Restaurateur Diccon Wright on Planning the Perfect Christmas Party

It wouldn’t be Christmas without the office Christmas do. Yes, there might be the usual shenanigans followed by a few red faces the next day, but a Christmas party or meal is about so much more than stolen mistletoe kisses and buying a Secret Santa for that one person in the office you don’t know. It is a chance to celebrate the year’s successes and, as many companies work increasingly remotely, an occasion to bring everyone together. Whether you are planning a party for a big company, a small start up or a special team lunch, a Christmas party is one of the best ways to invest in the year ahead.

Throwing a party for a group of people of different ages, interests, and lifestyles, who happen to work together is an art form. Restaurateur, Diccon Wright provides insight from his own experience as a host, on how to throw a seasonal masterpiece.

Setting the scene

Where you have your party will set the mood for the whole event. Know your audience: if you are organising a bash for a tech startup, they probably don’t want afternoon tea at the Dorchester. Equally, more traditional, conservative-minded company directors or clients might not fancy queueing, tokens-in-hand at Dinerama. That said, it’s not just about pleasing the senior and more influential staff, the key is to find somewhere that reflects your business’s values — rather than some or most people’s interests — find a venue that suits your company ethos and culture, after all that’s what all of your guests have in common.

Whether it is a chance to have a proper night out with work colleagues or a night off out-of-work responsibilities, for many people the Christmas party is an annual highlight. For more senior staff it is a chance to let their hair down and build relationships with their team, for more junior staff it is a night out somewhere perhaps they couldn’t usually afford to go. Spending a chunk of your budget on a venue that is memorable, comfortable and accommodating will ensure that everyone has a good time and make the subsequent lack of post-party day productivity well worth it. No Scrooges please, it is Christmas after all.

Most importantly, do not forget the three L’s of Christmas party planning: Location, location, location. Unless you are willing to cover everyone’s taxi home or pay for hotels, make sure there are good, safe transport routes that run until your party ends. Getting there should be fuss free too, and not geographically exclusive.

Eating and drinking

There are two base ingredients to any kind of social event: food and drink. If you want your festive event to be memorable, especially if you are providing alcohol, then food is essential. Good quality, locally-sourced food creates the perfect party atmosphere. It is an opportunity to enjoy some traditional Christmas dishes like mince pies and turkey alongside some wintery wines and ales. It is also practical too, too many times otherwise brilliantly planned Christmas parties provide too little food and then wonder why nobody can stand, let alone have a dance. You are giving people free alcohol, they will drink it and likely a lot of it, so feed them! If you are in a restaurant space with a small to medium-sized group then a sit-down meal is a great way to start the celebrations. For bigger company parties, hearty small plates and substantial canapes are a lovely way to enjoy seasonal food. Keep guests fed and watered and the night will go off with a bang, just be mindful of dietary requirements, allergies or other needs. And make the soft drinks fun to — not everyone will be drinking!

Be merry

Music and decorations will get people in the Christmas spirit and will transport people away from their day-to-day jobs. Mariah Carey and Slade will probably make an audio appearance and why not? It is a time to be a bit silly. Although you want guests to feel like they are playing rather than working, the tone and theme of the party should suit your business’s identity. I am not suggesting that you serve wine out of branded mugs (although I have seen this done!), but think about how you want your employees to behave and to represent your brand. A media company might want to hit the roller disco or throw a lavish spectacle of an event, but companies that work in more sensitive or discrete industries might want to opt for something a little more low-key. Fancy dress and themes will divide opinions, but there is no need to go tinsel tacky, beautifully bespoke parties, why not check out what we do at Swan at The Globe Theatre, can deliver that oldie worldie Bing Crosby Christmas magic. There’s no need to be too prescriptive — unless you are planning for a pharmacist’ Christmas do, in which case dig out the lab beakers, shake up some cocktails and get posting those prescription paper invites!

And finally, under absolutely no circumstances should you forget the bacon buttys for the next morning. Or you might find yourself visited by the Ghost of Christmas Hangover — en masse.

Find out how to book a Christmas Party (or any other event for that matter) with Swan at https://www.swanlondon.co.uk/private-event-enquiry/