The Professional's Voice

Making the most of Christmas: top tips for surviving the festive period by Stephen Waters

Love it or hate it Christmas is here again: arguably the most critical time of year for the restaurant and bar industry. The bookings schedule is crazy, the clientele is demanding, the chef is on his knees and the staff are either burned out or partying hard.

How to survive and, importantly, how to enjoy it? Well, Christmas is make or break for all of us. It’s easy to get caught up in the frenetic pace of work and forget about the all-important team element that can make the difference between good takings and outstanding takings.

Here are my tips to help managers, in particular, make the most of the festive season:

1) Have a plan and share it with the team. It sounds obvious, but the busier the time, the more planning required. Have a spreadsheet up on the wall showing clearly when all the bookings and parties are (and keep it updated), so that everyone knows what’s coming and is ready for it.

2) Brief well and manage expectations. Make sure all the staff have “bought in” to working extra hours over the busy period. Let them know it is going to be hectic and full-on but fun.

3) Show strong leadership: keep calm and level-headed. The team will take their lead from you. “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs …” is a good mantra for this busy period.

4) Be supportive. This is the toughest time of year for staff. Be there for your team, give them extra support when they need it and remember: it’s Christmas for them, too.

5) Small things can make a big difference. Keep up the one-on-one conversations with each team member, and keep them positive; save the development needs for January.

6) Don’t forget to look after yourself: Try to keep an element of work-life balance: eat well, get enough sleep and make time for friends/family once a week, even at the busiest times.

7) Have patience with your customers: “Tis the season to be jolly …”, and a little leeway with your more tipsy customers goes a long way. Friendly staff means happy customers who will spend more and tip more, which means staff will be happier – and so it continues.

8) Pace yourself and your team. It’s only going to get busier.

9) Think about how many champagne flutes you might need – then double it.

10) Enjoy it. Let’s face it, we love it. Thrive on the buzz and adrenalin, focus on the positive, enjoy the festive spirit and you will bring your team with you.

Merry Christmas!

Stephen Waters is founder and managing director of the management training company Watershed School. He has worked with the likes of Hawksmoor, Spring at Somerset House and Loungers. From its central London location, Watershed runs development programmes at three levels: director, general manager and supervisor


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