The open bars are back and the food spreads and restaurant venues are much nicer. With an improving economy, employers are upgrading their holiday parties this year.
“I think people are feeling better,’’ said Tim Petrillo, co-owner of The Restaurant People, whose restaurants — which includes YOLO in downtown Fort Lauderdale — have seen an 18 percent rise in its event business this season. “They’re spending more money per person on their parties. A couple of years ago, people would go for the entry-level parties. Open bars weren’t as prevalent. They would buy a couple of drinks per person. Now they’re going for our second to top-tier parties.”
Signature Grand in Davie is seeing a 20 percent increase in parties, including three booked for 1,000 employees and guests by Rick Case Automotive, Watson Pharmaceuticals and Home Depot, said Arlene Pecora, chief executive of the venue.
Fort Lauderdale employers including BBX Capital Corp. and law firm Kelley Kronenberg have office holiday parties this week, while Boca Raton-based ADT security firm’s festivities feature an “ugly” holiday sweater contest next week.
For BBX Capital, this year will be its first holiday party since principals Alan and Jarett Levan sold their previous venture, BankAtlantic, to BB&T in 2012. At the bank, holiday celebrations had been part of its culture, said Jarett Levan.
“We continuing that tradition,” said Levan, who held a party for 200 employees and clients, including executives of its recently acquired Canadian holding, Renin Corp.
Besides being a holiday celebration, a party also can serve to strengthen business relationships.
Levan sees the party as an opportunity for employees not directly involved in BBX’s deals. “It’s a great opportunity to get to know the players,” he said.
Kelley Kronenberg’s South Florida employees will escape the office this week to City Fish Market restaurant in Boca Raton to celebrate the holidays.
This December’s party is “a little larger” than last year’s, with about 125 employees and guests, said Michael Fichtel, managing partner for the law firm. “We’ve grown quite a bit in the last year.”
Fichtel said the firm also is spending more than it did in 2012. “We’ve increased the budget, made it a little nicer place in level of restaurant,” he said.
During the recession, the law firm continued to have a holiday party but “we tried to be sensitive to what was going on in the world,” he said. “We didn’t have any entertainment. We had a lunch.”
But no matter what the party size, Fichtel said he thinks it’s always worth throwing a holiday party for employees for “the comradarie of spending time with your co-workers and the ability to put faces with names.”
“A lot of long-term employees don’t get to see each other that often. The party offers them a unique opportunity to socialize with one another,” he said.
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