Working the holidays: Finding the ho ho ho in the busiest season of the year
So you have to work the holidays.
The holiday season, a joyous and leisurely time for many consumers, diners and travelers, is often the busiest time of the year for hospitality staff. While others are celebrating, it’s business as usual for employees at restaurants, hotels, catering operations and other hospitality-related businesses, where it’s all hands on deck and no excuses.
In fact, many job postings state clearly, as does this ad
from Woodside Hotels for a lounge server: “Must be able to work nights, holidays and weekends.” It’s not a hope;
it’s a requirement. Some employers, such as restaurant operators, don’t pay
anything extra for working the holidays. Others, like resorts, may pay a double
time bonus, give days offs in lieu of working, or arrange special family days
to compensate for the time spent away from loved ones during the holidays.
“You learn to get used to the fact you’re never going to have New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day off,” says Gary E. Miller, a classically trained chef turned restaurant consultant who’s had to work most of the holidays during his 25-plus years in the business. “The more valuable you become, the less likely you are to get the day off. Especially with busy holidays like Mother’s Day, you need a crack team in there to turn tables.” And, he adds, you need an understanding family who are willing to “postpone” your personal celebrations for a later date.
Here’s the upside
The work environment might be frenetic as you handle the
holiday rush, but the financial rewards are substantial. For the most part,
says Miller, holiday-makers are excellent tippers. New Year’s Eve, especially,
should be the biggest night for hospitality employees, who can expect a minimum
of 20 percent more in gratuities compared to a regular night.
But there’s a less tangible benefit, too. In a restaurant or hotel kitchen, “the biggest thing is that you win points with your chef,” says Miller. “You’re part of a team, a very tight unit working closely together, almost like a combat unit. It builds camaraderie. You’re paying your dues, and as you pay your dues, there are other rewards that come along that may not be monetary. It’s part of earning your stripes.”
In any hospitality job, your performance during the holidays is an opportunity to show your commitment and put yourself in line for promotion. You’re building your reputation with the company, as well as adding kudos to your resume for the future.
Tips to enjoy holiday working
- Feel the holiday spirit. Try to enjoy the celebrations, even though you can’t participate in them. The holiday spirit can be infectious, if you’re in the right mood. People are out to have a good time, and they want to celebrate.
- Wear your work like a badge of honor. There’s a point of pride in doing a job well during difficult circumstances.
- Remember that your commitment will pay off – in more gratuities, positive notice from your employer, and the high fives from your colleagues.
- Invite your family to join you. They can’t work with you, but they won’t feel as much like holiday “widows” if they keep you company during the busy season.
- Don't forget to celebrate the holidays in your own way, on your own time.