Ottawa

Restaurants, caterers overwhelmed by holiday event requests

Restaurants and caterers in Ottawa say they can't meet this year's demand as companies bring back in-person holiday parties.

Demand is so high, companies booked midweek November parties

Jillian Ainsworth, office and event co-ordinator for Riviera restaurant, says they've had so many requests for events they've had to turn some people away. (Sarah Kester/CBC)

Restaurants and caterers in Ottawa say they are overwhelmed this year with event requests as companies bring back in-person holiday parties. 

Isha Vyas, an events co-ordinator at Tulips & Maple catering, said they've had so many requests they've had to cancel some. 

"We've had to cancel on so many clients because we do not have availability … We just cannot fit everything in," she said. 

Vyas started working during the pandemic and said this is the busiest she's seen the company. 

"People are planning bigger parties, bigger events, more people coming … it's really nice to see how everyone has come back together," she said. 

Demand for November, January

Vyas said they've had to book many parties during the week, including some in November, to accommodate the large demand. 

Jillian Ainsworth, office and event co-ordinator at Riviera on Sparks Street, said her restaurant has had more private event requests than she's seen in many years.

They too are accommodating bookings during the week and outside the month of December to get everyone in.

"Even after the holidays is looking busy for us, which is great because historically January is a much slower month," she said. 

Ainsworth said there have been some cancellations in the past few weeks due to illness, but for the most part people seem excited to be able to celebrate in person. 

"I think this year, being the first year with no restrictions on meetings, everybody's really looking forward to getting back out there and … hanging out with their work friends and having the holiday parties that, you know, they haven't been able to have in a couple years," she said. 

Health officials recommend wearing masks in crowded places and staying home while sick during a challenging respiratory illness season. Quebec's public health director has told people with babies to consider the risks of holiday gatherings given the possible complications for very young children if they get sick.

Work-from-home culture changing the landscape

Dennis Van Staalduinen, executive director of the Wellington West Business Improvement Area (BIA), said restaurants in his area are also receiving an uptick in calls but they've noticed a bit of a different trend this year. 

"Rather than doing a 200-person event, many companies seem to be breaking up their Christmas parties into, you know, maybe a department of 70 people will go out," he said.

Van Staalduinen says businesses are relieved there is a large demand this year for holiday parties. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Van Staalduinen thinks the work-from-home culture has led companies to book smaller parties in areas where their employees live rather than where their office may be located. 

"Normally our restaurants in Wellington West would be getting bookings from the government departments at Tunney's Pasture," he said.

"But I'm hearing that people are getting bookings from people they never heard from before, just businesses that don't have a physical presence in our neighborhood. Our neighborhood happens to be convenient for people." 

Van Staalduinen said the high demand is "a bit of a relief" to businesses after challenges of the last two years of the pandemic.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Kester

Reporter

Sarah Kester is a reporter at CBC in Ottawa. She can be reached at sarah.kester@cbc.ca.

now