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Holiday season

Even though the holiday season doesn’t “officially” get started until Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, many of you are already starting to feel the rumblings. Every community and restaurant has a different “biorhythm”, but typically, Halloween and cooler weather triggers an uptick in business.

The real fun of course is in December.

This is just my way of reminding you that you have to shake off the shackles of the slow season and get prepared for the crush.

How do you do this?

First off all, make sure that you don’t have any frivolous distractions. Do you have enough pens? Do you have a couple of extra corkscrews, lighters or crumbers? How is your uniform looking? You don’t need to be running to Office Max in a panic because you’ve just realized that you don’t have any working pens. Now’s the time to buy a bunch of pens. I like to keep an extra corkscrew in my car and an extra one at home. I have two spare ties, one in a locker at work and one in my car. When you’re loaded for bear, you eat the bear – the bear doesn’t eat you.

Now’s the time to get your head right. You might have gotten used to a slower pace and getting cut early. If I were you, I’d dispel any such notions from here on out. Just think of that fat wallet and it will be easy.

Stamina is key as well. Now’s not the time to get all run down, which make you susceptible to getting sick during sick season. You are in close contact with a lot of the public so you are already in a vulnerable position. Wash your hands more often then you normally would. I know better than to tell you to stop partying after work, but you might take it a little easier, or cut down on the frequency.

Make sure that you’ve got your A-game mental attitude. Employ all of your wiles to manage the weeds that you know are coming. Efficiency is the key. If you struggle with the weeds, you might go into the archives of this very blog and search for weeds. I’ve got a few posts that deal with specific strategies that you can employ.

Now is the time to salt away some money for the IRS. If you haven’t been “paying as you go” and you normally get a pretty big bill at tax time, now is the time to send them some money for 2010. You can do this by making a quarterly payment. I have a post or two that deals with taxes. do it now while you’re flush with money. Also, you can use a little of the extra money that you will surely make in November and December to pay down your debt and add to your savings. That doesn’t mean that you can’t save up for that big flat-screen TV that you’ve been pining over, but for god’s sake, think about the big financial picture. Did you know that you can reduce a 30 year mortgage by something like 12 years by only make one extra mortgage payment a year? You don’t even have to make a whole payment – anything extra that you pay will reduce the time of your mortgage if you have one. what better time to do it than when you’ve got some extra joss?

For many waiters, holiday money is 40% or more of their income for the entire year. That is crammed into around a 2-3 month period. In order to exploit this, you’ve got to be able to shoot, move and execute. this blog has some of the resources that can help you flourish.

Tell a friend.

Oh yeah, I’ve been pretty busy myself the past month or tow. This is obvious from the lack of posting, a lack that I’ve already warned you about. I haven’t had much time to read other blogs or research the restaurant industry. and I want to apologize to Marta Daniels, whose book, How To Be A Better Restaurant Customer, I promised to review about two months ago. I’m going to try to get around to it shortly. You can find it at

Holiday season redux

I talked recently about going into the holiday season.

Here are a couple of headspace adjustments (you military peeps who have ever worked with the Browning .50 cal machine gun know the reference):

Assume that you’re not going to get cut early. Assume that you’re there for the duration. This can be a bit of an adjustment from what you’ve been dealing with and it might take a little effort.

Get to work just a little bit early so that you have a moment or two to get your game face on. If you have opening sidework that has to be done, this gives you a little more time to get it done without being thrown into the lion’s den before you’re finished. And if you don’t have opening sidework, it gives you a chance to avoid being sat before you even get clocked in. Tell your manager or host/ess that you’re not quite ready to clock in yet, that you’re actually a little early. This gives you the chance to take a deep breath and get your plan for the night organized. Or, it gives you the chance to get your first table early if that’s part of your plan. This might just keep you from getting doubleseated right off the bat.

Consider beforehand any prior information about the shift that you are privy to – booked parties, special events in your neighborhood, specific goals that you might have (“I need to make $100 tonight”, “Rent is due next week”, etc.). If you give these things more than a passing thought, you are less likely to be thrown unexpectedly into the weeds by external circumstances.

Don’t assume that every shift is going to be a gold mine. Holiday business is not a guarantee of great money on any particular shift. Look at the whole season.

Don’t assume that everyone is going to be in the holiday spirit or is going to be extra generous because it’s the holiday season (especially during these hard economic times). There are grinches out there and people sometimes take their financial pressure out on you because of the “voluntary” nature of tipping; some folks can be thrown into a funk because of the traffic, parking, shopping crowds and some suffer from guilt over not being able to buy “proper” presents for their families, etc.

If you can consider these things before each of your shifts, you’ll do fine.

One bit of advice – don’t obsess over them. Continue to do your “homework” and continuing education but reserve most of your time off for your own personal interests. You need to leave the restaurant at the restaurant to a certain extent.


Image courtesy of

Getting into holiday mode

As you might have noticed, my posts aren’t as frequent as they were during the summer. There’s a reason for that. In my market, Labor Day signals the start of the holiday season after the traditionally slow summer period. It’s a fits and starts sort of thing – shortly after labor day, you get an “Indian Season” – you get busy for a couple of weeks and then you get a reprise of the slow summer. Then it gets busy again, fooling the novice into thinking that the holiday season has started for good and then you get another slowdown as people start adapting to the change of weather and daylight hours. In my particular market, Halloween signals the beginning of balls-to-the-wall business, business that lasts well into February (January sees the return of all of those gift cards that were given for Christmas, Chanukah and Kwanza).

Since Labor Day, my restaurant has been particularly busy, with the exception of a few short slow periods lasting four or five days. I work in proximity to the 3 major entertainment venues in town and you’d never know that we were still struggling with a teetering economy based on the attendance at these venues.

For those of you who are just getting into the business and are experiencing this phenomenon for the first or second time, fasten your seat belts. Now’s the time to get your head right. The coasting that you might have gotten used to is about to be passé. And you’d better get mentally prepared for it now or risk getting ground up like so much mulch.

The days of getting cut early are going to be few and far between. More double and triple-seating will occur more frequently. The days of standing around waiting on your first table are just about over.

This is the time when you’ll make the most money of the year.

Some things to consider:

Now’s the time to save some of your money so that you can get through the next summer. It’s hard to do when you are flush with cash, but just think back on how hard it was to get by this summer when everything was slow.

Now’s the time to think about getting ahead on taxes (read my previous post on this subject).

Now’s the time to adjust your party habits. You might have the constitution of an ox, but even beasts of burden can be beat down. You don’t have to live like a monk, but be strategic about how you party. This is not the time to get worn down. Flu is all around you and nothing hurts worse than to miss a couple of $200 nights because you had to call out (plus, this is the time when call outs really screw up your fellow waiters because the floor needs everyone).

Be on top of your game and try to focus 100% of the time. Now is not the time to get weeded over some silly little screwup. You’re going to get weeded simply because of the crush of business.

Now is a great time to be a waiter. The nights fly by because you’re busy. Your pockets are full of cash. The holiday spirit is infectious (better that than influenza!)

Enjoy the ride but keep your eyes on the prize.

PS, for those of you who work in summer resort areas, read this post next April or May…