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Businesses ready to celebrate this holiday season

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More than eight in 10 businesses are planning year-end holiday festivities this year, up from about two thirds of businesses that had holiday parties a year ago, according to two recent surveys.

A survey of more than 100 U.S. companies conducted by New York City executive search firm Battalia Winston found that 91 percent of respondents were planning to hold a holiday party this year.

According to the survey, roughly 40 percent of events will be held at restaurants, 29 percent at offices and the remaining events split among hotels, county clubs and other venues. All survey respondents said the scale of their party would be the same as previous years.

In a separate tally, outplacement and workplace consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, based in Chicago, found that about 83 percent of companies have scheduled a year-end holiday celebration, up from 68 percent in 2011.

Of the roughly 100 human resources executives surveyed by Challenger, 10 percent said their companies were holding a holiday party after one or more years without a party as a result of the economic downturn.

Nicole Griffin, executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association, said end-of-the-year corporate celebrations are a big boost for the restaurant industry.

“It’s absolutely a big time of the year,” Griffin said. “We’re still in a down economy and restaurants do rely on that end-of-the-year revenue.”

Over the last four years, Griffin said restaurants have felt corporations holding back, both by spending less and having fewer parties. The percentage of companies having parties has decreased every year since 2006, making this year’s turnaround the first increase in four years, according to the survey.

Most respondents to the Battalia Winston survey said their office was having a party either to build employee morale, celebrate 2012 as a good year, show employees and clients they’re optimistic about next year or simply because it’s a tradition and they like to host parties.

“We’re definitely seeing companies, small and large, get back out for the holiday season,” Griffin said. “Companies are out again, celebrating the holidays and taking their employees out with them.”

Of the companies queried by Battalia Winston that said they are not planning a party this year, the majority of respondents said it was either because the employees were geographically far apart, didn’t want a party or were being rewarded in a different way, such as vacation time or a destination trip.

At The Loading Dock, a large private event venue in Stamford, Creative Director Mimi Sternlicht said the venue’s bookings have remained the same this year as last. Half of all the clients this year are repeats and the amount of money companies are spending on the parties is about the same, Sternlicht said.

“In some ways it’s a just a celebration for the companies’ employees,” said Sternlicht. “If they had a good year, now’s the time to show it. If it wasn’t a good year, it’s a way to say ‘we appreciate your work.’”

Sternlicht recommended keeping parties less than four hours long and trying to make the experience as interactive as possible, utilizing buffets and unrestricted lounge seating.

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