Serving Patrons in the Month of March

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A guide on what the service industry goes through this busy season

After the busy holiday season is over, the service industry has a lull in business that servers can find taxing. That all changes, though, in the month of March, with March Madness and St. Patrick’s Day. Before these events, a server might be lucky to have football fans rooting for their favorite team on Sundays, but this year the real banger will begin on March 17, which will not only be Selection Sunday, the kick off for the NCAA tournament, but St. Patrick’s Day as well.

Selection Sunday is the day when a 10-person committee from NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball chooses 34 basketball teams to participate in one of the most-watched tournaments in America. Now, on any different Sunday, the bars would already be packed with patrons waiting to hear if their favorite teams had made the cut. Drinks would be poured, wings and other bar food would be served and nerves would be frayed. Now mix this with arguably the busiest drinking day of the year and the servers and other waitstaff are already holding their breaths.

St. Patrick’s Day, also known as “The Feast of St. Patrick,” is a widely celebrated holiday where folk of green blood and party enthusiasts alike come together to enjoy the festivities that await at their favorite pubs and restaurants. For the many people who work in the service industry, they know what this holiday entails and prepare their staff for the upcoming onslaught of customers. Careful planning goes into the preparations for the sudden influx of customers. Even well-trained and experienced servers can become exasperated with the demand for the combination of rowdy sports fans and college students looking to celebrate the drinking holiday.

The mixture of both of these holidays on the same day is already causing stress amongst business owners and other staff members who work at these facilities. Jim MacQueen, owner of Coach’s Pub and Grill in Holt, voiced his frustrations “It essentially takes away a day of revenue for us. Normally, we could count on two days of heightened revenue that week. Since St. Patrick’s Day is so consuming, there is no way to satisfy both types of guests [sports fans and holidays celebrators].”

The wait staff is preparing for the busy holiday as well. One server, Jessica DeVeaux, recounted last year when she worked on St. Patrick’s Day. She started with explaining how the opening staff had to be there by 6:30 a.m., which is very early compared to the 10 a.m. or 11 a.m. opening times that usually occur. 

“I got my first table around 10 a.m. At first, there were six people, but from 10 to 3:30 p.m. there ended up being about 15 people all on one tab. I can’t remember how much the bill was, but it was close to $400 and the ‘big spender‘ tipped me $40,” DeVeaux said. “Around 11 is when I got crazy busy because we filled up. Mostly drinkers and apps here and there. The day crowd, for the most part, was very polite and generous!”

A break finally occurred between 6 and 7 p.m. when she had time to tidy up and prepare for the night rush. “You definitely could tell that the later crowd was a little less fun. I felt like everyone was burnt out. I stopped taking tables around 10:30 p.m. but after side work, it was around midnight before I was done.” 

After 13 hours of serving practically nonstop, anyone would be exhausted. That doesn’t include the prep work and clean-up that most servers must do, though, and after a busy day like St. Patrick’s Day, anyone would be ready to drop.

It’s not always the safest job either. Security guard Donald Wilson reflected on his experience while working security during these special events. 

“By the end of the night, everyone is drunk. A good majority of the people loved me because I was fun and didn’t take any crap, but there are always the people who started stuff,” Wilson said. “I have been taken on by four guys at once (on a separate occasion than the events being described) and was seriously injured, so I’m always on my guard. I just wish people knew that when you’re a jerk, I may not tell you to leave, unless we’ve reached that point, but your food and drinks are going to suck from then on. We all communicate with each other and are a team, so if you disrespect one of us, we all will react towards it.”

The festivities of both events flowing together are going to be stressful for anyone working them. To the patrons and customers who plan on participating in these events, please keep a few things in mind; servers usually make up to about $4 an hour and have to tip out the bartenders, bussers and sometimes even the cooks a percentage of their sales, which means that if a server was tipped poorly all night, they might just end up paying out of pocket to the other staff. So they rely on your generosity to help them make any sort of profit for the day. A rule of thumb, tip at least a dollar for every drink. It doesn’t matter if it’s water, soda or a spirit, someone is still taking care of your needs. 

Customers should also keep in mind how much alcohol they have consumed, as it is the server’s responsibility to cut you off once you have reached the point of intoxication – not only for your safety but theirs as well. Don’t get offended and angry when they must make this call, as it is their job and they are required to do so by law. The servers and other workers want you to get to your next destination safely. 

Most importantly, though, enjoy your time and have fun celebrating both of these events on March 17 and remember to take care of your servers.