Don’t Scrooge Over Your Holiday Team

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No one likes to be Scrooged over the holidays.


As an owner or manager, avoid getting stuck holding the bag of coal when you’re short-staffed or your servers are naughty rather than nice. What employee wants to get that last-minute text on a holiday eve to cover for a no-show co-worker?

We all wish we could conjure up a team of elves to magically run a bar or nightclub, gifting guests with holiday delights. Life (even during the holiday season) is simply not that miraculous. So here are some practical tips to make sure your team is delivering cocktails, treats and glee throughout the season.


Jim’s Gifts

My training in organizational development, years of managing work teams, and my own experiences as a chef assistant in my youth have taught me that your people matter as much as (probably more than) your cocktail list and menu.

An Outside/Inside Approach

The adage “humans will always be human” applies more than ever to your employees around the holidays. People get stressed, busy, distracted and pulled in different directions during the holidays. As operator and/or manager, your job is to:

  • make your customers happy;
  • ensure your employees are productive;
  • balance compassion with effective leadership and decision-making;
  • focus on building your business to be a huge success during this peak season.

Manage your venue’s human side by taking an outside/inside approach.

Outside: You’re never too early when looking outwards and backwards.

  • Become familiar with special holiday events and their timing around your town, neighborhood, or city sector – this year and those in years’ past.
  • Look at history, customer volumes and related timing by weeks, weekends, days and hours between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, as well as the roles and numbers of workers needed.

Yes, it’s about intelligence, history and data. This baseline knowledge is key to staffing well in a manner that works best for employees.

Inside: With the outside demand information at hand, assess the roles and timing you’ll need, and then start as soon as possible to ensure you have proper numbers of employees by roles. Start now for Thanksgiving and by December 1st for other holidays.

Training is also key if you want your customers, employees and your operation to run smoothly and efficiently. It’s a sunk cost and an area where many nightclubs and restaurants go cheap, but once the blizzard of holiday customers come, it’s too late to start. Untrained employees can result in unhappy customers.

Concurrently, and consistent with humans always being human, formally ask the staff to put in writing what days or evenings they know they will want off, and then sit down with each person to find out if he or she wants more hours, and when. Each employee has unique circumstances: some need more time off for social or kids’ activities, some need more hours for present shopping, and some want a normal schedule for planning purposes.


Nancy’s High-Tech Lights

We’re in a people business. No app will deliver qualified team members to your doorstep on the holidays. But technology can make your life easier during the busy season.

  • Before the crowds arrive, make sure your POS system is functioning well and updated with any holiday specials. Because you may be employing temporary workers, you’ll need to have a training plan in place to ensure the newbies glide through their jobs like Olympic skaters. Now is a good time to gift your business with a new system. Here’s a great buyer’s guide from Toast.
  • Short-staffed? Look to one of the many hiring apps, like Industry, SnagAJob, iHire, Indeed and Glassdoor. For management jobs, consider engaging a professional recruiter who specializes in hospitality. Once you’ve found candidates, prepare for interviews (with a process and questions like these) to ensure that every team member is a true star.
  • Use an app like Hot Schedules, Deputy, or Branch Messenger to keep track of shifts. Your 2018 resolutions should include replacing spreadsheets and flawed systems with a shiny new automated system that really meets your needs. Kids’ holiday pageants and vacation schedules, visits from friends and family, last-minute gift shopping… All can add glitches to even the best-planned holiday staffing schedule. The right app will make shift-swapping and last-minute changes much easier, and also make sure you’re complying with the law. According to Derek Jones, VP of growth at Deputy, “Those who create schedules can no longer just fill shifts with the first available person. Staying compliant with federal, state, and local wage-hour laws is more complex than ever. For example, many states have clopening (closing and opening), show-up pay, meal/rest break, and overtime rules that cap the number of hours someone can work per day.”
  • Make sure social sites are full of cheer. You should be monitoring your reviews and social media all year round, but increased volume may result in an uptick in grinches. Respond to every complaint professionally and make sure your own sites are upbeat, colorful and festive.

If you schedule the right people for the right jobs at the right times, you’ll create a joyous holiday season for your guests and your staff, and glee and gratitude within your team.

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