Corporate entertainment is back

Executives with corporate accounts that used to order $200 bottles of wine are “showing off” and are now asking for $1,000 bottles, Terlato explained. His friend didn’t want to get in trouble for bringing a less profitable party. A private room at the restaurant costs $12,000 per night. It’s always booked.

Driven by the time of Covid With the tax break window closing at the end of the year – and the pressure to determine ties and reassure customers – companies are now spending money to win and poach current and potential customers.

“The last two or three years have been incredibly difficult,” said Thomas Donohue, director of marketing for Culinary Solutions, a Sterling, Va.-based food company that includes its partners and customers. Starbucks, (SEX) Hilton (HLT) and American Airlines (AAL).

“We wanted to reconnect with these people, we needed the splash, the engagement,” he said. The company with global operations needed something that customers “wanted to take on a plane from Singapore, Japan”.

On January 26, Culinary Solutions is hosting elaborate events in Washington, DC, Reims, France and Bangkok with celebrity chefs to celebrate “sous vide” day, the French cooking technique the company specializes in. , “there may be a castle and Champagne caves.”

The dining and dining boom started last summer and fall when many Wall Street workers were ordered back to the office, said chef Eric Ripert of New York’s Le Bernardin seafood restaurant. a three-star Michelin restaurant, which is one of the most expensive in the city.

“It’s like when kids go back to school and they don’t want to, but then they get excited,” she said. “It’s like that but with adults. And tequila.”

Corporations, hedge funds and, especially, real estate firms “are realizing that the recovery is another year away,” said Lawrence Scott, a New York-based event organizer. “They think the only way to survive is to entertain.” Events are smaller, say 60 guests instead of 200. [clients] who will keep their ships afloat.”

Private rooms at Le Bernardin have been booked for the holidays since late September, Ripert said. And at the restaurant, guests typically choose from the $298 chef’s tasting menu – $468 with wine pairings. Business has been boosted specifically, Ripert’s managers say, by the soon-to-expire tax break.

Called the enhanced deduction, “For 2021 and 2022 only, businesses can generally deduct the full cost of business-related food and beverages purchased at a restaurant. Otherwise, the limit is usually 50% of the cost of the meal,” it says. IRS

This type of spending, of course, is in direct contrast to what most consumers do when they pay for their meals: cutting back dramatically. Inflation and gas costs are historically high and recession worries are rising.

Meanwhile, the restaurant industry continues to struggle with “staffing, food cost and supply issues,” said Food-TV celebrity chef Maneet Chauhan, who owns Indian, Chinese and American restaurants in the Nashville area.

But companies believe they have to spend to compete and maintain their relationships are joyous, especially after years of deadlocks and Zoom meetings.

“Everything changed after Covid,” said New York publicist R. Couri Hay. “People don’t want to go out anymore, they got lazy. They started editing the events, and when they go out, ‘Wonderful you’re here, you’re still alive!’ ”

Hai said that, above all, companies are struggling to attract young guests and the next generation of businesses. “They think: you have to do something weird.”

During the pandemic, group dinners or parties were rare. At first charity events started coming back, then weddings. After that, according to restaurants and event planners across the country, came bar and bat mitzvahs.

But now bankers, watch manufacturers, real estate investors and executives are launching new projects manufacturers, retailers and “tech bros” also throw more expensive dinners and lavish parties.

Bill Laurie, the auto technology supplier, is once again taking current and future customers out to dinner at top restaurants in Detroit and Dearborn, Michigan, for up to several hundred dollars per person. “It’s not unusual if you do it right,” he said.

In this post-Covid era, “people want to feel cared for,” Laurie said. And hospitality goes beyond spending money with them or asking what they think of the market or family, he said.

Certainly, some companies may take a more generous view of the IRS rules. The deduction, which was intended to help restaurants during the pandemic, only applies to restaurant meals, and if there is a member of the customer’s company. And businesses can’t deduct expenses for “lavish or extravagant” meals.

But, according to the IRS, “an expense is not considered lavish or extravagant if it is reasonable based on the facts and circumstances.”

This definition leaves a lot of room.

“Meal expenses will not be allowed because they are more than a fixed dollar amount,” according to the IRS, “or because meals are taken at luxury restaurants, hotels, or resorts.”

But even in this friendlier environment, Laurie said, customer expectations must be managed. Because of inflation, he can no longer say “order anything off the menu.” now he says “Although caviar is on the menu, caviar is not on the menu.”