Major Holidays, Ranked by How Much They Suck for Restaurant Servers

the worst holidays for restaurant servers
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

With a few notable exceptions, working a holiday at a restaurant is genuinely atrocious. All of the standard terrible aspects of serving apply, with an additional level of pompous customer entitlement unique to holidays. Everyone wants their server to provide them with an extra-special experience as a matter of course, only most of the time they’re not willing to tip extra to make up for it.

But which restaurant holidays are the absolute worst of the worst? Which ones aren’t so bad? Look no further, readers: here are the major holidays, ranked by servers from least bad to the baddest bad that ever badded.

10. Christmas Day

This is BY FAR the best holiday to work. Generally speaking, it hits that Goldilocks middle ground of just the right amount of customers to where you’re always busy but never overwhelmed. The biggest thing, though, is that people are far nicer in a restaurant on Christmas Day than they are any other day of the year, and they’re overwhelmingly generous -- just do the job you normally would, and 50% tips will not be uncommon. Also, there’s a good chance the restaurant closes early, which makes this one an even bigger win. I had multiple Christmas Days where I worked a solid but not exhausting eight hours and walked out at 8pm with $300 after tip-out. I wish every workday was Christmas Day.

9. Valentine's Day

There’s some debate here: A lot of servers hate working this holiday because it’s nothing but two-tops, it’s super busy, and customers mostly want to be left alone. Thing is, those three factors (combined with a willingness to spend basically everything in their bank account because it’s Valentine’s Day and spending ALL THE MONEYS on alcohol and dessert is an aphrodisiac) turned it into one of my favorite holidays to work. Granted, “favorite holidays to work” is kind of like “best things to have jammed into your eyeballs,” but still. I always preferred to take care of business and get the hell out of the way as a server, and Valentine’s Day is the day when people most want that out of their restaurant experience.

Also one time I very politely shamed a customer who tipped 5% into tipping more on a Valentine’s Day (I mean, not a crazy amount, we only got up to 10%), and it remains one of my greatest accomplishments.

8. Halloween

Halloween is a regular workday except half the employees are dressed ants Tigger from Winnie the Pooh. What else do you want me to say about Halloween? It doesn’t count as holiday work, so it's kind of a wash.

7. St. Patrick's Day

I’m sure bartenders could write dissertations on the perils and folly of St. Patrick’s Day, but in my experience, it’s one of the slowest restaurant days of the year. Last time I worked one I think I got cut after an hour and a half and having exactly one table (while the bar area was still packed to the brim). For servers, it's less a holiday and more just a (slow) day.

6. New Year's Eve

New Year’s Eve can be a crapshoot; there are times where it’s the good kind of busy combined with the great kind of generous lushes. There are also times when it’s miserably packed with angry lushes. You have no idea what kind of day you’re getting with this one. Just hope like hell you don’t have to work the next day (more on this shortly).

You kind of just hope for a direct meteor strike on the place where the horrible thing is happening.

5. Christmas Eve

Some of the same principles that apply to Christmas Day apply to Christmas Eve, but there’s a noticeably higher incidence rate of snotty customers to cut into your overall profit margin. I had a night where I got a $27 tip on a $270 check and a $75 tip on a $150 within half an hour of each other. Why people are so much more jolly on Christmas Day itself is a mystery that -- at least for now -- will have to go unsolved.

4. Fourth of July

This may only apply (at least on this scale) to restaurants in DC, but the Fourth of July is an annoying holiday for a unique reason: It’s dead for almost the entire evening, then you get hit with a massive rush at 10pm as people leave the fireworks. There’s never a time when massive rushes are a fun experience.

3. New Year's Day

Take all of the shortages of New Year’s Eve and combine them with all the hangovers possible from the night before and you get angry, irritable customers who make your day rotten as hell. The worst part about New Year’s Day is there just is no upside to it. It’s like having to watch the New England Patriots play the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl -- you know it’s going to be miserable, and you kind of just hope for a direct meteor strike on the place where the horrible thing is happening.

2. Thanksgiving

One would think the same principles that apply to Christmas Eve/Day (“Oh man, our server has to work today? That sucks, I’m going to tip extra to make up for it.”) would apply to Thanksgiving. One would be more wrong than Charlie Sheen on Jeopardy!. Look, I have no explanation for why Thanksgiving turns restaurant customers into screaming assholes, but it does. Maybe having to corral an entire family for a Thanksgiving meal has them in a tiff. Maybe they’re furious their dining out Thanksgiving experience at a chain seafood restaurant with designs above its station paled in comparison to their actual Thanksgiving growing up at home (at least the parts before Mom and Dad started screaming at each other and the sweet potato casserole wound up coating one wall). Maybe restaurant customers are just pricks and Thanksgiving is the rule rather than the exception. Whatever the case, this is a genuinely horrible holiday to work.

1. Mother's Day

We have reached the nadir. Every server knows Mother’s Day, and every server dreads it. It’s the busiest restaurant day of the year, with the meanest, nastiest restaurant customers of the year, an all-day nightmare that starts with brunch (even at places that don’t normally serve brunch) and doesn’t end until midnight... and you’ll probably be working that whole time with no breaks. Add onto that the fact that for some reason, restaurant managers are incapable of ordering enough product to actually meet capacity and you have an evening where you WILL run out of everything by 7pm and have to spend the rest of the evening dealing with moms furious they can’t get their fresh oysters they love so much.

I’m begging you: Have your special Mother’s Day meal the day before, or the day after, or better yet, the week after. Take your mom out for a special day, sure, but just DON’T MAKE IT ON MOTHER’S DAY ITSELF. Everyone involved in the process -- you, your mom, your server -- is going to hate the experience, so why would you subject yourself to that over some dumb need to have it be on that specific day? Just... just don’t.

You may also be thinking Father’s Day should appear on here somewhere, but my general opinion is a) it barely counts as a holiday, and b) it’s a totally normal restaurant day since for Father’s Day, most dads just want everyone to leave them alone for one day out of the year. In honor of that wish, we’re also leaving dads alone by not including Father’s Day in this post.

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C.A. Pinkham is a guy who makes inappropriate jokes about Toblerones on the internet. Follow him on Twitter @EyePatchGuy.