Events caterers have been hit by a glut of Christmas party cancellations as corporate clients attempt to avoid the public relations nightmare of being seen to celebrate after making redundancies.
Charles Beer, chief executive of catering firm Crown Group, estimated that between 30% and 40% of the Christmas party market remains unsold. This, said Damian Clarkson, managing director of Red Snapper Events, is because "nobody wants to be seen unloading Champagne when they're making redundancies".
Neil Lodge, chief executive of Bristol-based Fosters Event Catering, which has just had its contract to provide event and hospitality services at Oxford Town Hall renewed, agreed.
"We have seen a few large cancellations, one from an accountancy firm and one from a well-known retailer," he said. "The reasons given were: not wishing to celebrate while our customers are suffering, and prospective shareholder criticism."
Lena BjÁ¶rck, managing director of Inn or Out, which provides hospitality at the Paris Air Show, said that her firm had not escaped the downturn unscathed either. "Our largest client cancelled its staff party, as it didn't feel it was the right thing to do," she said.
However, reluctance among corporate clients to be seen to be celebrating can have a silver lining, with one source claiming that several London caterers had actually benefited from the trend, as late cancellations attract "payment in full for an event that won't take place".
By Chris Druce
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