The countdown to Christmas has already begun with Belfast turning on its Christmas lights. For many this is an exiting whirlwind month but for those who work in hospitality dread the upcoming weeks. Having experience working in a hotel Bar at Christmas I’ve come up with my top 5 tips to surviving Christmas party nights that often have you working until 5am.
1. Have a clear plan of action
This means at the beginning of the shift making sure that there is a clear plan of action for the evening. Including having assigned positions for those members of staff on the floor and those staying behind the bar. By having assigned tables to equally spread out the floor staff also means that the customers are being served equally and therefore no table can be left behind and complain that they have waited ‘X’ amount of time for an order to be taken. It’s all about minimising the complaints. This also means if there is any outstanding bills at the end of the night on a table, the manager should know what employee was responsible for that customer. At Christmas time there is better tips for being on the floor that is why I’ll always volunteer to be floor staff, you can earn up to an average of £20 extra tips per night.
2. Make sure you know the menu
Whether this is what drinks you have in stock that evening or the dinner the customers are being served that evening, make sure you know the score. You’ll be amazed the amount of questions you will get asked by every customer including what they are even having for dinner, a question which I’m sure they’ve already been told a few times before. It is much easier when you are taking a drinks order if you are actually aware of what drinks you serve. By knowing the simple list of wines and beers on drafts for sale, this will save you running in and out of the room to double check. It means the customer is served quicker and your manager will not be angry having to answer simple questions when they already have so much in their plate that night. Customers will also not bother to see that there is a difference between those staff serving them food and those serving them drinks, therefore be prepared to be asked for things like extra butter and gravy, so make sure you communicate to the food staff about who’s asked for what.
3. Eyes up whenever you are in the room
This was probably the first piece of training I received in preparation for these Christmas party nights, and it remains one of the most crucial elements to a smooth running of events. When entering the room keep your eyes up, yes you may be carrying really heavy hot plates and you don’t want to spill the gravy on your thumb. Or you are carrying a tray with one too many drinks to save you the extra trip. But when there can be close to 500 people in a room that’s only supposed to seat almost 400, you have to be aware of your surroundings. Because if your eyes are fixed on what’s in your hands, this is how accidents happen and things are spilled on customers.
4. Anticipate what the Customers going to do
This tip also relates to the last one. When people are drunk they aren’t aware of their surroundings as much as the sober people who are serving. Customers will not care to look before pushing out their chairs to get up for something. If they are standing over someone else having a conversation with a friend they will also not look around to see if they are in anyone’s way. Therefore you almost have to guess what their next move will be. This means when carrying 2 heavy hot plates or a full tray of drinks, be careful of those customers who might bump into you then proceed to blame you for being in their way. I often find the same rule for driving applies here, just stop dead in your tracks and stand still therefore if anyone bumps into you it’s their fault not yours.
5. Stay ahead of the game
This is probably the most important tip if you want to finish work at a reasonable hour. Make sure you stay ahead of the game as much as possible. At a Christmas party night for 400 guests, they each have 2 wine glasses at their tables, so already you have 800 glasses given out and it hasn’t even started yet. If they each have a drink upon arrival, your total of glasses to clear is 1200 and the haven’t even ordered a drink of their choice yet. This means you have to constantly be clearing the room from the beginning of the night. The aim is to lift as many empty glasses during the dinner rather than at 1am after the party’s over. This is also where assigned tables are handy because the manager can actually tell which employee is behind. So your aim is to get as many closing procedures done as soon as possible so that the team is not there polishing wine glasses at 5am in the morning. The sooner new staff learn this the better for everyone else.
Niamh McMordie is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Twitter – @niamh_mcm99 and Instagram – @niamhmcm_