No need to panic

It happens every year.  There is a phenomenon that I have never understood that is taking place.  It defies all logic, but occurs annually like clockwork.  It can only be summarized at a collective freak out that sweeps most of the nation simultaneously without anyone acknowledging it.  People stop eating out for the first two weeks of April.

For some reason everyone becomes worried about spending any sort of money for the period stretching from the end of March Madness until April 16th.  Sure, people will still celebrate their birthdays and anniversaries.  Casual dining restaurants may benefit a little from people who normally would eat someplace more expensive.  Overall though, restaurant spending declines significantly during this period.  All of this is in anticipation of Tax Day.

The odd thing is that most people don’t run out to send in their taxes on April 15th.  Many are on quarterly payments plans.  Others choose not to procrastinate and mail them in February or March.  People who are getting refunds filed months ago.  Far fewer people have something to fear on April 15th than will cut back on spending in the first few weeks of this month.  These weeks are as close as Americans get to following a national religion.  It is the non-denominational form of Lent.  People give up eating out during the first two weeks of April in observance of paying taxes.

If you did not know this was approaching, you might have been taken off guard.  I have written before about the need for budgeting as a server and why you cannot let need affect your service.  I cannot stress how important it is to have some money set aside for these slow periods.  It can be the difference between scrambling to pick up a coworker’s shift, and make half of what you normally would, or being the coworker who gives up the shift and has a relaxing night off.  This is vital to keeping sane as a server.

This year seems particularly frightening because it is happening just as gas prices are rising and a government shutdown was looming.  I know it is scary, but it happens every year.  Please remain calm.  In another week, things will return to normal.  Start planning ahead for the first couple weeks of summer vacation for students.  That will be you next hurdle.  Then the first couple weeks after school starts should be planned for.  These times are not quite as bad, but they do represent a noticeable and predictable slowdown.

You cannot prevent these slow periods, but you can plan for them.  These are perfect times to schedule vacations, take some time off, or do some spring cleaning.  They are also a great time to go out to eat.  Servers will be grateful to have you in the building and smart restaurants are offering some great deals.  Take advantage of the shifts it costs you the least to give up.

Start planning for the next slow period now.  Let this strengthen your resolve to save a bit for the next slow period.  Take incredible care of the guests that you are waiting on during this time.  These are very valuable potential regulars who will eat out when other people do not.  Use the down time to learn more about your restaurant, wine list, and menu.  Most importantly, stay calm.  It will all be better in a couple of weeks.

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