How Restaurant Owners and Operators Can Avoid Holiday Party Disasters

*This post originally appeared here on the blog for Restaurant HR Group, by Carrie Luxem*


We’re in the midst of the holiday season, and with that comes the annual employee holiday party. These get-togethers are a fantastic way to build camaraderie, reinforce your company’s culture, and of course, let loose and have some well-deserved fun.

But there’s a flipside: If not planned carefully, these festive events can turn into major liabilities, muddled coworker relations, and terminations.

Use these tips to avoid becoming another holiday party horror story.


While it’s very tempting to have the party at your own restaurant after hours, it’s a much better plan to choose another location.

Why, you ask?

One, it helps employees separate the event from their traditional workday, creating a clear definition between business and non-business activities, which hopefully allows them to feel more relaxed. Because you do want them to have a good time.

Although, it’s worth noting, this isn’t an excuse for employees, management, or owner/operators to act inappropriately.

And two, should someone fall in the icy parking lot or trip on the steps in their high heels, you won’t be liable for the fall. The caterer or facility you rented would assume that burden.


Alcohol has ruined many holiday parties. We all know that sometimes people cut loose, drink too much and bad things happen – drunk driving, claims of harassment, overall inappropriateness or unprofessional conduct are a few biggies.

So if you’re planning on serving alcohol, there’s some things you should think through before you tap that first keg. For example:

  • Your budget – Depending on the size of your staff, alcohol can get very expensive, very quickly.
  • Employee personalities – You may be aware that Bill is a recovering alcoholic or that Sarah has a history of DUI. And since I know how much you care about your staff, nixing the alcohol may be best for everyone.

But if you decide to go ahead with alcohol, you should consider the following:

  • Monitor guests as they leave in order to gauge their sobriety. Even better, when you hold the party off-site, the venue’s staff can assume this role and encourage your employees to take advantage of alternate transportation (see below).
  • Provide free transportation options – like vans, taxis, or party buses – for employees. Not only does it add to the festive atmosphere, but it’s a safe transportation option for those feeling a bit tipsy.


In the days and weeks leading up to the party, talk to your staff about what they can expect.

Of course, encourage everyone to attend, but refrain from making attendance mandatory. Take the time to revisit company policies, like harassment and conduct, and set the bar for acceptable behavior.

And definitely, sing the praises of drinking responsibly too.

Restaurant owners and operators don’t have to fear holiday parties. With a little foresight, it’s completely possible to provide a fun, safe, and appropriate occasion for all.

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