Surviving the silly season

13 December 2022

Secret sauce
Santa Claus works hard for 24 hours then calls it a year. Yet for people in hospitality, the festive season can mean unending weeks of late nights, loud parties, and little sleep. Even so, there are ways to survive the seasonal silliness – as these industry insiders reveal.

Don’t let standards slip
At Lipstick bar in Paris’ vibrant Pigalle nightlife district, founder Samuel Wasserman understands the challenge for many in the industry: “The problem is that we personally know many of our clients, and it’s a fluid boundary between animating the night for them, and being part of the night with them,” he says of his 12-member team.

His solution is to insist service standards be maintained at all times, which he underpins with fairly strict rules. These include not allowing younger members (under-24) of the team to drink on duty – in France it is a common custom for bartenders to share the occasional shot with clients. The strategy has so far worked, with only one staff member in 10 years being sanctioned for irresponsible behaviour.

Check in and check up
From Pigalle to Perth, where Emma Crisp is group beverage manager at Si Paradiso and El Grotto, two cocktail bar-restaurant venues in the world’s most isolated city.

Both venues are open all weekend, including Sundays, so staff are always rotated during the Christmas period, and never work more than two weekend nights to reduce burnout. They are also limited to 40 hours a week.

“We check in constantly, because even the 40 hours during summer silly season in Australia can be too much,” Crisp explains, adding, “especially when you’re churning out 2,000-3,000 cocktails a week."

In Amsterdam, James Chaib, named best bartender of 2018, says the secret is to take time for the team each day, such as sitting and eating together. “Because it is stressful, it is busy, it is high octane, but at the end of the day, if we can come together for moments, if we can encourage each other, keep the positivity high, then it makes the rest of the shift flow a lot easier.”

Say no… to groups

Elsewhere in the Dutch capital, Najade Bijl – another world’s best bartender – points to another challenge of the season: refusing large, raucous groups. It’s an acute problem at the Pulitzer hotel, where the swanky cocktail bar is only set up for groups of two to four people max.

So, she puts herself in the shoes of the other guests, such as someone on a first date, or celebrating a 50th wedding anniversary. “If this group barges in with their crazy drunkenness or holiday party, you need to value the integrity of the bar, the concept, and mostly of the other guests around you who are already there,” she says

It’s a two-way street 
For Kae Burke, co-founder of Brooklyn nightclub House of Yes, ensuring her employees and performers stay healthy is a two-way street. 
If performing out of town, she ensures her team and talent can stay in a good hotel – whatever is needed to feel revitalised and encouraged. But, she cautions, you need to know your own limits.

“As someone who is working on a team, and working in hospitality the hours are weird, it’s a stressful environment, so we invite people to know their limits, sleep when they need to sleep, and take care of themselves so we can take care of them as well."

Don’t feel the FOMO

Silvia Montello is just one industry veteran increasingly trepidatious of the seasonal silliness, and she’s not alone. As head of the Association For Electronic Music, she has the ear of many voices across the clubbing, festival and event sectors. With age, however, comes wisdom, and less peer pressure to act in ways that are counterproductive to your health and wellbeing.

Montello says she has frequently stopped drinking in the months leading up to the end of year, and always does a dry January. She’s also picky about the events she attends when off work. “Sometimes you need to take a step back and think, ‘Okay, which are the ones that I really want to go to?’ Rather than just running around, trying to cover everything, and then ending up face-planting somewhere, exhausted, tired, and not loving life any more.”

15 minutes of exercise
Kris Hall founded Burnt Chef, a social enterprise offering a range of support, resources – and cool merchandise! – to de-stigmatise mental health within the industry.

He is mindful that it can be easier said than done to take time off, especially in some organisations where employees might be expected to work up to 10 days back to back. That said, he says it’s not unreasonable for a human being to need time to recoup.

His secret is to remember to exercise. He cites a study that suggests just 15 minutes and nine seconds releases enough serotonin to start boosting the mood and combatting the signs of mild and moderate depression, and anxiety.

“I don't enjoy running but I still get out,” he says. “Make sure that you prioritise your health first and foremost, because if you don't, you may end up in a situation that can ultimately lead to you underperforming and being unwell for a long period of time.”

The secret sauce – distilled 
Back in Brooklyn, Kae Burke sums it up succinctly, saying, if you need a break, then take a break. "We don’t want to work anyone to death – that’s not good for anybody.”

Indeed, that would be no way to celebrate the festive season.

Please enjoy our brands responsibly. Do not share this website with anyone under legal drinking age.

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