The Christmas Quandry: To Dine Out Or Stay In?

Barring the Fourth of July, Christmas Day is about as close as US workers get to a guaranteed day off. Even for the non-religious, Christmas is often a day to relax, to be with family, to indulge the children in one’s life, or to simply spend the day, guilt free, in one’s pajamas. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule: hospital workers, transit employees, first responders, and many others. And it seems that increasingly (especially if the #openinPHL hashtag is any indicator) that list also includes cooks, servers, and bartenders.

Christmas presents a gamble for the food entrepreneur. On one hand, every day the shop, bar or restaurant is closed represents food going unused and profits unmade. On the other, being open-but-slow can be even worse. It’s only worth it to be open if the restaurant does enough business to cover food costs and payroll hours, and the bigger the space, the higher that break-even number.

If we choose not to dine out on Christmas Day, restaurant owners might–recognizing that the chance to exceed that break-even number is low–just go ahead and close, and restaurant workers could enjoy a day off, too. But if we all forgo dining out on Christmas we risk adding, for employees who are required to work, financial injury to the insult of having to work on a holiday. This is especially true for the front of house staff whose income is entirely dependent on tips. Just the same,  I hate to think of the cook with kiddos at home who has to either miss or reschedule Christmas because the boss decided to open just in case.

For me, I think it comes down to this: if your Christmas ritual involves staying home, stay home. If your Christmas ritual involves going out, go out. If you do go out, order a ton of food and drinks and to tip your server like a freaking rockstar, like you’re Santa himself and you’re about to bankroll the best belated Christmas ever. And if you’re a restaurant owner, consider long and hard whether or not it’s worth opening and, if you do open, give a sweet-ass holiday bonus to any staff who you require to come in. It won’t give them the holiday back, but it’ll help ensure that Christmas, when and if they do celebrate it, is sweet.