Optika Inc. usually toasts the holidays with a banquet for employees and their spouses in a hotel ballroom, complete with a band, prime rib, fine drink and good cheer. This year, though, the party is off.
"We have a corporate goal for profitability this quarter and we want to make sure we hit that goal," said Mark Ruport, president and chief executive of the struggling software company.
In this season of war, terrorism and recession, many employers are scaling back or canceling holiday celebrations.
But while the quest for profits is behind many of the changes, some executives said they were cutting back at least partly because it just didn't feel right to throw a party after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
About a quarter of 150 companies surveyed recently by executive search firm Battalia Winston International said the attacks had caused them to rethink plans for employee celebrations, with most of those deciding in favor of smaller, less expensive parties. About 41 percent of the companies surveyed said they planned to spend less than in 2000.
In Chicago, Pear Tree Catering has seen a 30 percent drop in requests for corporate parties. Many companies are choosing to conduct lower-cost buffet luncheons at the workplace, instead of dinner banquets.
Dearborn Financial Services of Chicago is replacing its holiday dinner at a restaurant with appetizers and drinks at a pub, collecting contributions and donating the savings to the New York City relief fund.
"The driving force for us was wanting to still have our employees get together but also be able to give something back," said Kathy Heldman, a Dearborn vice president