Rhein-Sieg-Kreis · Company Christmas parties are an important source of revenue for many restaurants. But because of Covid, bookings for corporate Christmas parties in the Rhein-Sieg district have been slow so far this season.
At a glance, you can hardly tell that the Kaiserhof in Siegburg is still in the grip of a pandemic. Managing director Jürgen Keller and his staff have their hands full. "You can see that people are venturing out again and have money in their wallets," says Keller happily. But the restaurant has not quite returned to normal. Christmas party bookings are not what they were in past years. Keller's restaurant is getting about two-thirds of the requests they would receive in a normal year. Still, that's better than last year, when restaurants had to close during the Christmas season.
The restaurateur is relieved, because Christmas parties are an important source of revenue in his industry. “For one thing, you can use Christmas parties to strengthen relationships with existing customers and win new ones. But without such events at all, you also get revenue problems," reports Keller. Even if a comparatively small company books a party, the numbers still add up, smaller celebrations are very much financially worthwhile. Fortunately for the restaurateurs in the Rhine-Sieg district, "Christmas parties tend to be smaller than they used to be," observes Keller.
Hope for 2022
While the Kaiserhof is not doing too badly, the Christmas party business looks worse elsewhere. "At the moment, Christmas parties at our hotel are looking a bit lukewarm," reports Hannah Meyer-Bärhorn, head of marketing at the Steigenberger Grandhotel in Königswinter. She says that many corporate clients have already been asked whether they need the hotel's large meeting room again this year for their Christmas celebrations. But so far there have been no takers. "Companies with 20 or 30 employees rarely come to Petersberg for Christmas celebrations. Our offer has rather larger companies in mind," she explains.
With these larger events, she says, there is also more demand for what the hotel has to offer, such as wine tastings and curling. However, she says, larger celebrations in particular are being canceled, digitized or downsized because of the rising Covid numbers. But the advertising professional is keeping a cool head. "Over Christmas and New Year's Eve, we are well-booked even without Christmas parties. We just hope that next year things can really get going again with the company parties, too," says Meyer-Bärhorn.
Sit down dinner instead of buffet
Demand is still sluggish even for smaller celebrations in some places. "We have significantly fewer inquiries than two years ago," reports Peter Schemerka, who manages the brewery in Rheinbach. Before the pandemic, there were about twice as many interested parties as this year. Nevertheless, Schemerka advises early reservations. He suspects that many companies plan at shorter notice because they fear rule changes or cases of Covid in the workforce.
Those used to Christmas parties at the Brauhaus will notice another pandemic-related change: instead of the usual buffet, pandemic Christmas will feature a sit down dinner with lots of wild game and seasonal ingredients. This is to prevent all guests from gathering at the buffet and potentially spreading the virus. Only for Christmas brunch does the brewery want to stick to the buffet. Like many other restaurateurs, Schemerka is struggling with staff shortages, so he has had to introduce another day where the business is closed - Mondays. This reduces the number of Christmas parties even further.
Restaurateurs complain about lack of staff
Jürgen Keller of the Kaiserhof also lacks the staff to serve his customers: "To ensure quality despite this, we can only serve half as many people as usual," he complains.
Temporary employment agencies and students looking for part-time jobs have not helped the problem either. "We don't have too few customers, but too few waiters," says Keller.
Orig. text: Sören Becker