Drinking wine at a corporate dinner event

Is there a better time to digest business matters than over a meal? Some of the most intriguing conversations are had at the dinner table. Plus, I’ve always heard that the best way to anyone’s heart is through their stomach. With that being said, a corporate dinner can be a great, casual way, to gather your team and celebrate the work they’ve done.

How To Plan A Corporate Dinner

A lot goes in to planning a successful dinner as a corporate event; picking a location, deciding on the menu, and finding entertainment. All of that can easily turn into a whirlwind of stress, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. A crucial point to remember when planning your next gathering is to not over overcomplicate things and stay calm! 

Once you’ve settled on a budget, here is how we recommend you start the planning process. 

Agenda – Just like with any event, having an itinerary is a necessity. Start with planning out what you would like the night to look like. Write down the event start time, in detail down to closing speeches. Check out the sample agenda below.

5:00 PM – 5:30 PM – Arrival/Cocktail/Networking 

5:30 PM – 5:45 PM – Welcoming Speeches 

5:45 PM – 6:45 PM – Dinner/Networking 

6:45 PM – 7:45 PM – Scheduled Entertainment

7:45 PM – 8:00 PM – Closing Speeches/Dessert 

Having an itinerary will help keep the event running smoothly and on time. This will also help you make decisions about locations and entertainment based on the time frame you have available. 

Location – Finding the right location for a corporate dinner involves taking a few elements into consideration —  availability, number of people, and type of cuisine. Depending on when you’re trying to make this unforgettable dinner happen, you may have to reach out to a few venues. Depending on group size, you’ll consider restaurants, hotels or entertainment venues.

Knowing the date, how many attendees, and what type of cuisine you want are all details that will help finalize the perfect location.

Menu – When planning a menu giving people less is more. Have you ever looked at an extensive menu and thought to yourself, “how am I going to choose just one thing?” Having too many options makes it hard to make a decision, and you don’t want that during a time sensitive event. 

When trying to accommodate a large event, the best thing to do is to have a limited menu. This will make it easier on you, the caterer and all of your guests. Oftentimes, restaurants, hotels or conference centers will already have event menus for you to choose from depending on the size of your group. Dietary restrictions should also be taken into consideration when planning the menu. Your vegetarian, vegan, or gluten free attendees will feel appreciated when you have alternative meal options. 

Being selective for your limited menu also includes alcoholic beverages! Having an open bar can be great for cocktails, but maybe select a few local beers and bottles of wine that pair with your entree choices. 

8 Great Dinner Activities 

To help you get inspiration for the entertainment portion of the night, I’ve curated a list of 8 popular group activities that can be added to your evening.

1 – Writing Music – One of the most positive energy packed activities you can do is have your team write a song together. Turn your event into a fun collaboration to celebrate your company culture. We’ve worked with many clients to deliver our interactive conference song programs during a dinner event. 

You can be creative while enjoying a meal. Music, food and drink go well together and will allow your colleagues to see each other in a different light and have some quality bonding time.

2 – Cooking Class – Since you’re already planning a group meal, why not turn it into a learning and team building experience? Have your team take a cooking class together and then you can eat the food you prepare. If you can stand the heat of the kitchen together, you can accomplish anything together! This won’t work for large groups but it’s great for small to medium size gougers.

3 – Last Meal on Earth – Virtual? Yes, you can have a dinner program if you’re a virtual team. Have you ever asked yourself, “If I were to die today, what would I want my last meal to be?” For some us who love all food it might be a hard question to answer. If you are having a virtual dinner party, this is a fun way to get everyone involved. 

Everyone gets to choose what their preferred last meal on earth would be and prepare if for their own dinner. Then chat about why they choose it. This opens the door to conversation around so much more and is great team bonding. 

4 – Dining in the Dark – Dining in the dark is a one-of-a-kind tasting experience. While most people tend to eat with their eyes, it’s proven that eating in low light can enhance the experience of an average meal. Without being distracted by all the sights around you, your other senses become heightened — becoming more in tune with your tastebuds. This can be a unique way to create a fun shared experience during your team’s next corporate dinner. 

5 – Murder Mystery Dinner – Another way to get everyone involved at a dinner event is to make it murder mystery themed. No one can turn down a good “Who Done It?” To make it easy, you can purchase a game kit that comes with everything you need.

6 – Comedy Roast – We all have secretly wanted to watch our bosses get roasted. A comedy roast during a dinner event is perfect for a group who loves to laugh. But it’s only funny until someone who didn’t know about it gets their feelings hurt, so before planning make sure everyone involved is on board. With planning and inclusion, this is a lot of fun.

7 – Award Ceremony – This is a chance to dress up in your finest clothes and celebrate success with an award ceremony. During dinner you can give out awards for salesperson of the year, best customer service, or most improvement over the year. Have some silly ones in there as well. For example, most naps taken during work hours, or best office prank. The ideas for award categories are endless! Plan a night to spoil your team and acknowledge their work.  Without them the company wouldn’t be a success! 

8 – Virtual Reality Game Night – If you’ve never had the pleasure of playing a virtual reality game, it’s time to take your company dining experience to the next level with a VR game night! After dinner the fun begins, bring in a professional VR company to facilitate this. You can visit exotic places, fight off zombies with your team, or become part of a rock band. Any game you chose will be an adventure. 

Sharing food and drink together is as old as humanity. There’s no better way to build company spirit and create a better sense of belonging. Remember, there’s real value in planning corporate dinners, at least once a year. And if you can, host small gatherings more often. 

About Billy Kirsch

Billy is a Grammy & Emmy nominated, CMA & ACM award winning songwriter with numerous Top 10 hits to his credit. His team building programs and keynote speaking presentations help people tap into their creative abilities to become more innovative and engaged in their work. Clients include Fortune 100 companies and organizations throughout the world.