Tauranga hospitality specialists are using a "yellow card" system to deal with bad Christmas party behaviour.

But a cultural shift in binge drinking behaviour means local work parties are becoming more about socialising than downing as many free beers as possible, a local hospitality boss says.

Hospitality New Zealand Bay of Plenty chairman Clayton Mitchell said a renewed surge of Christmas parties this season showed Tauranga businesses were regaining their confidence. But the nature of the parties was changing. "We're not seeing big booze ups that were around 10 or 15 years ago. They tend to be more social engagements.

"It's a bit of a cultural shift across people's drinking and thinking habits. It's not trendy to go out and get plastered anymore."


However, there were always "one or two" who took it too far - who were presented with a yellow card as a warning before being asked to leave.

Imbibe Bar and Restaurant operations manager Jonathan Batley said functions were tending to be more European in style with people opting to share a couple of bottles of wine over a meal. "It used to be bourbon or beer, beer, beer but now people are getting a bottle of wine to share instead of the cheapest stuff you can get and loading it up on the boss's credit card," he said.

Mr Batley said his staff kept a close eye on patrons and also used the yellow card system when necessary.

La Mexica owner Matt Hayward said the festive season had started well.

"It's kind of reverting to three or four years ago where there was a season of [functions]. The last years have been dribs and drabs but this weekend it seemed like the whole Strand was busy with what seemed like functions."

The comments follow the case of a Dunedin manager who was accused of sexual harassment after he wore a "graphic and prominent phallic symbol" on the front of his Santa suit at the office Christmas party.

Angela Roskam told an Employment Relations Authority hearing she was forced to resign from the Alsco laundry in Dunedin in January after she accused production manager Tony Fallows of sexual harassment. The ERA ruled the incident did not constitute sexual harassment.

Career specialist and author Tom O'Neil said employees needed to remember that the office Christmas party was "not a night out with your mates".

"A friend of mine was at a work function where a guy was stripped of all his clothes, put on a packing bench, tags attached to various parts, black vivid tattoos all over. Then his wife arrived to pick him up."