John Gilchrist: Cutting back on glitzy office parties
- November 24, 2008 8:02 AM |
- By Michael Hlinka
Money Talks is a daily business column from CBC radio.
John Gilchrist is a Calgary-based food writer and restaurant critic.
We’ve been talking non-stop about the economic downturn for the past few months, but for many people it hasn’t really sunk in yet. Sure, we’ve seen the numbers go down on our stocks and mutual funds, but we’ve also seen the prices fall at the gas pumps. So, for many, some long-term pain is a trade-off for a little short term gain.
But now the chickens have come home to roost. It’s time for the annual corporate Christmas party, and in many quarters the party process has changed significantly since 2007.
Was it just last year a restaurateur told me a story about not being able to create a menu expensive enough for a client? That when he presented his menu featuring Prime Alberta beef tenderloin sided with Quebec foie gras the client flinched at the price - because it wasn’t enough? That the restaurateur was asked to “throw a lobster tail” on each plate just to bump it up a bit. And keep those $400 bottles of Bordeaux flowing. And sure, there are only 40 people coming, but we’ll buy out the entire 80-seat restaurant.
Yes, that was just a year ago.
This year the Christmas party scene has changed. Now I don’t have great analytical data here, but party-throwers say they have been asked to scale back their plans. That the per-plate charge has to come down and that the wine should be well under $100 per bottle. Some parties have simply been cancelled outright.
But most corporations realize that business still needs to be done and that corporate and client relations cannot stop altogether. They’re in an odd situation - at least in the oil patch, where they are holding cash from record second- and third-quarter earnings while their stocks are worth significantly less than they were a few months ago.
For many, the need to cut back on the Christmas party stems from financial necessity. But for others it comes from a desire to not be showy about their cash assets, to not appear to be too ostentatious in these times. To achieve value for the dollar rather than continue with a “Blow it out the door" mentality. Of course there is a sense that they may well need those cash assets in the near future, so they want to be more cautious.
These belt-tightening measures have also made charitable organizations across the country nervous. Although Canadians tend to give generously in tight economic times, no one is sure how their Christmas fundraising drives will go. Right now, most are hoping for the best.
And for the party-goer, the economic downturn may kick in when they see their foie gras sided, lobster-topped tenderloin replaced by the much more sensible and cost-effective stuffed chicken breast. And when the always-popular open bar becomes cash only.
That’s bringing the hard times home.
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