This material originally appeared as one of Jim’s Daily Herald columns


If you pay attention to meteorological (climate) data, this year’s summer is essentially one-third over – which means that if you’re thinking about a summer employee event, you’d better get cracking.

Some type of event may be a good idea.

“Having fun and building esprit de corps is critical in today’s environment,” says Ellen Harte, director of business development at Tasty Catering, Elk Grove Village.  In particular, she says, “the younger generation likes the camaraderie” that company events can bring.

The idea, Harte says, “is to tell employees that you appreciate their efforts.  It’s about acknowledgement and appreciation.”

Although smaller businesses tend to focus on employee events, activities that show appreciation aren’t limited to employees, of course.  Northfield-headquartered Wessex 504 Corporation, a non-profit company certified by the U. S. Small Business Administration to originate and service SBA 504 loans, invites bankers, referral sources and businesses to a Hubbard Street dance performance.

A luncheon for key customers or suppliers – or both – is easy to do, and timing can be flexible.  Tickets to a ball game can work – the Cubs, if you can get tickets; the White Sox, who always have tickets; or, likely less driving time, the Kane County Cougars, Class A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks or the Schaumburg Boomers, an unaffiliated (no ties with a major league team) team that plays in the Frontier League.

If baseball’s not your thing, or if your 10 employees turn into, say, 30 or more tickets if you include spouse and kids in your company outing, there are options.

An Open House for employee families can be especially effective if you have new or recently remodeled facilities.  A customer event in your new space can be effective, too.

An employee-family outing to Great America or Dave & Buster’s could be a hit.

Given that she works for one of the suburb’s most visible catering firms, it’s not surprisingly that Harte focuses on food-related activities.  But her ideas are interesting, can be put together quickly and aren’t necessarily budget-breaking.

Most of Harte’s suggestions work for as few as eight or 10 employees – or as many as whatever your ceiling happens to be.


* A surprise ice cream treat is a popular event, especially if it’s actually a surprise.  Ice cream bars.  Sundae makings.  Cones and popsicles.  How extensive you want the treats menu to be depends on how many employees you’ll be feeding.

* Treat the gang with coffee and coffee cake in the morning.  If you’re more adventuresome, a full breakfast could be special.

* Fun Food Week.  Popcorn one day, nachos another day.  A hot dog lunch.  Ice cream to finish the week.

* A diverse menu that builds on the Olympic theme – menu items featuring Brazilian favorites, for example.

* A box lunch – which you might want to announce in advance so employees actually are in the office at lunch time.


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