7 Tips for Winning the Holiday Rush



We’re approaching that wonderful time of the year in the hospitality industry where every night is like a busy Saturday night.

“The holiday season can be a crazy time behind the bar if you’re not prepared,” said Natalia Cardenas, Breakthru Illinois Beverage Development Manager.

If your staff doesn’t have a plan of attack for large holiday crowds, Cardenas says it can be easy to “get in the weeds” with a seemingly endless stream of customers during a shift. Cardenas has worked the holiday rush many times in her career, and she’s served up seven methods to help your staff make sure this season’s guests receive the best service even when the party is at capacity.

Prepare for the Unexpected

Natalia Cardenas: There are a lot of knowns during the holiday rush. You won’t be able to greet everyone that approaches the bar in a timely manner. Glasses will break. Lines will get long. You’ll eventually need the manager to intervene in a situation at some point. Knowing not everything is going to go according to plan before the rush will put you at ease when accidents do happen, and you’ll be able to more calmly tend to them, which also puts your customers at ease as well and creates a less hectic environment.

Stay Hydrated

This may sound simple, but you need to be in top form physically during this time. Not being at 100% can cause lapses in judgement and of course, make the job physically much harder to do.

Develop Help Signals and Other Codes

At some point during a rush shift, you’re going to need help. The most seamless way to ask for it without the customer even noticing is to develop hand signals with your manager and the rest of the serving staff. This is especially helpful when a guest is upset. A signal with a manager, be it eye contact or a gesture, will alert the manager to assist you as quickly as possible and defuse the situation.

Additionally, making sure a bartender greets the guest at the bar as quickly as possible sets the tone for a positive experience for the customer. If the bartender is busy, the bar back can step in and greet the guest for the bartender and put a napkin down, which signals to the bartender that the customer has been acknowledged.

Broken Glass in the Ice Well

This is bound to happen, and when it does, it requires immediate teamwork. Obviously, if any glass gets in the ice well, all the ice must be replaced. When this happens, the bar back can quickly begin rinsing the well with hot water to remove the ice and clean the well. While that’s happening, the affected bartender can utilize another bartender’s station and share their ice. It’s not always ideal due to space issues but sharing the space will ensure each customer continues to enjoy uninterrupted service.

Use Slow Time Wisely

Occasionally you might get a breather during a shift. Use that time wisely to clean and restock glassware or prep more garnishes for the next wave of customers.

Work as a Team

During the rush, there is only the team. Everyone needs to help everyone. If the service bartender is backed up, the main bartender can chip in and knock out some of their drink orders to speed things up. Servers can also help out by doing their own garnishes so the service bartender can just focus on turning around the drinks faster. Servers who can peel lemon or orange wheels and complete a cocktail really alleviate pressure from the service bartender.

Keep Your Head Up

This is the most important tip: always keep your head up. When you’re slammed behind the bar, keep your head up. When you’re taking a massive order from a large group, keep your head up. Always making eye contact with your customers in a thoughtful way sets the appropriate mood and lets them know they’re being taken care of. Also, keeping your head up helps you anticipate the rush. It allows you to see a group approaching the bar. It allows you to see a teammate in need.

When things get hectic, the customer notices, so a smile and a nod goes a long way to assure them they are still being served, and they’ll appreciate it.

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