Hosting your office party is big business

Ready to rock around the Christmas tree? Corporate offices and organizations are hosting holiday parties for their employees.
May 24, 2010


Ready to rock around the Christmas tree?

Corporate offices and organizations are hosting holiday parties for their employees.

This weekend kicked off the start of the holiday party season at many area resorts and banquet halls including Sawmill Creek Resort and Convention Center, Kalahari Resorts' Nia Center, Lyman Harbor and Sortino's 800 Club.

According to an annual survey by New York-based Battalia Winston, the number of corporate holiday parties this year is expected to fall.

The survey's responses show that about 85 percent of businesses will be conducting some type of holiday celebration this year -- a 9 percent decrease from 2006.

The amount represents the firm's third-lowest percentage of companies hosting parties since the firm first conducted the survey in 1989.

This year's survey results are based on responses from 104 businesses across the nation.

However, venues in Sandusky are experiencing the opposite.

Kalahari Resort's Nia Center has already booked twice as many holiday parties compared to last year. In 2006 -- the convention center's first year -- the resort booked 16 holiday parties.

So far this year, almost 40 parties have been booked.

"A lot of companies and organizations are still booking," said Maris Brenner, Kalahari's director of sales and marketing.

The Nia Center encompasses about 95,000 square feet with the largest ballroom totaling nearly 17,500 square feet. The ballroom can divide into eight sections with the smallest one capable of serving between 275 to 350 people at a reception. For larger parties, the banquet hall can accommodate up to 1,400 at rounds and 2,200 people for a reception.

Two junior ballrooms feature built-in bars and can seat up to 220 people at rounds. For smaller functions, the safari huts accommodate between 40 to 50 people. Altogether, the Nia Center can be divided into 25 combinations of function rooms for 12 people or up to 2,200 people. The convention center's 1,800-square-foot atrium can also be used for a reception.

Sawmill Creek in Huron has been hosting holiday parties for many years. This year's schedule is consistent with numbers from previous years, said Sawmill Creek's food and beverage director Mark Kling. Many of the bookings are repeat businesses from previous years.

"We're definitely on target with years past," he said.

Sawmill Creek has more than 35,000 square feet of banquet space, which can be divided into 20 banquet rooms.

The resort has room to host anywhere from 10 people or up to 1,200 people.

Sawmill Creek offers an all-inclusive holiday party package that includes cocktails, food and decorations.

The resort's dining room can also host smaller, intimate parties.

Kling described the first three weeks of December as bustling with holiday events. Employees can see up to six parties in one evening.

"It's a busy time of year for us in the industry," Kling said.

To increase holiday traffic through Kalahari this year, the Nia Center is offering the Little Big Party.

The Little Big Party is an evening of celebration with co-workers or members with groups of eight to 82.

"It's a solution for companies that would love to do something big," Brenner said. "This makes it a little bit easier."

Organizations can celebrate the holiday season together by buying into a big party. Two four-course menus are available for the Little Big Party, which include a turkey or steak entree. Prices vary depending upon meal choice.

Kalahari Resort's Kahunaville Restaurant & Bar is also hosting a few parties this year. The restaurant staffs flare bartenders who provide entertainment. A company with about 20 people could easily fit around the table, Brenner said.

Kling said Sawmill Creek also books larger corporate parties from bigger cities including Toledo, Detroit and Cleveland.

"We do some pretty good numbers here," he said.

Battalion Winston's chief executive officer, Dale Winston, said he attributes the decrease in the number of holiday parties this year to "current economic concerns linked to the credit crunch" causing companies to cut back.

"Throughout the years, we've learned that the percentage of company parties is directly linked to the health of the economy," said Winston in a news release. "This year more businesses are opting for afternoon affairs and less alcohol than in 2006."

This year 70 percent of businesses are serving alcohol at their holiday parties -- a 15 percent decrease from 2006, according to the survey. Of those serving alcohol, more than 50 percent are taking steps to restrict consumption that include having the event focused on a meal, closing the bar earlier, serving beer and wine only, or limiting the number of complimentary drink tickets.

Brenner said she has noticed the trend.

More parties are booking holiday breakfasts and hosting events during the middle of the week as opposed to the popular weekend soiree.

"That was something we didn't expect to see," Brenner said. "It's a delightful trend from our perspective."

The Nia Center at Kalahari

For information about the Nia Center or to book a party, call 419-433-7759 or e-mail

Sawmill Creek Resort

For information about booking an event, call 419-433-3800 ext. 773.