Don't Stress Out! 4 Tips for Maintaining Your Sanity Over the Holidays

Does just reading that word stress you out? Image: los_ojos_pardos / iStock / Getty Images Plus

It is commonplace for bar and restaurant operators to experience large levels of stress and anxiety heading into the holidays. On top of the personal obligations the season brings, increased activity from corporate parties also puts stress on your business to keep up. With all the weight bearing down on the shoulders of an operator, Christmas can be the most stressful time of year. However, this does not have to be a recurring theme, provided operators act on the following recommendations.

Here are 4 tips for maintaining your sanity over the holidays and making this the best Christmas ever.


1. Eliminate Stress at the Source

I work with bar and restaurant operators who insist on working with difficult employees who cause more problems than they solve, computer / POS systems that are broken, and marketing campaigns that simply do not deliver. Why these people choose to continue to work with these broken people and systems is beyond me. The presence of this negative energy causes people to trip over the same problems continually, and add much unneeded stress to one’s work day.


When it comes to computers - Since switching all my computers from PCs to Macs, I have noticed that my troubleshooting and “technical problem” time has been reduced to almost zero. As the backbone of my business is based on computer systems (like all of yours) this has removed a ton of stress from my life and I am tremendously thankful for making the change. I’m not saying PCs are terrible, as they do have some uses that are better than Macs. But the amount of time I had to spend fixing problems, reconfiguring things, and talking to support people with PCs was much greater than it is now that I am solely on Macs.

I do realize PCs have more functionality for high-level applications, but for the bar and restaurant industry most software requirements are easily handled by Macs. If you have continual problems with your technology, you can solve most of them by changing the systems you are operating on. And if you want ease and reliability, nothing beats Apple. Since I made the change, my stress levels have gone way down.


When it comes to people - Since I got ruthless about firing and replacing them with people who do exactly what I want them to do, I don’t have many of the old management problems I used to deal with. If you are struggling with employees who keep causing the same problems, that is a clear indication that they are the wrong person for the job. There are some managers who believe that management ability is basically the ability to tolerate large amounts of stress, but this is false. Great managers are skilled at selecting the right people, and they are not afraid to cut ties with someone who is not the right person.

Since my business is inventory, and my background is bartending and managing in bars, I only hire people who share that same experience now. Since executing this standard, I barely have employee problems anymore and it is a beautiful thing. Focus less on management and more on selecting the right kind of person from the start. When you have the right people with the right experience, you don’t have to actually manage much.

When it comes to marketing - Since focusing all my marketing efforts onto my offline (direct mail and face-to-face) efforts, I have increased sales greatly, and my marketing expenditures remain the same. At one point, I explored the idea of investing more into online marketing, which took a ton of time and did not produce any tangible results. For this reason, I am almost a ghost online by design. I have no LinkedIn or Facebook, and very little online “presence.” I spend the majority of my time face to face, and primarily utilize direct mail to follow up and surround my “herd.” This in itself has produced growth even in down markets and acted as a shield against losing customers.

There are a ton of charlatans right now who are trying their very best to convince bar and restaurant operators that their only options to getting customers in the door is to invest a ton of time, money and energy into online marketing efforts. This propaganda about how “things are changing,” and how you “must stay current with the times” is commonly perpetuated by people selling online marketing in some form. This in itself creates a bias that destroys all the credibility of the person saying it. Do you want to know the marketing truth that will never change, no matter how “modern” we become?

Important stuff arrives in the mail.

Summons from law enforcement, tax bills, wedding invitations, notices of death, notices of foreclosure, eviction notices…the list goes on and on. This class of communication stands alone in its physical nature, and has longer shelf life than any digital hiccup of information. It also intrinsically has a higher importance tied to its method of delivery. For us marketers, it is pound for pound, the king of lead generation, follow up and important communication, yet the world is trying to tell us that this media is dead and we must all go digital or die. Believe this at your peril.

Nothing will kill your enthusiasm more than promoting the hell out of a party that no one shows up to. This in itself is a source of stress that most people could avoid if they only engaged in marketing methods that actually produce results. If you make a commitment to yourself to spend less time on the internet and more time in the real world working on actual, physical, tangible experiences and marketing methods, you will see a drastic improvement in deal flow, customer retention, and overall finances, and experience much more peace.


2. Use Cannabidiol or CBD

As most of my clients know, I am a big advocate of medical marijuana. I am a diagnosed head case with attention deficit hyperactive disorder and since I have gotten my prescription for marijuana I have ditched all prescription meds, and am generally just a better person since adding CBD oil to my daily regimen. I am pretty sure many bar and restaurant operators suffer from some form of anxiety, depression, ADHD, or even dependency, so it would not be a bad idea for them to add CBD to their diet if any of these issues are affecting their stress levels.

There are multiple studies now being conducted and peer reviewed that show that CBD has neurological benefits, and helps a multitude of mental health conditions. There is also more evidence coming to surface that show levels of chronic anxiety and depression may be physiological in nature, meaning there may be situations that can only be treated by food, drugs or supplements. For those of you who may have an issue with marijuana, let me be the first to tell you that CBD has no psychoactive effect and does not make you “high,” so your judgement and thinking ability will not be negatively affected by using it. All it does is wake your brain up similar to how caffeine does, without all the jittery side effects.

As a side benefit, CBD has helped my memory and improved my ability to think before acting. It also assists with joint pain, which is a good thing for hospitality people spending all their time on their feet. If you are lucky enough to live in a place where marijuana is legal, adding CBD to your regimen will dramatically lower your stress levels.


3. Keep a Long-Term Perspective

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I spend a lot of time thinking about death and what life is going to be like after I am done here on Earth. Doing this on a daily basis keeps me from freaking out and thinking that the world is going to come to an end from a short-term problem. And let’s face it: when you think about the end of your life every day, all problems are short-term problems.

Thinking long-term on a daily basis also produces habits that prevent stress from ever happening in the first place. For example, when it comes to money, (which is the cause of most stress), operators who have a long-term perspective live below their means and save much of their earnings to prepare for the future. When this is someone’s lifestyle, short-term ups and downs in sales simply do not affect them as much as someone who spends everything they make and lives solely for today.

People who live paycheck to paycheck and spout phrases like, “You only live once,” truly are fools with no future. And while living a laid-back, care-free existence sounds nice, I can assure you that most of these people stress over money due to their short-term outlook. This is stress that consistent savers never feel, and something that no businesses should ever feel. Every business should be saving money, and conserving for the future no matter what sacrifices needed to be made today. Failure to do so on a constant basis is no different than living paycheck to paycheck and is an unnecessary source of stress.


4. Get a Support Group that Understands You

Nothing will tank your business quite like confiding in a friend who has no useful input, who is only there to lead you astray during your time of need. If you have friends who are only there to indulge in partying, you would be very foolish to seek their counsel for anything important in life. I have a group of many friends who are high-level bar and restaurant owners who I can call for information and advice at any given time. This has become crucial to growing into an operator capable of managing multiple venues as it is impossible to grow without active association with the people you are trying to become. It is also an instant safety value during times of trouble, as good counsel is critical during moments of crisis, which we will all eventually encounter sooner or later.

The mistake most operators make is having no support group, and therefore having no one to call during a crisis. Be wise and form your support group before your crisis occurs, and your anxieties will decrease greatly.

All giants of industry associate with like-minded peers and make efforts to stay away from fools. This is vital for constant encouragement through the ups and downs of life. When you have a group of people you talk to problems about and have walked the walk, it lifts you up and keeps you focused on solutions rather than the problems facing you.

The last thing to remember is that cutting off relationships with those who drag you down is much harder than it sounds. It may require sit-downs, face-to-face interventions, and “firing” certain individuals. Others may have to be blocked from communicating with you on the phone. Drastic measures may have to be taken, but if you are successful in surrounding yourself with wonderful people and ditching the negative ones, your stress levels will drastically decrease.


Kevin Tam is a long-time contributor to Nightclub & Bar and the reviews reflected in this article are his own.

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