Yes, you need to start planning your office holiday party now.

So you’ve been tasked with planning the annual employee holiday party for your company. But that’s okay, you may think. After all, it’s only August, and I have still plenty of time. I’ll just put it at the end of my to-do list. Right?

Wrong. You are so, so wrong.

If you are reading this blog post now and haven’t done any prep work, you are already late in planning your office holiday party. Event spaces book up fast during the holiday season, restaurants are going to be slammed with catering orders, and employees need to know key dates for company-wide events well in advance so they can plan their schedules. The longer you wait to get started, the greater the chance that something is going to fall through the cracks. And with all of the employees who are planning to attend and judge every detail, it’s extremely important to put your best foot forward with this soiree.

Are you panicked yet? No need to worry – that’s why we’re here! Here are five steps that can make planning your holiday office party quick, easy and painless.

iStock-615082010.png

1. First, pick a theme. Are you thinking black tie affair, or a night out playing arcade games? The possibilities are practically endless, and some may be more fitting than others, depending on whether or not families and significant others will be invited to attend. Get the theme figured out right away so that you can put a check mark next to the basics such as time, date, location, and even things like decorations and color scheme. Be sure to involve a handful of other employees to pick the theme out, too – that way you’ll have backup in your choice. Once you have your direction, you can select a menu that coincides with the theme. We at Dinova have made this especially easy with our Holiday Dining Guide, which can help you find a restaurant for your event in just a few minutes. Our Dining Guide showcases to holiday hotspots in our most popular locations for the season of lights and focuses on their party offerings, from catering to private dining venues.

2. Make an agenda. An agenda will help ensure that everything goes smoothly and that you have assistance where needed. Start your agenda with the time of day in which you or a party-planning company will be setting everything up so that you won’t be sweating the details at the last minute (like figuring out when the decor can be hung). Be sure to note all important times as well, including when you want the CEO to speak, when you plan to have food served, and so forth.

3. Have a team by your side. We recommend assembling a party team within your company to help bring everything from concept to execution, but remember – it’s about quality, not quantity. You don’t need a representative from every department to help you with this – in fact, that’s probably a mistake as it would distract from employees’ actual jobs. Empower a small team of individuals and be sure to include people in human resources and marketing – that way you’ll have someone to talk corporate policy and someone to talk look and feel.

4. Announce the basics. There are some key details that many office party planners fail to realize are of the utmost importance to employees attending the holiday party. What is the dress code? Will alcohol be served, and will it be an open bar? Will there be dinner or appetizers, and what time will the food be offered? Establish the answers to these questions well in advance and be sure to inform your company so that they are prepared. It’s also important to remind your guests that at the end of the day, they are representing the company at a workplace event and are expected to be on their best behavior as they enjoy the soiree.

iStock-466596039.png

5. Do something good. One portion of the holiday party that is often overlooked until the last minute is the fundraising aspect, yet our research shows that corporate social responsibility is very important to employees. Consider designating a charity to partner with for your party and keep it simple. Tried and true ideas include a toy drive, sponsoring a family for the season or donating food to a local shelter. Heck, you can even make the fundraising aspect the theme for your event, such as participating in a pre-party Santa 5k walk/run!

While you are definitely behind schedule if you haven’t started planning your office holiday party yet, it’s not the end of the world. Keep things simple, invite collaboration, and of course, remember that the event is supposed to be fun! Go ahead and get started – and get a jump on selecting your party’s location and food choices by using our Dinova Holiday Dining Guide to find the perfect restaurant to best suit your needs.

Who is today’s business diner? Our new study is chock-full of great insights

What do business diners look like?

The truth is, it’s hard to say. With Millennials soon to make up  the majority of the workforce and rapid shifts in corporate culture, a business diner could be the 25-year-old in a hoodie grabbing a bite at the airport, or a suited-up professional wining and dining clients at a steakhouse.

While we’ve been able to pinpoint common misconceptions about the business diner, we wanted to take it a step further. Business dining is a $77 billion business in the U.S. making it the third largest T&E category, but little formal research has been done to understand the habits and preferences of business diners — until now.

To help participating companies make the most of Dinova, we partnered with Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) to conduct a detailed, first-of-its-kind survey of corporate card-holding professionals who travel for work. The result? Surprising insights into business travelers dining habits, technology use, and attitudes toward company expense policies.

As we dug into the research, we found some interesting facts that we weren’t expecting:

GenDifferencesDining

Generational differences in business dining

  • The longer the career, the larger the tab. Baby Boomers tend to look for upscale dining choices when they travel (79%), as opposed to most Millennials (51%) who opt for fast food.

 

  • Gen Xers are most likely to be part of a pack. About a third of Gen Xers said they typically had lunch or dinner with coworkers while on business. Millennials seem to prefer solo, on-the-go dining.
  • Millennials are less comfortable expensing extras. The majority (2 out of 3) said they hesitated to expense “extras” like coffee and snacks. That number was only 1 of 3 for Boomers, and 1 of 2 for Gen Xers.

 

How business diners use food & restaurant technology

 

  • Business diners have embraced mobile apps. The majority (63%) of diners we surveyed had dining-related apps on their mobile phones.
  • Yelp is the most popular app among business diners. 53% of business diners said they used the Yelp app. Others in the top 5 were TripAdvisor (50%), GrubHub (36%), OpenTable (34%), and Uber Eats (34%).
  • Different generations use dining technology differently. Millennials are more prone to use delivery apps (45% used Uber Eats), while Boomers are more likely to use review-oriented apps like Yelp (74%).

 

Business diners want to eat like a local, but want ‘tried and true’

 

  • Most diners seek out local flavors. 77% of business travelers said they preferred to “eat like a local,” and half (49%) researched foods that were unique to their destination.
  • Brand recognition is still important. 59% of business travelers find comfort in having “trusted brands” as available options when they travel.

PreferredDiningProgram

 

Many companies offer lenient dining policies, and reward programs are catching on

 

  • Per diems aren’t required. One in three (34%) of respondents said their company enforced a per diem. More common is encouragement to use guidelines instead (41%).

 

    • It’s not always cut and dry. Nearly a quarter of respondents (22%) said they have no formal dining policy at all.
    • Careful with the money. Even with this in mind, diners aren’t always comfortable asking for reimbursement on all items. 46% of respondents said they were concerned about appearing irresponsible for expensing things outside of policy.

 

  • Corporate dining policies are flexible, and sometimes non-existent. Only 1 in 3 professionals surveyed said their company enforces a per diem. Another 22% said their company had no formal dining policy at all.

 

 

For a more in-depth look at the study’s results, download the whitepaper here.

 

What did you find most surprising about the research? How will you use the findings to drive your business?

 

Best of San Diego

Let’s face it business travel can be tedious. Flight delays, mediocre dinners in the hotel lobby, stressful meetings and of course, more flying. So, the next time you’re packing your bags be sure to throw that Hawaiian shirt in with your business khakis and build some exploration time into your agenda, especially in the summer when it seems like everyone else on your flight is on holiday!

Downtown San Diego Gaslamp sign over moving traffic
Famous Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego, CA.

This August business people from all over the world will descend on San Diego for the Global Business Travel Association annual conference.  I admit San Diego is not a tough assignment, but if you tread a straight path between your hotel and the convention center you risk missing the So Cal experience. It’s not difficult to find fun local activities, especially with the convention center sitting on the waterfront downtown. So, allow me to offer a few ideas for your next business trip in America’s Finest City.

  • Downtown San Diego is home to Petco Park, the home of the San Diego Padres. If you’re a baseball fan then this state of the art baseball experience is sure to impress. Catch a fly ball, or enjoy the game with a cold one and take in the atmosphere.
  • If you’re looking to experience a little Puerto Nuevo style seafood without actually crossing into Mexico, Rockin’ Baja Lobster has a location right downtown in the Gaslamp Quarter. Venturing just north of downtown there is another Rockin’ Baja in Old Town. A trip to Old Town will transport you back in time as it is the oldest settled area in San Diego. Here you’ll discover historic buildings dating back to 1820.
Rockin' Baja Lobster
Tacos from Rockin’ Baja Lobster.
  • Downtown is also home to one of the largest “Little Italy” neighborhoods in the country and is a thriving pedestrian market place with restaurants, shops, wineries and more. If you set out to explore this historic area, make time to grab a bite at Indigo Grill. With a fire pit patio, it’s the perfect place to enjoy “Modern Latin Cuisine.”
  • Another downtown favorite for “social dining” is Searsucker. There are plenty of small plates to share, grilled octopus…duck wings…mushroom crepes…yes, please!  If you’re in the mood for something heartier, the prime dry aged New York strip with Japanese sweet potato and shishito chimichurri will not disappoint.
Searsucker
Steak dish from Searsucker.
  • Balboa Park is in close proximity to downtown and this 1,200-acre urban oasis offers something for everyone. Museums, gardens, trails, theatre, the world-famous San Diego Zoo and of course, food! The award-winning Prado at Balboa Park in the House of Hospitality offers both indoor and outdoor dining.  A beautiful setting to taste the local San Diego brew with your lunch or dinner.
  • If you crave waterfront dining, Coronado Island is a quick 15-minute boat ride across the bay from the convention center ferry stop. Once you arrive at the Coronado Ferry Landing, head to Il Fornaio and sample some of its award winning Italian cuisine. Il Fornaio’s dining room and patio provide a glorious front and center view of the beautiful San Diego skyline.
Il Fornaio
Pasta dish from Il Fornaio.
  • Another perfect vantage point for dining with a view is Coasterra, at the tip of Harbor Island just a short drive from the convention center. You will enjoy panoramic views of the harbor and city while feasting on modern Mexican cuisine.
  • Lastly if you can sneak away long enough to escape to La Jolla, a beautiful village offering ample dining options. Whisknladle is considered a “neighborhood gem” where inspired dishes featuring local ingredients change frequently to capture the freshest flavors of the season.  According to Edible San Diego, “the modern-rustic, indoor-outdoor dining room screams La Jolla chic.”
    • Across the way sister restaurant Catania features fresh, authentic, handcrafted Italian fare. Earning top accolades since opening, Catania’s perch on the top floor of the La Plaza Center offers stunning views of La Jolla and the Pacific beyond.
    • A La Jolla classic George’s at the Cove hosts three venues in one building. You can savor “California Modern” cuisine on the first level; on “Level2” you’ll be treated to an elevated cocktail experience featuring classic and innovative modern creations; and one level up is George’s Ocean Terrace, overlooking the Pacific, which Travel and Leisure named “one of the world’s hottest rooftop restaurants.”
Georges
Cocktails from George’s at the Cove.

I hope I’ve lured you away from ordering room service and provided ample opportunity to put on that Hawaiian shirt and own your San Diego experience!

Written by Janice McEachen.

Power Breakfasts and the Business Breakfast Movement

 

We’ve all heard it, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” But, do restaurateurs know just how important? Business professionals often use breakfast meetings as ground zero for negotiating, meeting up with colleagues or interviews. What happens over a breakfast meeting is very important, and what is even more important is the food. Corporate employees are getting smart about mixing food and business. While the traditional meeting over lunch and dinner is always a solid move, business diners are taking full advantage of the opportunity to get up early and meet over bacon, eggs and coffee.

Deemed the “power breakfast,” the movement is gaining traction throughout the restaurant industry, and many restaurateurs are taking notice by opening the doors earlier and adjusting offerings to accommodate this guest. In fact, many restaurant brands have re-branded, fast-casual version of their signature restaurant style to attract younger and more time-crunched customers while still appealing to their long-time patrons. This renewed focus on capturing the early birds creates a new revenue stream of customers that otherwise may not have been captured.

Potbelly_Breakfast

So, how are restaurant brands approaching this change? Potbelly, once perceived as only a lunch and dinner brand, now offers business professionals a new breakfast section of their menu that takes the breakfast sandwich to an entirely new and mouthwatering level. Who knew you could order a delicious egg, sausage, and melted cheddar sandwich on top of a blueberry maple square bun while negotiating a high-level client deal?  Potbelly also provides corporate diners with the option to cater in breakfast for off-site meetings and events. Talk about power!

Diners are also paying careful attention to what they eat for breakfast as well.  The latest NRA State of the Industry study found that 7 in 10 diners would choose a restaurant where healthy food is available.  Millennials are also more likely to choose a restaurant with locally-sourced, or environmentally-friendly food items.

Bob Evans Breakfast

Another win in the power breakfast category is Bob Evans, where business diners can enjoy a variety of farm-fresh breakfast favorites and conduct an interview with prospective employees at the same time.  No matter the occasion, business diners can enjoy breakfast meals that includes the famous Farmer’s Choice Breakfast to the famous Pot Roast Hash.

“Business meetings allow people to savor great home-style breakfasts together, and at Bob Evans we’re serving more farm fresh fruits and vegetables than ever along with some fun new ways to enjoy them,” said a representative at Bob Evans. “It’s comfort with attitude for business diners: nothing short of simple, delicious, farm fresh, down to earth food done right! That’s the Bob Evans way.”

Whether it’s the road warrior looking for a quick breakfast bite with colleagues or the sales professional looking to engage with their prospects over pancakes, restaurants are stepping up the breakfast game in more ways than one in order to attract the everyday business professional.

 

 

 

 

Fatherhood and the Working Man

It’s almost Father’s Day, and we here at Dinova love to celebrate family! Recently, we caught up with our Chief Technology Officer, Danny Davis, who gave us some great perspective on what it means to be a working dad.

Danny 2

Question: Tell us a little about your family.

Answer: Being a working father isn’t always easy. When you’re an involved parent, making choices about how to spend your time is important. I have three children, ages 7, 9, and 11, and every minute I get to spend with them is a win in my book. As a father, making choices about work directly correlates with how I spend time with my kids. Understanding that these ages are fleeting and we can’t turn the clock back really drives my decision-making process.

Q: What makes it difficult to keep a work-life balance?

A: As an entrepreneur, it was difficult to turn my brain off from the worry and stress of running a business, but when it came time to join a successful company the choice was based on my family. As a dad, when I bring work home with me there are two things that suffer: time and emotion; and the two are not mutually exclusive. It’s not enough to just be home but I should be engaged. Kids know when parents aren’t engaged with them. Unplugging and looking up goes a long way with kids, because they are smart; and if they are anything like mine, they are also little lie detectors. You can’t fool them into thinking your present when you’re not.

When I was looking for a company to join, I didn’t consider any jobs that took me away from them for extended periods of time, or that required a constant need to take work home in the evenings and on weekends. Understandably, when you’re in the middle of a large project, there are times when you need to put in extra hours, but on the regular, it’s nice to be home.

Q: When you are dining for business – do you end up talking about kids?

A: When I am working, it’s very easy to talk about the fun and cute things the kids do that entertain my wife and me. This particularly happens during business meals. Any time you’re dining on official company business, there is always a relationship building portion of the meeting and that is where children come up. Exchanging “war stories” with other parents always turns into laughter, because kids are funny. Especially mine (no bias here).

Q: Has being a father affected the way you see employees or potential employees?

A: Having children has certainly changed how I see employee relationships. I believe relationships exist the same in all scenarios of life, whether its family dynamic, work or personal relationships; the way you treat other people should be the same, and you train your kids for what they’ll eventually need in the work place. You shouldn’t be a separate person from one place to the next, because that creates personal inconsistencies. It’s especially important when thinking about my daughters becoming adults and entering the workforce.

I’ve always felt I’ve treated everyone fairly, regardless of gender, color, religious views or other diversities that make society so unique and dynamic. Of course, there’s always more to learn, and in today’s world I find myself thinking things like “would my daughter feel this way about this” or “is this something she’d be interested in doing.” I know, one day my girls will grow up and tell me how they feel about their work experiences, and I hope they will always have a positive outlook and be able to handle difficult moments with grace.

Q: What advice would you give to working dads about work-life balance?

Think about what you remember about your parents. Is it what they did or how much money they made? Or, is it what they taught you, the time spent and bonding?

A: My advice to working dads goes back to my previous comment. Pay attention to how much real time you have with your children, and find those pockets of influence that are just you and them. No outside distractions. Those are the moments that not only they will cherish, but that you will remember for the rest of your life.

Danny 3

Special thanks to Danny Davis for sharing his life as a working dad with us!

Prep Before Your Vacation for a Stress-Free Comeback

Beach bum. Outdoor adventurer. Culture queen. Festival fanatic. Culinary tourist. Whatever your vacation persona may be, your goal is most likely the same as everyone else’s: to leave your job behind and lose yourself in another world for a few blissful days with amazing food, friends and family.

Ideally, you’ll come back refreshed to a job where you are recognized for your brilliance by coworkers who are eagerly awaiting your return – not because things are running off the rails, but because you’re da bomb. This is totally possible. You just have to think (in the vocabulary of those employed by The Walt Disney Company) like a ‘cast member’ and focus on two things: the task at hand and the follow up to that task.

Project manager using Gantt chart, tasks planning and scheduling, computer

If you’re not familiar, Disney incorporates the “three o’clock parade” idea into its customer service training. It’s predicated on the idea that cast members will no doubt be asked every day “What time is the three o’clock parade?”

Rather than simply feeding guests the obvious answer, cast members are trained to think beyond the basic information and anticipate follow-up questions, enabling them to provide a richer response, layered with insider details that enhance the guest experience.  When asked, cast members confirm the three o’clock start time, but then  add on “extras” — sharing the best time to line up for the parade, recommending a prime spot for viewing the entertainment, and maybe some other tidbit, like which dining venues can get them in and out in time for the start of the parade.

By taking this three o’clock parade approach into the corporate setting, you can prep three critical entities for your vacation, and you’ll not only increase your chances of truly leaving your office cares behind and unplugging for awhile, but you’ll also be setting yourself up for a less stressful return to business.

Three O’Clock Parade Entity 1: Your Boss

As soon as you have your vacation dates approved, start looking ahead at your major tasks or projects for that timeframe. Note all of the details – deadlines, deliverables, resources, dependencies, collaborators, etc. – in a document or spreadsheet to help you flesh out the full body of work you need to account for. Then working backward from the last day or two at the office before your vacation, lay out your plan for what you can realistically accomplish before you leave, what can be rescheduled for after your return, and what you’ll need to have coverage for while you’re gone.

Business investors discussing business matters sitting at table in office.

If you’re working on any time-sensitive projects, be sure to email a copy of your plan to your boss. Or better yet, take the initiative to schedule a coffee or breakfast meeting with them to sit down and go over your plan. Be prepared to address their top concern – namely, how will your absence impact this project – but then also be prepared with the answers to whatever next two questions naturally follow from that concern.

Three O’Clock Parade Entity 2: Your Back-up

The next person you need to prep is your back-up. Your back-up has his own job that he’s not going to just drop while you’re off having fun, so be clear about what you really need him to do. This can be done over a nice business lunch. Lay out all of the details on important projects, and provide access to the resources he’ll need in order to be prepared to act in your stead. Share that insider-level of information you’re keeping in your head so you’re not leaving him in the lurch.  Your back-up will appreciate it, and have everything he needs to respond to requests while you’re away.

Three O’Clock Parade Entity 3: Yourself

When you’re making sure you’ve taken care of what everyone else needs from you before you leave, don’t forget about what you can do to help yourself. Start by blocking off the last two hours the last day and the first two hours when you return for yourself. With those timeslots blocked, you’ve made time to deal with out of office reminders for email and voicemail, and can take care of any last-minute tasks that pop up.

Businesswoman typing corporate e-mail using laptop at office des

Set clear expectations about whether or not you’ll be reachable while you’re away, and, if you are reachable, by cell phone or email only? Under what circumstances? You might also leave a note on white board with your vacation dates, and send a team email or leave a printout of resources on your desk that you anticipate might curb those emergency “what’s our social media login” types of interruptions.

Create a new document on your computer, and dump all of your work worries, everything that’s on your mind, into it. Then shut it and leave it behind, knowing it’ll all be there when you get back.

And your last task: schedule a team lunch or happy hour for when you return so you can catch up, share stories, and recognize individuals for their work while you were gone.

 

Motherhood & The Working Woman

Let’s be honest, motherhood is one giant, fast moving roller coaster full of twists and turns.  One minute you’re riding high on the fact that your little one only woke up twice in the middle of the night while the next minute you’re literally on the floor wiping up the spilled bottle of breast milk you worked so hard on the night before.  Flipping thru social media, you can easily get the ‘this is easy’ vibe from other new moms.  They often will share pictures that should be on the cover of Parenting, a note that their amazing bundle of joy just slept for nine hours straight at the age of three weeks, and other rainbows and butterflies moments. While motherhood creates its fair share of rainbow experiences, it can also deal out an equal amount of unforeseen stress. The most important thing to know – all new moms are going through it with you.

For working moms, returning to work isn’t a cake walk either.  Whether this is your first baby or your fourth (God bless you), getting back into the working world means adjusting your vocabulary to adult conversations, waking up extra early for routine showers, and saying goodbye to those cozy sweatpants…at least during the week.  Figuring out a way to successfully multi-task work and home life is no easy feat, but here are some tips on how to make the transition back to work a tad bit easier.

Balancing a new business and a new baby

1. Plan the night before.

You may not be able to control the traffic that morning or if your toddler decides to have a full-blown meltdown while brushing his teeth, but you can carve out just a little bit of time the night before in order to plan ahead for the next day.  (This is done mainly to avoid having a meltdown of your own.)  Yes, you will be tired but setting aside 10 minutes after the kid(s) go down to review logistics for the next day is key to having a successful morning.  With clothes already laid out and bottles prepared the night before, you will be saving yourself both time and stress from having to rush around the house in full panic mode your first day back.

2. Say yes to attending work dinners.

Repeat after me, “I will not feel guilty about spending time away from my kid(s).”  Taking time for yourself means stepping away from the responsibilities at home and enjoying a night out.  Plus, it’s the perfect opportunity to enjoy that nice glass of wine while reconnecting with your fellow colleagues and business partners.

3. Get back to traveling for business only when you’re ready.

Yes, your clients and colleagues missed you while you were on maternity leave, but they should also understand if you’re not 100 percent ready to pack your bags and visit them as soon as you return from leave.  Take advantage of scheduling virtual meetings to re-engage with your clients and peers.  It’s important not only to you but to your family to make sure everyone is comfortable with you reclaiming your road warrior status.

4. Focus on your comfort, not pride when it comes to wardrobe.

Invest in good concealer and quit worrying about when your pre-maternity clothes will fit again.  The name of the game is comfort.  Your body took nine months to grow a human so don’t be surprised when it doesn’t automatically bounce back to pre-baby weight six weeks after giving birth.  (Only Gisele does that – sigh)

iStock-514777729.jpg

5. Start back midweek – if you can.

The first week back is always exhausting.  While it’s great to catch up with colleagues and share baby pictures once back in the office, your body is probably still running on little to no sleep – meaning you aren’t performing at your max.  Try starting back on either a Wednesday or Thursday if you can.  The perks are that you’re that much closer to the weekend and you can use the weekend to reflect on what to tweak before your first full week back.

 

Most importantly, give yourself a break.  Juggling motherhood is tough but the skill-sets you learn through your ability to multi-task will only benefit you in the long run. Stay strong, mama! Keep smiling and remember to take lots of pictures.  The days are long but the years are short.  Enjoy!

 

How To Plan The Perfect Company Picnic

Gorgeous sunshine, oh how we’ve missed that warmth! Feeling it again on our faces has us thinking of field days and class parties and – lucky us – now that we’re all grown up, that nearest adult equivalent: the company picnic.

Like any party variety, your company picnic can be mildly enjoyable or it can be memorably, ecstatically amazing, depending on your MASTER PLAN. Yes, the whos, the whats, the hows, the ooh-yes-pleases and all of the other don’t-forget-about-these details all need to be accounted for in one great big company picnic master plan. Whether you’re already knee-deep in arranging this summer’s big shindig or haven’t even begun to think about it and are starting to feel a little panicked, allow us to offer some suggestions on putting together a killer Company Picnic Master Plan.

STEP 1

Answer this: what’s the purpose of your picnic? Believe us when we say that your response, when filtered through your company culture, can help you crush your party plan.

Company tradition, employee appreciation, morale boost, celebrating a milestone, and team-building are all great reasons to throw a party. But throwing some potato salad on a picnic table does not say big love from the C-Suite.

A picnic themed around the year the company started can speak to tradition. Hosting your event at a stadium party room and treating employees to a Major League Baseball game cheers on great teamwork. Renting out a luxury venue says this company is celebrating success with the people who helped make it happen. Don’t bypass this opportunity to make your event truly meaningful to your attendees.

Happy multiracial families round dancing at the beach on ring around the rosy style - Multicultural happiness joy concept with mixed race people having fun outdoor at sunset - Vintage backlight filter
Whether or not you invite kids will be a key factor in all activities and foods you plan for the picnic.

STEP 2

Set your limits. Your power to throw the ideal company picnic exists at the magical intersection of budget, attendees, and timing. Identifying these three constraints will help you sift down options into a perfectly optimized Master Plan.

  • Know your budget. Where’s the money coming from (if it’s not yours, buddy up with whoever you’ll need to have expense approval from), and of course, how much do you have to work with?
  • Know who’s invited. Is this event for employees only? Employees and families? What about contractors? If your purpose is team-building, an employees-only guest list is perfectly appropriate. You need to have a good estimate on the number – and a rough guess as to the age range and activity levels – of your guests from the start.
  • Know when you want to party. Host your company picnic during a workday and you’re sure to get strong employee participation, but be sure to clear the all-hands time away with your leadership team first. Host on the weekend and you’ll run into more scheduling conflicts, but you’ll also be sending a more family-friendly/inclusive message about your event. Have a meaningful date on which you absolutely must host your picnic? Recognize that your venue options may be more limited with a rigid target date, be flexible if you can, and if you run into too many issues, use this as motivation to start planning next year’s event further out.

STEP 3

Pick a theme. Themes give your event personality and help spark the details that tie your event together. Seriously – hit on a theme that blends your company culture with your party purpose and your picnic will become legend. Anything that engages your group’s enthusiasm, from music festivals to carnivals to superheroes, can be your inspiration. Some other examples …

Young woman playing baseball with cap glove and ball
If your company culture enjoys healthy competition, a sports theme would be perfect!
  • Sports. Ideal for companies whose employees are anywhere from somewhat to extremely athletic/active/competitive. Throw your event at a community park and organize tournaments for softball games, relay races, frisbee golf, volleyball, flag football, and so on – complete with team tee shirts and trophies (to back up at least a year’s worth of bragging rights). Decorate with custom team pennants and banners and serve ballpark favorites like hot dogs, French fries and caramel corn.
  • Just Cause. Ideal for companies whose employees are particularly focused on volunteering or environmental issues. Organize a group volunteer activity with a nonprofit group – something like a charity bike build-a-thon, planting a community garden, or holding a bagging session for a food bank. Use compostable flatware, plates and napkins with your meal. Decorate (yes, even if you’re holding your event in a park) with live plants that employees can take home after the event.
  • Reality TV. Say what you want about reality TV, but give employees the opportunity to “speak to the camera” and bust out their competitive skills, and see if you don’t discover hidden talents galore. The competitions with this theme are key – for survivalist and ninja warrior types, obstacle courses, scavenger hunts and challenges are awesome; or give in to the drama and have departments put together group skits, songs, or dance-off routines for the chance to be your company’s next top whatever.

STEP 4

Make the food count. With the other elements simmering nicely, we can now talk about our favorite part of the master plan: the food. Picnics totally revolve around food. Mess this up, and it will leave a bad taste in people’s mouths. So, skip the bring-your-own-stuff-to-grill routine and save yourself major headaches. Trust the food to the chefs, restaurants and caterers who live to tantalize others’ taste buds. Talk with the restaurant’s event planner/catering manager. They can handle the food delivery and should be extremely knowledgeable about safe food handling and serving temperatures. Ask if they’re open to customizing the menu to fit your theme – and listen to them when they give you advice about quantities and what will and won’t work for your picnic location and logistics.

Beef burgers ready to serve on food stall.
Let Dinova help you find the best outdoor caterer for your company picnic!

Bonus: Not only can catering professionals deliver deliciousness to thrill your attendees, they typically are also extremely well connected. Ask for recommendations on service providers and rental companies they usually work with – for everything from sound systems and tents to tables and chairs and portable toilets – anything that might not be already available through the venue.

STEP 5

Brainstorm the extras – and go for it. Don’t forget about entertainment (again – go for something that ties into your theme, whether that means a live band, deejay, emcee, fireworks or even a special “celebrity” guest). Consider arranging transportation to and from the event – particularly if it’s in a difficult area to find parking at during the workweek (think buses, not cars). Give your event a hashtag, create a logo, and take tons of pictures and video clips before, during, and after to promote it on social media (both internal and external – company picnics are a great opportunity to show off your company culture!). Recruit influencers from different departments to help get everyone excited and involved – and help each employee feel a personal connection.

There’s a lot to do, but don’t let it grind you down. Remember, the whole point of this is to throw a celebration. So go forth and execute this choose-your-own-adventure party: plan it, tweak it, do it, own it – enjoy it!

 

Cheers to Administrative Professionals

Stop and think about your office before you continue reading this article. Who keeps everything functioning smoothly? Who keeps the office and your leadership team organized? We are sure you are thinking of your company’s administrative assistants. Administrative assistants deserve much recognition, as they are the heart of the office and help orchestrate business travel like no other. Administrative Professionals’ Day is April 25th, and as we celebrate admins on this special day, Dinova believes administrative assistants deserve to be appreciated every day.

In honor of Administrative Professionals’ Day, Dinova wanted to interview one of the best Administrative Assistant in the business. Debora Bankhead, Senior Administrative Specialist at Siemens, sat down with us to give us some insight (and some tips for fellow admins!) on her role at the company.

Deb B (3)
Debora (Deb) Bankhead, Senior Administrative Specialist at Siemens

Q. How long have you been working as an administrative professional?

A. I’ve been in this industry for over 30 years!

Q. What advice would you have for administrative professionals in the challenges that they face every day?

A. Do the best job you can do with your resources and keep records of your development. Be pleasant and professional, yet sociable when appropriate. The better you get along with your executives and team members, the better you will enjoy your job and environment. Re-prioritize as necessary and take good notes. You are not the only one experiencing system problems or lengthy help desk calls, as it happens to everyone. Have a peer or group of team members to bounce ideas off of and learn “Best Practices”.

Q. Do you have any secret tips for ordering food?

A. Know of special food needs of guests, have a few  ”go-to caterers” (which you can add to your favorites in your Dinova app!),  change up the cuisine every now and then, and know what your guests are enjoying from your catering order. A great tip I have is to take note of what was eaten and left behind after a large order is placed, so you’ll know how to improve the order for the next time. It’s also essential to keep a small stash of bottled water for executives’ visitors.

Q. Explain a day in your life as an executive assistant. What does your average day look like?

A. Currently, I support the purchase order request and back-end process as well as budget tracking for multiple vendors with daily updates. I manage travel and expense processes for our executives, which is an extremely important aspect to the job! I support a team of up to 80 across the country, which means that at any time I may receive requests to welcome guests and interviewees, order peripherals, provide on-boarding and off-boarding item support, place catering orders, assist new employees or answer any possible question on the above or other systems and process. There really isn’t a typical day in the workplace, which keeps things exciting!

From hotels to flights to dining, administrative assistants touch every part of business travel. Today is about honoring their silent contributions, and with that, we raise a business travel glass to those in honor of Administrative Professionals’ Day.

Special thanks to Deb Bankhead for letting us interview her!

7 Ways To Stay Productive When You’re On The Road

The travel season is once again upon us, and that means that many of you are about to hit the road. Being a road warrior means that you are constantly creating meaningful relationships that lead to a huge impact for your company’s bottom line, and oftentimes these business trips are among the most productive parts of the job. But can you do all that travelling while keeping up with daily tasks, such as emails and expense reports? Sometimes it seems impossible, yet day-to-day operational tasks can’t be left undone. We’re here to help, so we’ve developed a list of our top seven things you can do while you’re on the road to stay productive.

1. Spend time planning ahead. We know you’re slammed, but taking just 30 minutes to plan out your trip will make a world’s difference. Understand the purpose of your trip, who you want to meet and what prep work you may need to complete ahead of time to be as ready as possible. Labeling the end-goal of your trip will make Step 2 much easier:

2. Prioritize your events and meetings. Emphasize the events and meetings that you feel will be most beneficial to you and your company and prioritize all other functions around that event. If you’re at a trade show or conference, consider where your target market and prospective leads may be. If you’re travelling for meetings, prioritize the people or departments who will be most important to be with face-to-face.

3. Cue up in-transit work. Whenever you’re travelling there will be extended periods of time in which Wi-Fi is inaccessible, and it may feel like there’s no chance of getting anything accomplished. This isn’t the case if you plan ahead! Choose a few tasks that you can complete while in transit and have it ready for you to work on, regardless of internet access. You may be able to finish up presentations, complete month-end reports or you can even cue up series of emails to send out the moment you’re back in a hot spot.

iStock-511872458.png

4. Do busy work during free time. Of course when you’re travelling, you’ll need to utilize every opportunity to meet with people face-to-face. However, there are always small chunks of 10-20 minutes in between meetings and presentations that can become golden in productivity. Stay off social media and spend those moments answering emails and keeping up with things happening at the office. You’ll be amazed at how much you can get done by using break time wisely!

5. Stay off the phone. How often do you excuse yourself from a meeting or presentation to take a phone call from the office? It’s probably more than you realize, and while we totally understand that emergencies happen, it’s important to remember the purpose of your travels. Block off the majority of your time for in-person meetings, events and networking opportunities. You can always call them back!

6. Stay moving. One of the most productive things you can do while travelling is waking up an extra 20 minutes early for a gym workout or walk outside. Regular exercise changes the brain to improve your memory while keeping you energized, so there’s no reason to stop your routine when you’re on the road!

iStock-687583982.png

7. Finally, think about the big picture. One of the most productive things you can do when you’re on the road is to think broadly about the business. Invest a few small blocks of time to consider how you can grow your business with more creatively, improve efficiency and productivity, and who you can reach out to and help them exceed their goals. These big picture moments will help put into perspective, once again, the reason for your travels and the difference you can make for your company and in your career.

Do you have any other clever tips to stay productive while travelling? Comment below with your thoughts – we’d love to hear from you!