By Thanksgiving week in a normal year, Kiki Benson’s catering calendar would be filled every day through Christmas with private and company bookings. Not so this year. Benson, owner of A Movable Feast and Kiki B’s restaurant, said her bookings are considerably down from 2008, when nearly every available date was taken.
By Thanksgiving week in a normal year, Kiki Benson’s catering calendar would be filled every day through Christmas with private and company bookings.
Not so this year.
Benson, owner of A Movable Feast and Kiki B’s restaurant, said her bookings are considerably down from 2008, when nearly every available date was taken.
“This year is going to be very different,” she said. “In general, corporations in town are not having their big parties, whether that’s because of their actual financial position or just because they’re laying off and it would seem in bad taste to have a big celebration. I anticipate this is going to be a slower year.”
One national survey agrees with Benson’s take. Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas found that 62 percent of companies are planning holiday parties this year, down from 77 percent a year ago. In 2007, 90 percent of companies surveyed were planning holiday parties.
Larry Metzger, president of ABC Catering, said his December corporate business is looking to be down from 2008. He still believes it will be a strong month, however, because of an unexpected spike in wedding bookings.
“December used to be the gravy month. Now it’s just looking like the meat-and-potatoes month,” he said. “I’m still doing well, but it’s not going to be a matter of setting a new December record.”
Metzger said several companies have booked parties in January this year, perhaps to push celebrations past the busy holiday season.
Other companies are trying new tricks to attract business. The MetroCentre is offering packages on its 10 executive suites for small parties during Rockford IceHog games or other arena events. The deals include rental of the suite, which can seat 18 people, plus catering credits and tickets to the event.
Doug Mark, vice president of corporate sales and premium seating, said the packages are aimed at the holidays but will be available into the spring.
“We’ve had quite a bit of interest from people wanting to come and bring a group down,” he said. “It’s a different type of party and a fun way to do it. It takes the pressure off anyone who has to put it all together.”
Ben Salamone, co-owner of Franchesco’s Ristorante, said nearly every day in December is filled at the restaurant’s new Perry Creek Parkway location. He attributes that not only to the restaurant’s much-ballyhooed move but to his staff’s aggressive efforts to make parties fit clients’ shrinking budgets.
“We were very surprised with the response,” he said. “It’s encouraging on our end. I know it’s tough out there. We’re trying very hard to attract these people.”
Sean F. Driscoll can be reached at (815) 987-1346 or email@example.com.