Ray Esposito has never had a Christmas season as busy as this one.
Esposito runs Superior Event Services, a Las Vegas off-site catering company that opened in 2005.
Business is booming this year because more companies are throwing holiday parties. Esposito said he has catered 460 events so far this month, more than double than during the depths of the recession.
The eating, drinking and merry-making may be cause to celebrate a recovering economy. Holiday parties in many cases were the first expenses employers cut when the Great Recession hit in 2008.
"They may not be doing it as big as they were, but I feel they're getting back on track again," Esposito said.
Nationwide, more companies are spreading holiday cheer this year than last. A survey of human resource directors by the workplace consulting firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas found that 83 percent of companies are throwing holiday parties this year, compared with 68 percent last year.
“With hiring still relatively weak, employers are basically asking existing workers to do more with less," according to Rick Cobb, the firm's executive vice president. “Holiday parties are a relatively low-cost morale builder."
Event bookings at casinos also are picking up.
This year, Station Casinos has hosted as many as three parties a night at its properties, both on weekends and weeknights, said Jenifer Cameron, director of catering for Santa Fe Station and Texas Station. The company saw a large dip in holiday reservations at banquet facilities during the past several years.
"We're a big ticket item, so we're usually the first ones cut and the last ones picked back up," Cameron said.
Some companies have opted for smaller parties or luncheons for employees.
Esposito said his bookings are up 60 percent from four years ago. He catered 34 parties over the past two weeks alone, and his overtime pay during that period jumped from $29,000 to $41,000.
Much to Esposito's delight, business shows no sign of slowing. Esposito has three New Year's Eve parties booked, for parties of up to 800 people.
"I think it shows people are spending money again," Cameron said. "We've already had some of our groups rebooking for next year."