To Booze or Not To Booze...
If your company has a no alcohol policy, then not including the open bar is an easy decision; however, for those firms that allow libations, there a few things to consider before including cocktails at your next event, meeting, or outing.
What type of event are you planning?
If you're putting on a training seminar or formal presentation, then alcohol may be an unnecessary expense and a distraction for employees and presenters. After all, you want everyone to remain focused and engaged. However, a post-meeting cocktail party or team outing is always a great way to break up the monotony of a grueling day of meetings. Consider planning to have a few beers afterwards at a local brewery, wine shop, or trendy mixology bar (see best business bars). For a casual event like a team celebration, or for a slightly more formal business development meeting, alcohol can be a great idea. When enjoyed responsibly, a little social lubricant can go a long way towards creating personal bonds, trust, and overall team cohesion. Also, remember, many great deals have been brokered across a cocktail table. Forbes claims that "[a]bout 84% of deal makers have struck a bargain outside of the office. Of those, it turns out the bulk of them – 74% – get their business done at restaurants and bars."
Who will your drinking companions be?
Although alcohol can help people relax, open up, and socialize, an obvious time to avoid alcohol is whenever you have employees that do not drink or may have had problems with alcohol in the past. Also, if you are hosting clients from foreign nations where alcohol is not allowed, or is discouraged, then it should be avoided completely.
However, in many nations around the world, alcohol is a central part of culture. Just think about wine in France or Italy, beer in Germany, craft beer and bourbon in the U.S., and Saki in Japan. So, if you're hosting foreign business clients or colleagues, then choosing a venue that serves a specific cultural libation may be a great way to establish common ground. Also, indulging travelers in your area's unique alcohol culture may be equally appealing. Just be sure not to overdo it.
What type of alcohol will be served?
You're not on a beach in Ibiza. Most companies don't want to get their employees so sauced that they suddenly develop amorous feelings for their co-workers or decide to tell off their overbearing bosses at the next company function. In other words, overindulging can turn into an HR nightmare, yet it's one that can be avoided with some simple logic (see these helpful tips). Keep in mind that liquor can be dangerous. Avoid upping the ABV of your beverages. Not only will it risk the group getting overly intoxicated, but it will cost you more money. This means that beer and wine may be the best bet from both a liability and cost perspective. Another novel idea is to have drinks (ex. wine or Champagne) poured and served throughout the night by servers or bartenders, rather than have an open bar -- this is an especially good idea if events will last longer than 1-2 hours. Craft breweries are a great fit, as these trendy community hangouts often create unique beer featuring local ingredients, and you can include an educational brewery tour to keep your group engaged. Most of them also offer wine and/or cider for those non-beer drinkers in the group.
How will everyone get home safely?
Obviously you want everyone to have a great time, but don’t make your alcohol decision until you’ve accounted for how people are going to get home safely. Paying for private bus transportation, booking a hotel within walking distance of an event, or encouraging ride shares are all great ways to limit DUIs and protect fellow employees. Also, stress the importance of drinking responsibly on event communications, and stress that you have a company culture that does not allow its employees to drink to excess, nor does it tolerate drinking and driving. Of course, including this policy in employee codes of conduct will go even further to ensuring employees understand the need to be safe and professional at company events.
Whether you're looking for a low-key night out during a conference, or you want to throw a big bash to celebrate your company's recent success, bringing the team out for drinks doesn't have to be a liability. Just keep these simple considerations in mind when planning a corporate event with alcohol.