The holiday season brings hospitality managers higher volumes of business, more stress, more employee problems.

Management Plan

Experienced restaurant and hotel managers started planning for the peak season in July. This season can be a nightmare, even if the only problems were making sure the restaurant didn’t over, or under purchase, and employee scheduling was perfectly balanced. There is no perfect plan. No matter what you do, employees will always create chaos in the most well laid plans.

If an establishment has more than 10 employees then holiday scheduling should be delegated to someone with superb organizational skills. This frees the manager from the task, and creates an emotional barrier between them and frantic employees who forgot to schedule a day off for their family Christmas dinner.  According to Statista 95% of Americans have holiday plans.

Hospitality Management plans are also disrupted by outside forces. The most common being the weather and transportation. One of the best ideas I’ve seen is offering perks to employees who arrive early, like a free breakfast, or bonus time off over the holiday.

Employee Management

Seasonal employees cause their own problems. They want the job in November, but they want to have the same rights as long-term employees by December. Do not ever wait until the last minute to schedule. A great idea I saw at a hospital can also work in the hospitality industry. A large board was posted on October 1. It used different colors showing the most likely days an employee could take off, and those in red meant everyone was expected to show up.

Large letters across the bottom said, ‘Make Your Plans Now!’ This had two advantages. Families could make plans for Christmas when they meet for Thanksgiving. This let them schedule their holidays before seasonal staff arrived.

Stress Management

When scheduling is done early it can allow for ‘perks’ that are not normally offered in the Hospitality industry, but will boost moral and lower stress. One way to do this is to pay attention to Statutory Holidays, and PA days. This is outside of the typical manger’s responsibility, but look at it this way. Primary Caregivers can be given these times off. Seasonal staff can pick up the slack.

This reduces stress for workers, and preempts staff stress related issues. It is a pro active solution to threatening employees you know are going to take the day off because they cannot afford daycare.

If you take this to a Swedish management level, you can even offer employee’s 1 or 2 shopping days off in the last 2 weeks before Christmas. This will remove stress from the staff, and improve their attitude towards customers.

Seasonal Staff

The last few days before Christmas is like playing Russian Roulette, especially if you’ve only been a manager in the hospitality industry for less than 10 years. There will always be a few seasonal staff workers who will quit just before, or after the holiday. They’ve earned the money needed, and they want to spend time with their families.

Forcing staff who were scheduled to take the time off, or forcing overtime has a negative impact on the staff, which effects the service they offer the employees. Offering a Christmas Even bonus, and another one January 2, can be a great way to keep employees. This goes back to the days when Factories gave out turkeys to their employees Christmas eve. The turkeys cost less than lost production.


Push vs Pull. Tell vs. Ask. There are both tangible and intangible advantages to adopting a coaching mentality as the peak season approaches. People will bring problems to work. Some of those problems will blindside you, like the 30 year old night clerk who is your most reliable employee suddenly finding a ‘holiday date’ and wanting to make up for lost time. Or the head housekeeper who needs to deal with holiday visitation with her x-husband.

Sometimes the best management tool is the ability to sit and listen for 10 minutes. We all know that people bring their work problems home. But we forget that they bring their home problems to work. A good move for a general manager would be to implement a management wide coaching series, starting in August and implementing the new practices in late September.

Measure the results, they will be invaluable when you are job hunting for a better position. If every manager spends 10 minutes a day ‘actively listening’ and hearing an employee’s problems they can reduce stress in the workplace. They may also be able to predict a potential problem and deal with it before it causes a scheduling crisis.

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