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Am I the only one that feels sad for restaurant staff?

I was reading an article in our local paper today about some of the various restaurants that will be offering Christmas dinner tomorrow. Of course the chefs talked about the advantages to eating out There was a lot of mention of how some places see the same families every year and it is a nice tradition for the families. All nice and good. But then they start talking about how their staff organizes their Christmas day around work, and I feel sad. I guess I'd be okay if I knew none of the staff celebrated Christmas, but otherwise I don't think I could ever eat happily if I knew the staff didn't get to celebrate like me. Now, keep in mind that I won't even get gas on Christmas day.

Am I alone in this?

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  1. I am with you Canada Girl, but I also think about the public servants who work on holidays, and Hospital staff, nursing home staff, emergency response staff, etc.
    Many people have careers that cause them to have to work on a holiday.

    I think a hearty Thank you! to anyone who serves our loved ones on a holiday would be in order. On the flip side, many people are happy to take a shift on these days as it can be overtime, holiday pay of time +1/2, etc. Some people just need to work to feed their own families, and pay for Christmas!
    Appreciation of those folks goes a long way....

    5 Replies
    1. re: gingershelley

      I do think of nurses, paramedics et al. But those are life or death scenarios, and somehow feels different to me. I think most in those jobs are beyond amazing and severely undervalued.

      But a restaurant feels different to me. Granted, I do see that for some (many?) of the people working the extra cash is a necessity too. I think it's just my over privileged self feeling a bit guilty.

      1. re: CanadaGirl

        So if you eat out on Christmas - TIP BIG! :)

        1. re: gingershelley

          We did just that yesterday--ate out for an early breakfast, and Mr. Pine added an extra $10 above a normal tip.

        2. re: CanadaGirl

          Hotel staff, toll booths, cab drivers, bus and train drivers, the aforementioned gas station peeps, convenience store clerks, there are lots of places that aren't "life and death" who work on the holidays. Having had to work on a few of them myself, you just plan the holiday get together on another day.

          1. re: rockandroller1

            Absolutely. I put them in the same category as restaurant workers for this. But since this is a food site, I focused on that.

      2. Where I am, most restaurants open on Christmas Day are only offering a restricted "festive" menu. It's at way higher pirces than usual - partly reflecting the increased pay that the staff are being paid.

        1. I wouldn't feel too too bad for them, but if I were eating out on Christmas day, I would definitely leave about %25 as a tip.

          If my restaurant were open on Christmas day, I would totally volunteer to work, as I don't have any really special feelings for Christmas, and I love serving and facilitating a good time....

          I worked this morning (Chistmas Eve), and I volunteered to work tonight as well.

          The time you should really feel bad for staff is working on New Years Day. That one is a rough one, especially if you had to work really late the night before. I fortunately don''t have to work till 5pm on January 1st.

          1. If you work in the hospitality industry (at least in the States) you sign on knowing that weekends and holidays are going to be your busiest times. It's a tradeoff for a certain degree of flexibility on hours and time off at other points in time. It is also the sort of job where busy is what you want because if it is slow then you barely get paid - restaurant minimum wage in most states ends up just covering your with-holding of taxes, etc - your tips are what is your real income. (A holiday generally doesn't involve a boost in pay.)

            I've always worked retail or hospitality. We find our own ways to celebrate. For years we had a group of 40 restaurant and natural foods store folks who always celebrated Thanksgiving together. It was a week later, but it was still our Thanksgiving and the turkey purchased at the sale price tasted even better!

            People are seldom working all day, so families establish traditions which work for them.

            So be a good guest, treat your service folks with polite respect and tip well! Voicing your appreciation is a nice acknowledgement of their contribution to your celebration.

            1. Step-Daughter works at a restaurant & had to work tonite......owner decided to be open all nite & the usual hours.....Hoping they'll be busy enough to make it worth her while & will get some good tips! If not, hope they'll cut her at a decent time....

              1. I feel bad for people who have to work in restaurants on Christmas (or Christmas Eve). However, I don't celebrate Christmas so to us, it's just another day and we are happy to have restaurants that are open. Tonight my husband, 2 kids and I went out to eat. The restaurant, which is normally packed on a Saturday night, was empty. I told my husband to make sure he left a big tip. Obviously with restaurants, the servers count on tips. No business means no tips.

                Tomorrow we will have lunch at the original Nathan's in Coney Island. I feel much worse for the people who work at places like that and don't make tips (though maybe they get paid holiday pay or overtime??).

                1. People choose to work holidays.

                  It's to make money.

                  Nothing to feel bad about.

                  Better to be working -- even on a holiday -- than to be at home and unemployed.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    You don't always have a choice. Sometimes you are just on the schedule, regardless of whether or not you asked for it off.... Requests can't always be granted...

                    1. re: upsidedownorchid

                      Find another line of business. Part of the bargain of going into the restaurant business is that one will have to work holidays.

                      Coming from a family that owned several restaurants, this is just something we've come to accept.

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        Why should I find another line of business. I love working in a restaurant. In fact, as I stated earlier, I volunteered to work literally all day on Christmas Eve.

                        It's just that not everyone 'chooses' to work holidays, even though I personally do.

                  2. >>> Am I alone in this? <<<

                    No, but clearly you are more "into" Christmas than more Christians that I know, and you certainly don't have a tradition of "going out for Chinese food and a movie" . . .

                    I spent most of my life working in the wine trade either retail or in restaurants, and I frequently worked on Christmas Eve/Christmas, *either* because I was on the schedule, or -- most often -- because I'd volunteer so that one of my Christian co-workers (for whom Christmas was religiously important) could go to services, etc., etc.

                    Then again, a whole lot of my fellow co-workers *wanted* to work on Christmas -- the tips generally were bigger, and a lot of times, you were paid time-and-a-half.

                    Cheers (and Merry Ho-Ho-Ho),

                    1. Most people generally know whether or not there is the possibility of working on holidays when they accept a job. My place of business is closed three days out of the year - Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter. There are plenty of jobs that give many more holidays off, and plenty of places where even those days are required, but I knew going in that I would be expected to work every Saturday, many Sundays, and every holiday not listed above.

                      I always make a point to go to a 7/11 or some other 24/7/365 type of establishment and buy something on Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving whether I need it or not just as a sort of 'thank you' for those businesses that do decide to stay open when most everywhere else is closed. I figure I'm doing my part to make sure there is enough of a business case for them to remain open at all times so that if I ever really do need something they'll still be open.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                        I always make a point to go to a 7/11 or some other 24/7/365 type of establishment and buy
                        something on Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving whether I need it or not just as a sort of 'thank you' for those businesses that do decide to stay open when most everywhere else is closed. I figure I'm doing my part to make sure there is enough of a business case for them to remain open at all times so that if I ever really do need something they'll still be open.


                        What a nice gesture.

                        There were times, however, when I was manning the donut shop on a holiday when I wish no one visited ... always hated to be interrupted during a heated game of Hearts.

                      2. You could always tell yourself that everyone working that night is atheist, agnostic, Jewish or doesn't celebrate this particular holiday for whatever reasons.

                        1. I think about them... and when we got out to eat at the holidays we leave a healthy tip to thank them for working so that we can enjoy ourselves!

                          BTW, the water went off in our whole area last night because a large water main broke at 5pm on Christmas Eve - and they worked till nearly midnight to get the water flowing again. Now THERE'S a crew of people who deserve to be profusely thanked! If they hadn't got the water running, we would have been running around this morning trying to find some place to buy bottled water on Christmas morning.

                          1. Alone, no, unusual no, do I feel the same way, NO.

                            For starters, I do not celebrate this holiday, it is not mine. However, I have worked my share of December 25s so those who celebrate could be off.

                            That said, I appreciate those businesses who are open to serve those who do not celebrate 12/25 or are on the road traveling. I don't deliberately do shhopping that could be done before or after the 25th. Yes, Walgeen's is open, but if I didn't need an emergency prescription, I wouldn't be headed there.

                            Tonight we went out for Chinese food. Yes this is a stereotype, I'm Jewish and Chinese is what is available on 12/25. We took my MIL and 14 year old daughter who is both Chinese (born there) and Jewish. The family that owns and runs the restaurant does not celebrate this as their holiday either. I feel that I should support their providing an option for me to enjoy by dining there and tipping well on 12/25.

                            I do not feel the need to stay home and have nothing to watch on TV or hear on the radio but holiday themed programming that does not appeal to me.

                            That said, unless I had to travel long distance, I would not be buying gas or dining in non-ethnic eateries. I also took my dog for a ride at 4PM, he was in the mood for an ice cream cone. Usually he goes to McDonalds for a $1 cone, but they were closed for the holiday. So we went to the Baskin Robbins/Dunkin Donut franchise drive thru and I paid $2.25 for the dog's cone. The emplyee's working were from the Indian subcontinent and not observing this as a holiday either. The employees who observed the holiday were off.

                            Last night, my youngest and I volunteered at the Catholic nursing home around the corner from our house so that some of their staff who oberserved the holiday could be off.

                            My older daughter worked until midnight, so others at her place of business could be off, next week she'll leave early for New Year's Eve and those who had last night off will work.

                            There is no slavery in America or Canada, working is by choice, chances are that that food service employee serving on 12/25 did not work a 24 hour shift.

                            12 Replies
                            1. re: bagelman01

                              Bagelman, Thanks for pointing out there are plenty of Americans who don't celebrate Christmas! Too many presume that is not the case.

                              No, I don't feel bad for them either. Most restaurant work is by definition nights, weekends, and holidays. That's what you sign up for. Don't like it? Get a 9-5 job.

                              I used to play in the orchestra pit for Nutcracker and Annie during this season. Often there were shows Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year. Or Christmas eve church gigs. Not for a moment did I wish for a customer to feel bad for me, or guilty they were part of the racket. How patronizing. To the contrary, I was grateful for the paycheck. And once again, being a musician demands one work nights, weekends, and holidays. I did tire of that, and now play far less than I used to. My choice.

                              And now I'm enjoying watching the football game, feeling no guilt for professional athletes who must work today...

                              1. re: bagelman01

                                took the dog for an ice cream?!! Do you have a favorite Chinese place to recommend?

                                1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                  Diesel (see picture) our American Bulldog/Dalmatian/Bassett Hound mix loves soft serve ice cream cones. Licks the ice cream then crunches the cone. He gets wound up when he's in the mood, attaches his jaw to my forearm and drags me towards the back door. On the 25th at 4pm he was stir crazy and announced he wanted a cone. So with McD's closed, the Baskin Robbins/Dunkin Donut franchise drive thru was the only available choice.

                                  Normally, I would have gone to Milford to Lao Sze Chuan, but the 14 year old wanted loads of clams and wife wanted Sushi. So we went to City Buffet and Grill in Derby (Pershing Drive next to Shop Rite).

                                  I do not normally eat in buffets for the usual reasons. BUT this restaurant makes good food in small batches and it is very fresh. Daughter will put away between 50 and 60 small clams. The sushi is good, not great. But as I only like Anagi and Ebi it's fine for me, wife eats the california rolls, etc. They have a Mongolian Grill as well. Their Fried Shrimp are fresh and not greasy. The dumplings are very crisp, but the shu mai wrappers are too thick and heavy for my taste.

                                  Best part is the Pistachio Almondine ice cream at the dessert area. Hood makes this, but only for food service, no retail packs available.

                                  Lots of very fresh food, very clean restaurant run by a lovely family. The sushi chef will see us and make up a plate of what we like without us even having to go and ask.

                                  And it's a huge bargain, dinner is only $11.95pp for adults. It's not hard to eat $12 worth of shrimp and clams and never eat the traditional Chinese-American items off the buffet.

                                  MIL went with us. She is extremely picky and never satisfied anywhere, but left the restaurant very happy and asking when we could go back with the other SILs and their brood.

                                  1. re: bagelman01

                                    good lookin' boy, that Diesel! You are the second person to tell me about Lao Sze Chuan, so I guess I'll have to give it a try...Thanks for the tip

                                    1. re: bagelman01

                                      How often is your dog NOT in the mood for an ice cream cone?

                                      1. re: John E.

                                        he will reject it about 20% of the tome at McDs, preferring a McDouble (plain), but will always acceopt it at Baskin Robbins.

                                        That said, he makes his will known about 3 nites per week.

                                        He will generally reject ice cream if offered in a cup. Crunch is king. He has been known to push most of the ice cream aside to get at the cone (if it is inferior ice cream). He detests Dairy Queen, tolerates Carvel and friendlys, but not on a sugar cone.

                                        Diesel also only eats his meat off the grill, not cooked inside on the stove. So, I've just come in from grilling his dinner in the rain. The other two dogs are not as fussy about their meals.

                                        1. re: bagelman01

                                          You have an interesting dog. Several years ago our vet told us to change our dog's food to a higher quality and to limit the amount we gave him (he was getting a bit heavy for his breed). That dog got much less fussy about his 'treats'. He even ate the green beans the kids snuck him under the table. Alas he has been gone now for seven years.

                                          1. re: John E.

                                            Diesel gets 1.5 cups of Purina One Healthy Weight and 8 ounces grilled meat every day, plus his share of most food we eat. He is approx 8-9 years old and has maintained a 70 pound weight for the last 5 years.

                                            We also have a miniature Yorkie (4 years old) who gets 1/4 cup of same kibble and 3oz grilled meat. And a 7 month old ShiTzu who gets one cup of upscale puppy pellets per day and no people food yet. She'll start getting 2 ounces grilled chicken at 9 months.

                                            I've always had dogs and many lived to 17 yeras or more on this diet. The only dog to die prematurely is the greyhound (my avatar) whp died at 7 years old a victim of the Chinese tainted wheat gluten in Bemeful.

                                            Dogs lived for thousands of years without processed dog food and why shouldn't they get the best that I can provide?

                                            1. re: bagelman01

                                              Looks like a dog's best friend is his bagelman.

                                              1. re: bagelman01

                                                Wow. And I thought my two cats were the most spoiled animals in the world (after old cat, who passed at age 21 after eating Iams & prime tuna every day).

                                              2. re: John E.

                                                yup, since my two have been on diets, they have become more than happy to accept roast carrots as treats.

                                              3. re: bagelman01

                                                What a fine-looking dog, and a discriminating one at that. Love it!

                                      2. I've chosen my career and profession and understand the downside of it. Thinking they have too. As with most jobs how long you've been there often means you get better shift or are off all together. I also think they are glad to be there as they need the money or maybe have no family.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. Interesting question with a lot of interesting replies.

                                          My first thought was about the many professions that have to work on Christmas Day and other major family holidays, and I am very thankful for the people who do so.

                                          I am not employed in the hospitality industry so don't have any direct experience with how it must be to work on holidays, but I can imagine that seeing other families and friends celebrating the holiday together could cause some wistful feelings. I would imagine, however, that most people (in any profession) who work holidays have come up with a holiday plan that accommodates their work schedule.

                                          I do find it interesting that working on Christmas is viewed primarily to be an issue for Christians who celebrate the religious significance of Christ's birth. At least in the US, Christmas is a very secularized holiday that is celebrated by people of many faiths and no faith. It is a time of family gatherings, sharing food and gifts. I would suspect that the people who celebrate Christmas and actually attend religious services on Christmas Eve/Day to be the very small minority.

                                          After making a quick stop at our local homeless shelter to deliver a meal on Christmas Eve, my new heroes are the volunteers who give their time to help an almost-invisible segment of our society. My delivery was just a brief stop and a few words exchanged with some of the gentlemen in residence along with instructions on how to bake the breakfast I left. There were several volunteers who had spent the evening cooking and serving, cleaning up and then the people who spent the night with them. I know two of the couples who were there--they have families in the area, they celebrate Christmas with church services and the rest of the Christmas traditions. Their time of service was pure selflessness. God bless them and the thousands of others like them.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: jlhinwa

                                            As the wife of a fireman I will say your remarks are correct.....we just have ways we deal with it. My husband was home for Christmas this year but last year his shift worked EVERY Holiday that year. We went to the fire station with the other families on these holidays and had lovely meals that we pieced together, It was different but very special. As for the Santa deal ...our plan was simple we told him that Santa makes a special trip for people that have to work on that day and we celebrated Christmas Eve / Christmas 24 hours earlier....It was great!

                                            1. re: LaLa

                                              That's what my nephew and his family did, too, and they didn't feel bad about it. You can be miserable or you can go with the flow. If you've chosen certain professions, you learn to go with the flow and be happy w/ what you have. I don't think they want anyone feeling bad for them. And, really, if you want to feel bad for people, we have troops in the middle east who can't even do that. So on the scheme of things, I think restaurant workers fall down the line some. I've worked fast food Christmas eve, no biggie. I think it would have been worst if everyone stayed home and there was no reason for my being there, plus the boredom...

                                          2. For those that vociferously disagreed with the OP, yes people in the hospitality industry, or any other job that requires one to work on Christmas, knew what they were getting into when they took that job, but empathy is a good quality to possess.

                                            1. I used to have to be on call for Christmas, and invariably I was called in. Emergencies in my profession seem to happen at 2am on Sunday mornings, and early in the morning of most major holidays. I knew this was part of the job but it really irked me, especially since most of these emergencies were avoidable for the most part by the individual involved, and especially since it was assumed that since I was single, Christmas just wasn't "relevant" to me. That was the worst of it -- give the singles the pagers because obviously the singles have NO life and can't possibly enjoy the Christmas season. Sigh.
                                              My mom was a nurse and chose to work the holidays for time and a half pay. It did impact our Christmases growing up. There really was never a "specialness" to the holiday, and often holidays or birthdays (in particular) were put off from their actual date. I can't tell you how many birthdays I celebrated 3 or 4 weeks after the actual day. On one hand it was good because I am more flexible about celebrations and things that come up and am not attached per se to a specific date. On the other hand, I really really appreciate my time at Christmas and other special days and tend to make them a big event as they were never a big event growing up.

                                              1. After reading this thread I was trying to remember if we ever went out to eat for Christmas dinner. It's really not much of an option here in Minnesota as even most of the Chinese restaurants are closed for sure on Christmas Eve and nothing more than gas station/convenience stores or a few Walgreen's are open on Christmas Day. However I do remember one Christmas dinner where most of our extended family gathered together and ate Christmas dinner at a restaurant. It was about 15 years ago and we all went to the airport to send off my then 11-year old recently orphaned nephew on a plane to the west coast to visit his older sister. Back then you could go to the gate without a boarding pass. Anyway, we all had Christmas dinner at McDonald's at the the airport. There was no stress, everybody was in a great mood and it was a festive atmosphere. We used to joke about going back to the airport for Christmas dinner but the concourses are now off limits to those not actually traveling.

                                                1. I wouldn't feel so bad for those who work in the better restaurants. The staff meal they are having is probably better than the meals we are having at home. And the tips? On Christmas day? Please don't feel sad for them!

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: ttoommyy

                                                    The people I really feel sorry for are the ones in the retail industry. They don't usually get to choose which shifts they work, and they're expected to work their tails off over the holiday season without any real compensation!

                                                    1. re: Kajikit

                                                      For hourly paid retail clerks this is true, though some may make overtime if they rack up enough hours. Having worked multiple holiday seasons in commissioned sales however, while the hours are grueling, it's possible to make around 20% of your yearly income over the course of a few weeks.

                                                    2. re: ttoommyy

                                                      This is not true in all cases as I was given a choice to work Thanksgiving of Christmas I worked Thanksgiving giving up the holiday with my family , making $50 & not eating st work at all only to find out that they expect me to work very late Xmas eve (I have 5 children!) And Christmas too!What did I give up my thanksgiving for then! I'm quitting

                                                    3. many restaurants are closed on "food holidays" such as thanksgiving, christmas, easter. however, those 3 holidays are not the "big 3" in the restaurant industry.

                                                      the "big 3" days in hospitality, which everyone who accepts the job expects to have to work, no time-off requests, no exceptions: new year's eve, valentine's day, mother's day.

                                                      of course it is always nice to tip somebody who is working a hospitality job on a major holiday, w a smile on their face, no matter their faith or affiliation.... because it is a different deal. as a bartender, i would dread the christmas shifts (thanksgiving was actually much, palpably worse)-- because you would get some really desperately unhappy folks, obviously estranged from their families, in to "drown their sorrows".... things happen when you have a crowd of miserable folks drinking a bit too much: arguments, physical fights, ick.

                                                      eta: lots of folks wanting to get annihilated after dealing w in-laws all day as well, which is a common sentiment expressed on the holiday threads 'round here as well :)

                                                      1. I worked waitresing for years and never worked a Christmas....because I refused to apply for a job anywhere that was open Christmas. Mothers Day, Easter, & Thanksgiving were bad enough, but I refused to work on Christmas. We considered whatever we made on the holidays blood money, it sure wasn't enough to be a good trade for working on a holiday when we should have been home. Just my take on it.

                                                        1. I do feel badly for people who "have to" work on a holiday. When I worked in retail, none of us were ever allowed to work enough hours to make overtime and we always had to work at least one weekend day and cover whenever necessary. Yes, it was part of the bargain, but standing in the shop until the mall closed on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve was a lonely time and I was always grateful when a customer at least acknowledged the fact....and we got neither tips nor bonus.

                                                          1. Been in this game a long, long time and holidays just don't matter much anymore. Everyone of my family and friends expect that I'm working, and will see them when I can.
                                                            What really makes my blood boil is when I get arsehole customers on Christmas Day (believe me, it happens all to often).
                                                            I remember a very large table of drunken people who were harassing one of my waitresses and I stepped in and politely asked them to refrain, and it got ugly. Made for the worst Christmas days I have ever had and one of the very few times I have asked myself "why do I do this?"

                                                            1. Our little Christmas tradition is to first feed the kitties at the restaurant where my hubby works then feed the feral ones across the street. After that we have breakfast at Waffle House in a historic little town a few miles up the road. We tip about $40 on a $15 breakfast because we do appreciate them being open and want them to have a Merry Christmas too. Hey, if they have to work, I would at least try to make them happy to be there.