An annual tradition for companies in Singapore, hosting a Chinese New Year (CNY) Lo-Hei Luncheon is the first major event of the year. It’s a grand way to get together and connect with clients and partners, wishing them successful business and prosperity for the new year ahead.
Typically, these events are planned all the same. Hosted at a hotel function room, the programme and food is rushed, the usual CNY background music plays on loop, with a lion dance performance to kick things off and the awkward assembly of Yu Sheng that follows.
Your clients will be receiving countless invitations to such events. Some, they will be obliged to attend. Others, they will choose to attend. How do you stand out and host a lunch with a difference, making it a memorable event your clients look forward to every year?
Here are some ideas to think about when planning the annual CNY Lo-Hei luncheon:
Make your invitation stand out. Your clients will likely receive countless email invitations making it easy to overlook. If this luncheon is for your highest valued clients and partners, why not send an invitation card personally signed by management and hand delivered? This personal gesture will certainly get your invitation noticed. Follow-up with a phone call a week after for their RSVP if you still haven’t heard from them and take it as an opportunity to reconnect.
Table hosts and seating arrangements
Assigning your team members as table hosts is a good idea for such events. The responsibility of the host is to engage and ensure the guests at each table feel included. Typically different clients and companies are seated together at the same table. Seat clients that you want to connect with at the same table as you to inspire good conversation and networking.
The safe bet would be to host your luncheon in a hotel function or ballroom. While excellent for larger group events, it is often expected. Instead, if you are planning a more intimate luncheon for 20 or even 30 guests, holding your luncheon in a restaurant opens up many more options and variety. Many Chinese restaurants offer large private dining rooms with creative dishes, menus and excellent service Check out our recommendations for 6 top Chinese restaurants to host your CNY Luncheon here.
Chinese New Year is celebrated for a total of 14 days and festivities are held throughout. To get the highest rate of RSVP, it’s best to avoid hosting your lunch on the Friday before CNY or on the eve when most people will be on leave. The ideal period to host is during the first week of CNY when festivities are still in high gear.
Guests are always pressed for time during such lunches so always aim to start and end the lunch on time. Your clients will certainly appreciate this having taken time out of their busy schedule to attend your event. The last thing you want is a half empty room when dessert is served because your clients had to rush back to the office.
A highlight of the lunch is the auspicious tossing of the Yu Sheng. “Lo Hei” in Cantonese, where 捞“lo” (literally mixing) means “tossing up good fortune”. Traditionally a colourful salad dish mixed in a sweet tangy dressing and topped with raw fish, Chefs have innovated the dish and introduced new versions of the traditional Yu Sheng in both its ingredients and presentation.
Mastering the art of assembling the Yu Sheng is a skill. There is a specific order and process to the layering of ingredients and auspicious sayings. Instead of leaving this ritual to service staff, a great way to engage is to get your table hosts involved and let them orchestrate the ceremonial Yu Sheng toss. Print and circulate a reference guide for the 12 stages of Lo Hei like this one and ensure that you coordinate with the hotel or restaurant in advance on how you want this conducted.
Don’t worry about making a mess, it’s all part of the fun! The higher the toss, the better the prosperity for the year ahead so take the lead and encourage your guests to participate in this unique activity.
Programme and Entertainment
Jazz up what would otherwise be a typical lunch with fun side activities or performances. Incorporating one or two will help to liven the mood and keep your guests engaged throughout. Try to keep the corporate speak to a minimum at such events. Everyone is here to have a celebration, not a download of your latest product or sales pitch. A short welcome speech by management followed by a brief presentation or video (if you really must) is more than sufficient.
Branding your event with a signature activity can be something people look forward to each time they come to your annual gathering. Some examples include inviting a Feng Shui Master to provide a zodiac prediction or practical tips on how to be prosperous in the upcoming year. Performances are a great way to break up the monotony of a programme. A lion dance is seen as mandatory but you can also invite a mask changing artist or “Bian Lian” performance. This magical showcase will bring gasps and amazement to your guests as the performer switches “faces” in the blink of an eye.
Another way to engage is to have a tea blending booth where your guests can smell and mix their own different teas. Create your company’s signature tea blend and serve it during lunch while guests mix and match their own blend to take home as a souvenir. A Chinese calligraphy artist that offers your guests’ names or traditional well wishes hand written on red couplets or Chinese fans is also a lovely touch.
Instead of the usual CNY background music, why not engage a live musical performance. A Chinese harp player or a traditional Chinese orchestra that plays Classical Chinese songs proves a refreshing and sophisticated change.
It is tradition to give a pair of Mandarin oranges to your guests to take away with them for luck. Take it up a notch and insert a quick pick Toto ticket in red packets into each bag? This inexpensive but fun way of injecting some extra luck for guests is a great talking piece and way to be remembered .