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With the summer social calendar a distant memory, Simon Gillespie of Cavendish Hospitality gives us the inside scoop on why employers shouldn’t overlook winter as an equally valuable season for entertaining
With established events such as Royal Ascot, Henley Regatta and the Cartier Polo on the agenda, the summer months are a non-stop whirlwind of entertainment. In comparison, winter is somewhat calmer on the hospitality scene with alfresco entertainment confined largely to rugby and football. But, while there are certainly fewer major events taking place over the colder months, the season actually presents an ideal opportunity for more intimate occasions, with employers encouraged to come up with increasingly innovative and creative ideas.
This is particularly evident between October and February, when organisers get a lot more requests for bespoke and stand-alone events. Whereas high profile summer dates often draw attention away from valuable interaction with clients, winter brings an opportunity for more personal and memorable experiences – which can be more valuable in terms of relationship-building.
I recently attended an evening event on the Orient Express, which was perfect for anyone wishing to spend some quality time with top clients, not least because, once aboard, they could not wander off! A Chef’s Table at a top restaurant like Gordon Ramsay at Claridges provides a similar experience.
The majority of events taking place during the winter months are, of course, centred around the festive season. Companies spend a huge amount entertaining employees as the year comes to an end, and in the last five years these functions have become more and more ambitious.
Whereas it was once sufficient to head to a local restaurant for an impromptu celebration, much more effort is now expected, particularly in terms of finding interesting venues. Especially popular at the moment are fully themed temporary structures such as The Room on the River or Battersea Marquee; museums like the Cabinet War Rooms or Natural History Museum; and exclusive dining experiences such as 30 St Mary Axe (aka The Gherkin).
Winter also brings about a definitive shift from sporting and outdoor activities to more cultural and indoor events. While there are a couple of exceptions – winter jump meets at Ascot and The Blackrock Masters tournament at the Royal Albert Hall being the notable ones – classical concerts, theatre, ballet and the opera become considerably more popular when it’s miserable outside. The opening of The O2, meanwhile, has encouraged interest in concerts, especially among younger audiences. London really is spoilt for choice at the moment, with forthcoming shows such as Led Zeppelin, Take That and Bruce Springsteen all set to be huge hospitality draws.
Tutankhamun’s Pharaohs’ Palace will also be a very popular venue this season, especially considering that the fully-themed space has access to a unique exhibition.
Additionally, ice hockey, NBA basketball and American football at The O2 and Wembley Stadium have introduced a different kind of event for Londoners to enjoy.
In short, the winter season may seem like a less eventful period hospitality-wise, but in some ways it is more important. Think about it – how much more enjoyable is a well thought-out, entertaining evening in the middle of dreary winter than an indistinguishable summer party in the months of non-stop action? You decide.
Cavendish Hospitality, tel: 020 8567 3530, squaremeal.co.uk/cav-hosp
This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events magazine, Autumn 2007.