Since none of us have come out of a lockdown before, 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.
However, the free venue finding experts at Venue Search London, who booked over £1.5m of Christmas parties into London venues in the 2019 season, are seeing some early booking patterns that may give us a good indication of the pattern of bookings and activity for the all-important return to live events this December.
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 their much-awaited overseas trips. Therefore, companies may well want to see proof of vaccination or recent negative lateral flow test to allow their staff back to their offices as part of their Health and Safety protocols. Therefore, it would not be a surprise if that policy was extended to off-site social events, giving all attendees that extra degree of comfort.
The end of the line for the buffet
For decades, the buffet was the staple food service offering of informal dining, but many of us will not shed a tear to see the end of the buffet queue! The current regulations and perceived risks of cross-contamination will 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, bento boxes and well-spaced canape trays will be brought to the fore this Christmas.
More entertainment, but less dancing
For some bookers, the thought of a packed dancefloor remains a distant (and possibly risky) dream. Whilst many of us will have been to a packed bar, wedding, or nightclub by the end of the summer (and any fears may therefore have subsided), they do predict that some organisers may wish to ease back into their social event programmes with more after-dinner entertainment, maybe a comedy slot or other stage performance replacing the end-of-evening dancing. They also feel that this will allow a 10pm or 11pm finish, which may be popular with hosts and guests in this extraordinary year.
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, they are seeing a resurgence of daytime events, which would both reduce alcohol intake and enable attendees to get home at a more reasonable hour. They 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.
Whatever the chosen London Christmas party format, 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, others are booking now to secure their preferred dates. Many decision-makers are awaiting greater confidence and clarity in the roadmap to recovery dates and restrictions before making a final call on their plans for this December.