Ideas for virtual holiday parties
October 13, 2020 9:55 AM   Subscribe

We're in the runup to the holiday season and this has been a particularly trying year. I'd like to reward my team with a virtual holiday party, conducted over videochat. We have a ton of fun budget left unspent, but there's a significant catch: I can't spend it on food or drinks directly. Can you help me figure out a way to make this work?

My team is about 16 people in the San Francisco Bay Area. We work for a major tech company and have been working from home since March. I've seen a handful of other people for handing off physical devices related to work, but we've otherwise not seen each other. Our budget is really high due to the fact that we haven't spent any of it this year. If I could wave a magic wand, I'd just have a fancy meal catered by a high-end restaurant. But our company has a prohibition on spending directly on food or drinks, and they're serious about enforcing it. For the sake of this question, please assume that no direct spending on food or drinks is possible. However, spending on food and drinks as materials for a class is fine.

Our team is generally pretty interested in food, with varying levels of cooking skill. It would be ideal to have a virtual cooking class that focuses on making a somewhat nice dinner, while also providing all the required ingredients in a kit. Think something on the level of this pan-seared airline chicken with pan sauce, plus some sort of roast potatoes and salad. During any cooking down time, having a cocktail/mocktail component would also be great.

Do you have recommendations for vendors who can work with clients in the SF Bay Area to achieve something like this? I'm open to different spending levels but would like to target something in the $150-$200 range. They must be able to provide ingredients as a part of the invoice.

Any other ideas for a fun, remote holiday party would also be appreciated!
posted by kdar to Work & Money (11 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Clarification, do you mean $150-$200 per person, or do you mean $200 for a cooking class for the whole group which would cover the cost of ingredients and delivering the ingredients to various people's homes?
posted by rogerroger at 10:01 AM on October 13

Yikes, I mean $150 - $200 per person. I thought I had proofread that...
posted by kdar at 10:04 AM on October 13 [1 favorite]

I'm assuming you can't just give the money in the budget directly to your team as a bonus, because if you have a chance to pay your team more that would always be the move, right?
posted by Lawn Beaver at 11:22 AM on October 13 [6 favorites]

SF's much-loved Three Babes Bakeshop does pie baking classes and can deliver most of the ingredients too, although attendees may need to buy their own eggs/cream/perishables.

I can’t vouch for them personally but I saw that a company named Cuiline says they do online cooking classes and send you the ingredients beforehand.

Good Eggs in the Bay Area also has meal "kits" where they basically collect all the ingredients for you and deliver, throughout the Bay Area. I would caution though that sometimes they make substitutions, and it’s geared for home cooks, not parties, without any instruction - they just send a recipe card.

This Seattle chocolate shop also does virtual tasting classes where they mail you the chocolate.
posted by rogerroger at 11:22 AM on October 13

I can see where if you are already getting a bonus, it might be more fun to have a holiday party thing than another $150-200 in your bonus. But that's just me.

If you can't spend it on food or drink, are these suggestions of a tasting party going to be OK, since you aren't making the food yourselves? If so, I'd put some feelers out in something like a yourcityname food subreddit -- there might be some local businesses who don't usually do tasting-type things who are doing them now and would appreciate what's a fairly good bit of business.
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:47 PM on October 13 [1 favorite]

One additional thing that you could do is a Remote Escape Room. They look like a lot of fun! Perfect for team building too.

This is my favorite review site, they have pretty in depth reviews of various rooms.
posted by bbqturtle at 2:07 PM on October 13

We recently had a virtual birthday party for an animal-loving friend with a farm that does animal rescue, Sweet Farm. it was pretty fun! You book a time for your chat, and they take you around the farm and introduce you to llamas and goats and stuff. They do parties, and can join meetings, and the proceeds go to taking care of the critters.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:24 PM on October 13 [1 favorite]

What about virtual wine and cheese tasting/pairing class? For example.

I personally would want something I could do that didn’t involve me simultaneously cooking - so I’d be into stuff that I could assemble but not necessarily cook, which is especially complicated if you have a family at home.
posted by vunder at 2:26 PM on October 13 [2 favorites]

Whatever you do, if you're involving any kind of complex preparation -- for the love of mercy make it OPTIONAL. If I had to turn on my camera and show my coworkers my KITCHEN, and then they would have to watch me, a notorious not-cooker who owns literally 1 pan, try to do some kind of cooking class, I would quit on the spot.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 3:46 PM on October 13 [7 favorites]

(I suppose I am coming from an industry in which socioeconomic levels and living conditions vary widely --some of us live on low salaries in high COL areas, while others live on higher salaries in low COL areas; many of us are single while others share expenses, and everything in between-- whereas your team may in fact be quite homogeneous. But please do attempt to be somewhat sensitive to peoples' willingness to share the non-professional parts of their homes. Have you been invited to spend time in their kitchens IRL? If not don't assume you're invited virtually.)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 3:53 PM on October 13 [5 favorites]

If you're interesting in skirting the line of the policy, you could look at mailing your team bake at home items from Porto's (they are good and really easy - maybe pair with a cocktail/mocktail from a cocktail delivery service for a full event) or from one of the many purveyors on Goldbelly, which now has a meal kits section. It also seems like everyone I knew skirted those rules with boba making kits (there are a ton of other vendors, too) for team building events this summer.

If you wanted to stay more in the clear, you could reach out to one of those companies that does corporate team building cooking events in the area and see if they've adapted their offerings for the current era. After a team building event where we made guacamole as a group (delicious! fun!), I would definitely suggest staying on the easy side of cooking.
posted by A Blue Moon at 5:01 PM on October 13

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