In a time of recession, people seek ways to escape reality. It happened in the 1930s when tens of millions of people flocked to movie theaters, despite an enormous shortage of spending money. Back then people wanted something to bring reassurance to a demoralized nation, much like today’s business leaders who are seeking to bring reassurance to what could very well be a demoralized workforce.

It’s no secret that budgets have been tighter the past couple years. Between rising unemployment rates and bankruptcies, some companies are still having a hard time justifying a celebration these days.

However, many companies, including Tasty Catering, have a different view. How can a company not justify a celebration in such times? Sometimes, you just have to hang up your accounting hat and say, “Our employees could use a good time. Let’s party.”

In general, manufacturing firms have increased their holiday party budgets, while service-based organizations have decreased theirs. Still, the red hot party dates this winter are December 14th through 18th and December 21st.

Back in the ‘30s, the cinematic industry turned to more clever and budget-friendly ways to get an audience. They offered double features, free food and lower prices to help give those with the tightest budgets the opportunity to rejoice in a few hours of entertainment. Similarly, Tasty Catering is adjusting, too, by offering budget-friendly food options.

Amid the still-sluggish economy, we’ve seen several significant trends within our industry this year. First, holiday party budgets have slightly improved since 2010. That being said, some companies opted to have their yearly holiday celebration during the summer months in the form of an outdoor company picnic. Many of these parties provide the option of inviting family and friends, so the guest counts can be higher.

Second, the amount of on-site parties — both this year and last — remains high. This is a common and effective way for companies to reduce cost (versus paying to host a party at a hotel or restaurant).

Third, the last-minute holiday business bookings trend seen in 2010 continues this year. In years past, companies booked their holiday parties months in advance. Now, we’re receiving one and two weeks notice. We believe this the new norm.

People are waiting until the last minute to host a party simply because they don’t know what their budgets will be until the very end of the year. Many companies don’t know how much money they are going to have available to spend on a party, and sometimes, they don’t know if they will have any money to spend on a party at all. For example, two weeks ago, a client called to book a 600-person event four days away.

During the recession, we focused on the satisfaction of our loyal customers, serving them at a lower cost and sacrificing profit. We are making more money on parties in general now, as our focus has shifted from generating sales to generating profit.

Because we’re very avid in practicing what we preach, Tasty Catering celebrates as a family each quarter. Our holiday party has been a family-style food and beverage event at my home for the past four years. This year, our 70-plus employees will gather at my house to enjoy a relaxed atmosphere, eat great food, sip on a few drinks and play some games.

Tom Walter is president and chief executive of Tasty Catering in Elk Grove Village, Ill.