Shoes, Martinis and Swan Theory: 12 tips to survive the Christmas run-in

Drinks: Drinks

It’s the busiest time of year, stress levels are high and the public not always at their glorious best. So how do you get through the countdown to Christmas? You read these top tips from your peers, that’s how…

Keep talking… eat doughnuts

Doughnuts are a Christmas survival essential

Doughnuts: a Christmas survival essential

Keep talking. With the team and with the management. If you’re stressed, don’t be afraid to say so, and encourage others to let you know how they feel, even if it’s [discussion]outside the workplace. Even if it is something which has nothing to do with work. And, of course, plenty of things like doughnuts and sweets. Look after that happy vibe. Genuinely, you have to have good doughnuts.’
Emma Jones, Brewhouse & Kitchen, Bristol

Don’t be scared to intervene

‘There will be people who are not as good at drinking as we are, whose taste in drinks will be worse than ours, who may not have the manners that we have grown to expect from one another, whose conversational skills will have faltered and whose recollection of their evening may differ somewhat from ours.

‘If they become violent or reach a level of intolerability that affects your existing customers, intervene. If you see them harassing someone sexually, intervene. If you think they’ve had too much to drink but you don’t want to cut them off or embarrass them in front of their friends, intervene. They’re not awful people, they’re just not the same as us.’
Jake Burger, Leelex

Relax with super snacks

Don't skimp on fruit for the Christmas run-in

If you want to get to Christmas, get your fruit on

‘Order a big bowl of fruit and some nuts for the week so if you have to snack because you don’t have time to eat, it’s not sugary rubbish that will give you a high and then drop you like a stone.

‘The best piece of advice I give to my entire team, is relax. It’s only three weeks out of 52! If you work hard and keep smiling it will all be fine, if you get stressed your customers will sense it. We are all here to put on the show, they don’t know or don’t care that you are on the third double shift that week.’
Nathan Evans, Smith & Wollensky, London

Sort your shoes out

‘Wear decent footwear! I can’t stress this enough…when you’re pivoting on the spot and running back and forth for 12-plus hours straight you need shoes which can support you. Look after your feet and they will look after you.’
Charlotte Wood, Manhattan 34, Leicester

Tea and Berocca

‘Trust in your staff, get organised and make sure you have enough cover. When I was young I used to keep going by drinking fine beer. Now it’s Berocca and tea for me. Put your head up every now and then to see if everyone is working as hard as you are. And book a week off in January.’
Sam Wheatley, Pavement Vaults, York

Embrace ‘swan theory’

Be like the swan this Christmas

Be like the swan: graceful above, frantic below

‘Let things go! The Christmas office table are 99% of the time going to forget their pre-order or bring extra people than they booked for. Even though this is annoying, by getting annoyed that bad energy is going to get passed on to staff, or even worse, a guest. Basically it’s happening. Don’t be a dick and deal with it.

‘Ensure everyone gets two days off a week, which is a simple thing, but at this time of year that can go out the window. Invest in good linen and an electric blanket for your bed. And most importantly, just repeat “swan theory… swan theory… swan theory” [glide gracefully on top, paddle like mad beneath]. It’s my mantra.’
Joe Wild, El Bandito, Liverpool

Yes to fruit, no to coffee

‘Definitely eat before your shift, the chances of you eating during it are next to none. Drink plenty of water, a caffeine diet is not OK. Eat plenty of fruit, working long intense hours will weaken your immune system and there’s loads of bugs going around at this time of year. Be happy and engaging, Christmas time can triple tips!’
Nicole Sykes, The Voyage of Buck Edinburgh

Don’t lock yourself away

Make negroni and Vonnegut your Christmas friends

Negroni? check. Vonnegut? check. You’re good.

‘Forget it’s December and just make a plan of action like it’s any other month. You have to attack it as a team. It’s important to de-stress and laugh about those difficult and drunk arseholes that we all get this time of year. I see my team as a family, then the Birmingham bar community as my extended family. Locking myself in my flat on my days off wouldn’t help one bit.’
Tommy Matthews, The Edgbaston, Birmingham

Get some reading matter

‘Buy your Christmas gifts early, have a litre or two of Negroni stocked up and some Kurt Vonnegut and everything will be ok.’
Jade Johnston, Aizle, Edinburgh

Tune out the noise

‘My tip is to keep calm and ‘tune out’ all of the Christmas noise in terms of the flashing lights, glitter and tinsel going on around us and remain focused on delivering the standards that the guest has probably selected Fonab for in the first place… This may come across as a bit serious, but it is vital to ensuring guest satisfaction which definitely won’t be achieved by the Christmas decorations alone!’
James Payne, Fonab Castle, Pitlochry

Control the numbers

The true meaning of Christmas: sorry we're full

The innkeeper was only thinking about his bottom line

‘Plan your glasses. Because if you get busy, if you run out it, the system just implodes. The beer will be poor quality, you can’t serve fast enough. It’s a nightmare. Think about your team. Plan the breaks and plan the fun.

‘That might be taking in the doughnuts, letting the staff dress up. You need to control how busy you are. If that means slowing the numbers coming in, that’s better for all. It’s a fact, if you’re absolutely rammed you’ll take 10% less than if you’re not.’
Martin Hilton, Purecraft Bars, Birmingham & Nottingham

Get away after Christmas!

‘My only tip for surviving Christmas is to book a three-week holiday to California in January! That’s what we do ☺!’
Jonny Bright, The Hereford Beer House, Herefordshire


About Author

Chris Losh

After five years working on My Weekly magazine (during which time he learned how to write horoscopes and make things out of mince) in 1995 Chris Losh entered the world of drinks writing and, despite all advice from his doctor – and the wishes of most South African winemakers – has stayed there ever since. He began on Wine and Spirit International, editing it for several years before moving on to edit Wine Magazine. Both publications have since gone the way of the Dodo, but he claims to have nothing to do with their demise, and his alibi appears solid, since he was freelance writing for anyone who would pay him at the time. In 2007, he helped to set up both Imbibe magazine and the Sommelier Wine Awards, and has spent much of the last three years eating, drinking, and listening to French sommeliers talk about minerality. In 2009 he was shortlisted for the Louis Roederer Feature Writer of the Year, but didn’t win. Perhaps he should have stuck to horoscopes. And mince.

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