Office parties may be on the wane, but chefs still dread December, says Stephen Jardine.
Like many people, this morning I’ll be emerging from the wreckage of a Christmas night out. Having been up most of the previous night watching election coverage to present a morning radio show, I’m pretty sure last night will have been gruesome but then so it always is.
Every year on this day, I wake up and say, never again. However this year I’m not alone. According to a new survey, the office Christmas party may be in terminal decline. This year 61 per cent of company managers and directors say they are going to spend less on the office Christmas party with 12 per cent planning to cancel it all together. Part of the problem is the changing work culture.
A prominent UK law firm this year advised employers to carry out a risk assessment in advance of the Christmas party in case bosses ended up being held accountable for the actions of their workers. Add in concerns about inappropriate behaviour and sexual misconduct and you have the perfect excuse for employers to save cash by making the office party a thing of Christmas past.
You have to wonder how it has survived so long. Colleagues who like each other socialise throughout the year. What happens in December is that colleagues who don’t like each other are also dragged into the mix.
If Bob from IT is lazy and useless at work, finding out in the pub that he has new born twins who refuse to sleep doesn’t make him any better at his job or more likeable. If anything you just end up feeling sorry for his wife.
However the people I feel most sorry for are the restaurant staff who have to serve the endless tide of office lunches and dinners. It was bearable when the party stayed in the office. However thanks to health safety, the days of dancing on desks and photocopying your backside are now behind us. Instead the crazy gang from financial risk management now loudly share stories of double-entry book-keeping blunders where the rest of us are just trying to eat lunch.
Imagine how the chefs feel? Throughout autumn they have the pick of the produce with venison, chanterelles, apples, pheasant and so many other good things to test their skill and ingenuity. Then the calendar flips to December and all bets are off. Out goes the local, seasonal produce and in comes the same menu every office party demands. Think turkey with all the trimmings followed by Christmas pudding with at least one person on every table insisting it is not as good as the one their mum makes. Add in the crackers and Slade and it’s not hard to see why chefs dread Christmas.
As if it wasn’t bad enough, restaurants also now have to face the assault course that is dietary requirements. From people with seafood allergies who want the oysters to the gluten intolerant who just want half a portion of bread-and-butter pudding, every office Christmas party is now a minefield of preferences and requirements.
I guess what gets every chef through it is the knowledge they are helping colleagues bond. That and the fact that they have corporation tax bills to pay at the end of this month. Bah humbug.