The 12 Days of Hospitality Christmas

by nofrillsfood

Christmas In Hospitality
Getting leathered in a juicer while the bar tender serving you is wanting to be where you are with their mates; enjoying fantastic service in a restaurant on Christmas eve and demanding another round of drinks at 11:30 when all the staff just want to at least see Christmas day arrive in their own clothes.

I’ve often wondered what people who don’t work in hospitality think, if they do at all that is, about those of us who do?
Of course, we in hospitality do not have the monopoly of working at Christmas time, we have our retail brothers and sisters, those in the armed forces, health and social care – the list is, unfortunately, growing in our modern 24 hour endless world.
Only till very recently did I, selfishly, not ever think on those who work in retail when it comes to working at Christmas. It must be a special kind of hell, and for that retail workers of the world you have my empathy. Yes, I am aware other trades and professions have to graft over the festive period and it is not solely the pleasure of us in hospitality, but a policeman doesn’t have to be overly polite to a ‘customer’! My point being, that whilst both professions have their difficulties hospitality at Christmas is a VERY special kind of hell, yet under Taliban cross-fire in Afghanistan it certainly isn’t! (That will please my mate, the Bear!)
I guess what a lot of people don’t understand about catering is that Christmas is not really a holiday at all for us, with that said we still party harder than any 9-5’er I’ve ever met and we all take a sadistic pride in that! Weird innit?! For example, I know not one single server who feels entirely happy about working Christmas day and has to wear the mask of a server when all they want is to be tucked up with a loved one, with their kids or just getting smashed in, don’t you?!
Yes, other industries work at Christmas time but often you get to enjoy a lot of the festivities that we simply don’t. Why, well the majority of fairs/events are held on a weekend which simply don’t mirror our weekend off! That’s if we get a day off in December that is. One year I vaguely remember working 6 whole weeks without a day off. I’m not bitching, I’m simply making a point. So the next time you wish a chef ‘Happy Christmas’ midway through December and you get a look that would rip old Father Christmas’s face off in a second, then now you know why.
For those of us in the trade, we turn into dogs in December. Well not actually, but what we share is the same ageing process. For every day in December the ratio of days work for a hospitality worker to the typical office worker is somewhere in the region of 3 : 1. Yes for every day in the office you put in our equivalent is 3 days normal output. Do we get a pay rise? No. Do we get a bonus? No. Do we get a Christmas present? (HAHAHAHA) no. We even have to pay for our ‘party’ in January! Or if we are really lucky the owners will buy 8 Domino’s pizzas for our buffet and a few warm cans of Stella that have been hanging around, left over from some function in May…Niceeeeeeeeeeee!

So as a light-hearted aside I thought I would attempt to ruin, as best I can, one of the shittest carols going.

The 12 Days of Hospitality Christmas

On the first day of Christmas my Head Chef gave to me…
A rota from the pit of Hades. Rotas are normally done on a bi-weekly basis, if you are very lucky your GM will be organised enough to cover a whole month. In December no one is allowed holiday, It’s even rarer to be able to book a week off. This is all subject to which area of the industry you’re in though, and some people are very lucky indeed – with time off that is. In my opinion, if you’re not working flat-out in December, in this trade, you’ve got a wank job so who’s the real winner, asshole?!
On the 2nd day of Christmas my GM gave to me my xmas bonus…
Another no-show on that Christmas bonus! Who actually gets a Christmas bonus anyway? Seriously, do they even exist? Or are they, like Santa and his flying-meat-wagon, a seasonal winter myth? One year I was told “Your bonus is your job, and you get that present every day of the year so show fucking some gratitude.”
I never asked for it again!
On the 3rd day of Christmas an (ex) girlfriend gave to me…

An ultimatum, “you either choose cooking or a life with me“, well seeing as cooking was my life, go figure the answer. And she wasn’t that fit anyway, besides I’d had my eye on the new waitress for a month and she was keen so it WAS a happy Christmas after all!
She also gave me gonorrhea, but that’s another story.
On the 4th day of Christmas a regular non-tipper gave to me…
Well, aside from the usual refrain of, “you must really hate serving us, we NEVER tip you do we?! ha ha chortle chortle,” they actually bought me (and this is a true story by the way) a very decent-sized bar of chocolate! Whether or not they bought it with the intention of giving it to me, or whether it was found left over from little Jonty’s bounty of Easter chocolate I’ll never really know, I still stuffed it down in 5 minutes flat; not eating all day kinda does that to you.
On the 5th day of Christmas Mother Nature gave to me…
Coffee and sleeping pills. Not together, that would be stupid and wasteful.
Don’t get me wrong I love a cup of tea, Northern style (no nancy-boy builders tea, milk and seven sugars for me,) strong to the point of bitter, dash of milk and piping hot. Essentially, tea is ‘nice.’ Tea is more of a comfort drink for me than a need
Coffee on the other hand can be ‘nice’ but it is sustenance that is required in December’s cold heart. My normal intake of coffee is a lot – 3/4 a day including 1 double espresso. In December this is doubled and is absolutely essential.
On the 6th day of Christmas my company gave to me…
A letter.
Not a Christmas card.
But a letter, in this letter normally included in your December payslip envelope, (always thinking of the cost eh!?) are some elongated paragraphs thanking us for our hard work over the year, and for our continued efforts in December. No signature, no face-to-face thanks from the bosses. I am a cynic by nature, but I also believe in treating people how I want to be treated. Common courtesy goes a very long way with me, so to not even receive a personal thank you from anyone in authority is really rather galling. Then again what do you expect? They don’t even know your name!
On the 7th day of Christmas hospitality gave to me…
3000 covers – that is actually a figure plucked out of the air. Depending on what kind of place you work in, the trade will be different but it usually doubles, triples – often quadrupling than your previous busiest month of the year. There are simply not enough adjectives, metaphors and similes that I can ascribe to how ‘in-the-shit’ December is.

It is our Somme, our last stand, one big push forward to the finish line.

On the 8th day of Christmas the bookings diary gave to me…
The bookings diary and the table plan are the Holy Bible for any floor team, even more so during Christmas. In the diary is every nugget of information required to ensure a smoothness of service. This is why during December only management will take any bookings to ensure no fuck-ups occur. Parties are meticulously planned and timed, menus are drafted, costed, rehearsed and ascribed with military precision. Sure, this happens all year round but Christmas is all about maximizing as much as you can from as little spend as possible.
So, half way through a Thursday December lunchtime service, it’s getting to 2:30 and 100 covers are happily eating, drinking and finishing up then a random party of 25 arrives. Yep, it always happens. A booking where endless reminder emails, voice-mails and phone calls have been exchanged, with no reply from the lead booking, only for them to turn up and denounce you all as Satan for fucking up their Christmas party. So instead of them admitting their error, cue hysterical shouting in a packed restaurant, frazzled staff becoming even more frazzled and owners distraught at any damage to the reputation, they are secretly loving the fact that another 25 people will be eating for lunch – not forgetting the £600 extra in the till that night.

Which is one reason I never really dine out in December; the food is never as good as it should be, and in my heart of hearts I don’t want anyone to serve me.
On the 9th day of Christmas a Chef de Partie gave to me…
A well needed, but often scorned upon line of chizzle!
(I don’t encourage nor discourage drug use, we are all grown ups make your own choice.)
On the 10th day of Christmas my Butcher gave to me….
Turkey. Turkey. Turkey. Turkey. Turkey. Turkey. Turkey. Turkey. Turkey. Turkey. Turkey. Turkey. Turkey. Turkey. Turkey. Turkey. Turkey. Turkey.
Fucking tons of the stuff. Let’s be honest it really isn’t even that good. In the midst of Game season we decide to make traditional one of the least tasty birds there is and make it common for everyone to feel obliged to eat this fucking monster.
Turkey is the chickens fat, ugly, auntie. The one who smells of campari and has squeezed into a size 10 dress when she’s weighing close to 14 stone.
Better chefs and food writers have written on this subject in detail over the years so I wont blather on about it other than to say I prefer a massive fore-rib of beef, or any decent game bird for my Christmas dinner.
Having said that, for me Christmas Dinner is the ultimate roast dinner. It has everything a human could want for. More meat than you can possibly wish for, and if the cook is anywhere near decent, you are in for a treat.
On the 11th day of Christmas my staff party gave to me…
Now for the sole reason of the TV show The Office and the character David Brent, I have always wanted to work in an office at Christmas time. I want to see if the same levels of Roman debauchery occur with receptionists and admin assistants as does Sous Chefs and Chef’s de Rang! I doubt very many (this is a true story by the way,) business staff parties will see a director, an apprentice and the Human Resources manager, dressed as Bugsy Malone extras having a threesome in a golf buggy in the beginning of January. No I didn’t think so either!
Hospitality 1 : 0 Civilians!
On the 12th day of Christmas hospitality gave to me . . .
(NB: The 12th day of Hospitality Xmas is probably the 3rd of January.)

One final point, for those of you who are unlucky enough to be working and away from where you really want to be this Christmas, as little as it may mean to you reading this now, I will spare a thought for you my brother/sister and thoroughly expect you to get royally fucked up when you can.