“They really are not afraid to try anything,” Werbeckes said. “Even a conservative company function may involve, say, an ugliest sweater contest.”

A particular company’s party or style may change from year to year; one year they may have a simple, inexpensive party where the next year they opt for an expensive one.

The Grove is also seeing more holiday parties during the week, so if employees have travel plans of their own or have family members coming in, companies are not carving into that family time.

Officials said the trend for holiday parties should only continue into 2018 as the economy should continue to thrive.

Heath-Williams advised companies and organizations should actually start now for planning.

“I started working at Hidden Valley in August, and even then companies were already gearing up to book holiday parties here,” Heath-Williams said.


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