Remember when you first started working in the service industry and you thought you’d have to put in a lot of time in your new restaurant before you could even dream of having weekends and holidays off to spend time with your friends and family?
I foolishly assumed that seniority in a restaurant meant having the important days of the year off. With that assumption in place, I knew I’d need to earn my keep way before I could dream of having a Christmas or New Years Eve off of work. I thought all the senior servers would be off gallivanting around town without giving a second thought to working these “amateur nights.” Amateur nights — as we like to call them — refer to hallmark holidays such as Valentine’s Day, New Years Eve, Friday date nights, etc. I didn’t put two and two together in the beginning when I was only scheduled for lunches on big holidays. It hadn’t yet occurred to me that those are the nights that servers bank on, not for the clientele it brings in but for the large amounts of cash it practically guarantees.
When I first earned seniority in a restaurant and got put on the schedule for a New Years Eve, I was much younger and the idea of not spending a party night like New Years Eve with my friends seemed like the biggest disappointment imaginable. Thinking I was somehow demoted by having to be at work on a holiday that didn’t even fall on my regular shift night. I wouldn’t be celebrating with my significant other this year, oh well, I’d make sure next year was different…
Taking off holidays is easier said than done. In the same amount of hours a holiday shift is worked, you have the potential to make double to quadruple the amount of money you would on any other night. This is partially due to higher priced prix fixe menus that restaurants like to roll out for special occasions and also to the increased generosity bestowed on servers from guests in the holiday spirit. People drink more, eat more, spend more and tip more around the holidays.
When I gained seniority, I quickly realized I’d be insane not to work those big holiday nights. It’s much easier to plan a romantic Valentine’s date with my loved one a week before or after the actual Hallmark holiday than it is worth taking it off, especially when I saw firsthand what a lucrative night it is in the service industry.
Holidays and weekends are a server’s bread and butter. In restaurants in most towns and cities, working weekends is a sure sign you’ve made it as a server in that restaurant. Weekends are busy, often big spenders and dates dressed to impressed. Your manager needs you to be professional, efficient and turn tables without your guests knowing they’re being “turned.” If you can handle a busy weekend in most cities, you’ve made it and you’ve earned the right to pick your shifts. Since we live and work in a resort town, however, there’s always a twist. When people are on vacation every night is a good excuse to go out to eat. Lucky for us it makes taking weekends off a lot easier than it would in most places. Unless you work in a top restaurant in another city, my guess is that working a Monday vs. a Saturday means taking a huge loss of income, but here in Jackson you can truly create the schedule of your choice without worrying too much about which nights of the week will be most prosperous.
Servers, how did this holiday season treat you? Do you have any tales of generosity you can share? Any extraordinary tipping come your way to make your fellow server’s envious? I personally had a great holiday run with very happy guests who tipped generously across the board, but nothing ridiculously huge or brag-worthy to report. Everyone I encountered was thrilled with the food and the falling snow and Jackson in general. The whole holiday week went off without a hitch and no Grinch’s crossed my path. I couldn’t have asked for anything more, but I’d love to hear some of your stories…
Happy New Year!