November through to January 1st is one of the busiest times of the year for those in the restaurant and hospitality industry. 

The long hours and extra prep required during the holiday season surrounding private events, holiday specials, and scheduling staff can compound the stressors of an already challenging work environment. And, if you celebrate the holidays, you’re probably familiar with the pressure surrounding this time of year, that everything needs to be fun and filled with joy. Working in hospitality, this pressure also impacts your work environment, because your job surrounds service and guest experience. 

We can’t pretend the holidays are always the most wonderful time of year for everyone. The reality is that all of these stressors can result in restaurant and hospitality staff facing chronic stress and fatigue. 

Being aware of the stressors of the season and how you can manage them is vital for maintaining your mental and physical well-being. It’s also an important conversation for making sure that you’re also able to take time over the holidays to celebrate and relax with family, if that’s something important to you.  

Now is the perfect time of year to reflect on how you can manage your operations, team, and pressure to get through the holiday season in the industry with as little stress as possible. 

So, we asked restaurant and hospitality professionals;

Top tips for surviving the busy holiday season in the hospitality industry

Read on for advice from 9 amazing owners, chefs, managers, and events directors.

Remember why you’re here

“What helps me get through a busy, stressful holiday season is remembering why I got into the industry in the first place. To create lasting memories through food and the dining experience. I also think of my family and who I’m working so hard for.

Some advice I would give to others in the industry is to make sure you work at a place you truly enjoy working at. If you believe in the restaurant, enjoy the company of your coworkers, and like the work environment, the busy holidays can be very rewarding.

Remember there is always light at the end of the tunnel!!!”

Chef Dennis Tay

Chef de Cuisine at DaiLo, Toronto

Organize, prioritize, and compartmentalize 

“My top tip for managing stress in general is to be as organized as possible.

Life constantly throws us curve balls and if we are organized, we can adjust and deal with these curve balls as they arise. 

The ability to prioritize and compartmentalize is also extremely helpful when you feel stressed or overwhelmed. Have a plan or a list of what needs to be done in sequence and attack that list in order of priorities and things will fall into place.” 

Chef Steven Molnar

Executive Chef at Quetzal, Toronto

“Own your shift”- and drink some water.

“I suppose I have two tips on managing stress, one from the guest experience perspective and another more internalized.

Earlier this year, over a beer I asked Masahiro Urushido (owner of Katana Kitten) what his rule to masterful guest experiences is and he told me to ‘own your shift’.

I suppose that could be interpreted in many ways but to me, it’s compartmentalizing the work that needs to be done and not allowing it to interfere with service. Our guests are here to enjoy themselves and being served by a salty bartender who complains they’re tired will dampen everyone’s spirits.

On a personal level, over this Christmas season in particular my advice would also be to maybe not have another cocktail. It’s sometimes a good idea to have a drink but it’s always a good idea not to. Drink some water, you’ll always feel better for it.”

Max Curzon-Price

Bar Manager at Suyo, Vancouver

Try to enjoy the chaos

“Get organized weeks in advance, make sure you’re communicating with your team, and try to enjoy the chaos. We all hold our breath until the 25th and then we exhale for the week!” 

Lucy Kirby

Owner of Breadhead Bakery, Toronto 

“The best you can do, is to do your best.
Focus on being productive instead of busy.”

Jean-Marc Fontaine

Senior Event Specialist at Toronto Region Board of Trade, Oliver & Bonacini Hospitality, Toronto

“Prioritize your inbox and your next events! Oh, and drink lots of caffeine.” 

Sydney Kearns

Event Specialist at Carlu (Oliver & Bonacini Hospitality), Toronto

When planning events or personal gatherings – get prep done early

“When planning a party or family gathering, keep things simple and stick to dishes you know. Once you’ve planned your menu, shop early and get most of your prep work done ahead of time.  Think about a drink that can be made ahead in batches.  It’s so easy to keep a crockpot or burner on with mulled cider or another batched drink warm and ready to enjoy. 

As the host, you set the tone of the party! If you’re able to get your prep work out of the way, you can focus on your guests and the time you have together. If you’ve done the preparation and planning ahead of time, you’ll feel less stressed and will be able to enjoy the party as well!”

Juli Williams

Director of Events at Ascari Events + Catering, Toronto

Look after yourself

“Look after yourself, family and customers. Extra volume can mean putting in more time, but don’t forget this time of year is for family too.

Focus on team building all year leading into busy times so the operation runs like a well oiled machine. Breath and push forward.”

Chef Aaron Surman

Owner and Operator at Butterboom Bakery, Vancouver 

This photo of Aaron was taken about 6 months into opening Butterboom with 0 days off of night shift!

Schedule downtime after the holiday crowd

“It’s hard to figure out how to manage your time in the hospitality industry when you’re literally the backbone of the holiday season.

I find that scheduling downtime after the holiday crowd gives the team something to look forward to. Also celebrating the holiday with your team/family at work is such a great way to make up for time lost with family as well.”

Funmilade Tawio 

Product Designer and Cook at Lamuren Private Catering

We hope these tips help you to power through this chaotic time of year, and remind you to take care of yourself, your team, and families this holiday season.  

Thank you to all our amazing contributors for sharing their advice and experiences – you inspire our team here at notch every day!  

Give yourself the gift of time this holiday. See how notch can save your team 7 hours a week with streamlined ordering and invoices.