The generation game: how to cater for every age group at the work Christmas party

The generation game: how to cater for every age group at the work Christmas party

Updated on 09 October 2018 • Written By Gavin Haines

The generation game: how to cater for every age group at the work Christmas party
It’s the one time of the year that the issue of age comes into play in the office. So how do you keep different generations happy at the annual Christmas party?
 

Until recently, the office Christmas party was a relatively simple shindig to organise. All you needed to do was book dinner at a decent restaurant, stick the company credit card behind the bar and let the booze take care of the rest.

 

 
Expectations were generally rather low, awkwardness levels high and the success of the party was usually measured by how drunk everyone got at the company’s expense.
 
Employees expected the food, drink and conversation to be bang average – but hey, it beats an afternoon in the office. Plus, there was always the possibility that some of your colleagues would misbehave under the mistletoe – indiscretions that would provide ample water-cooler gossip for grey January mornings.
 
 
SquareMeal Christmas magazine how to satisfy all ages at your end of year party millennials
 
All things considered, the Christmas party rubbed along quite nicely.
 
But then millennials, aka Generation Y, came along – with their smartphones, abstinence and heightened expectations – and everything changed. 
 

Older employees don’t want to spend the Christmas do flitting between food trucks, snapchatting pictures of churros

 
‘Millennials want to be different and this theme carries through to their event needs,’ explains Raquel Alvarez, managing director at Sapphire Private, a high-end events company. ‘They want to be part of a unique event.’
 
So sit-down three-course meals, formal attire and polite conversation no longer cut it. Younger employees are looking for an ‘experience’, by which they really mean something to boast about on Instagram. 
 
‘The focus now is on creating something lasting that can be shared with friends or posted on social media,’ says Alvarez. 
 
SquareMeal Christmas magazine how to satisfy all ages at your end of year party millennials
 
That’s all very well, but older employees (not to mention the directors who are funding the festivities) don’t want to spend the annual Christmas do flitting between food trucks, snapchatting pictures of churros. 
 
‘The more senior generations tend to request more traditional events that prioritise service quality and creating a more tranquil environment that encourages conversation and more social interaction,’ says Alvarez.
 
So how do you satisfy all the generations at once – from your baby boomers through Generations X, Y and Z? 
 

Scene change

Well, you could start with a fun afternoon activity that all ages can get behind, such as table tennis, bowling or indoor crazy golf. These have universal appeal, look good on Instagram (click) and typically have bar access (tick). 
 
Dinner is where things get a little more complicated. What you do here depends largely on the average age of your employees. If most are old enough to remember John Major (Generation X territory) then you might want to plump for ye olde faithful: a sit-down meal at a decent restaurant. If, however, they consider Britpop to be ‘dad music’ (that’s Generation Z, by the way – kids in their early 20s and younger) then street food might be more suitable. 
 
SquareMeal Christmas magazine how to satisfy all ages at your end of year party dinner
 
Incidentally, Awesome Events has noticed a rise in demand for more informal fare at Christmas – be it food stations, bowl food or sharing platters.
 
‘Clients want something less formal now,’ says Denis McCourt, the company’s director. 
 
After-dinner entertainment is where things gets even trickier because millennials have wildly different music tastes to those who grew up buying vinyl (the first time round) and CDs. 
 
It could be tricky, therefore, to find a bar that will keep everyone on the dancefloor, so consider outsourcing this problem to a band or a DJ.
 
Ultimately, says McCourt, it’s easy for event planners to overthink the Christmas party – because, despite each generation’s differing tastes and predilections, most people want essentially the same thing from the annual bash: free food and drink, time off work and – that vital element – a bit of a giggle. That, at least, is universal.