Whether on the bar or elsewhere, it’s easy for any of us to fall into the routine of working long hours – because there will always be a use for some extra money. But in hospitality the call for shifts to be covered seems to be all the more pressing, especially over holiday seasons when bartenders are really pushed to their limits. So, what are some of the best trade secrets for dealing with the intense periods that can be both physically and mentally challenging? Here are some tips and tricks to bear in mind when you find yourself working those crazy long hours...

Eat Light

While it may be for a number of different reasons, there’s no doubt that eating larger meals less frequently will lower the energy levels. Heavier foods that are rich in carbohydrates and proteins will slow us down as the body will take longer to digest. It’s always tempting to treat yourself to a full rich and fatty meal during a long shift, but eating more frequently meals that are lighter and healthier, yet give you the energy you need to keep going, will always be a sounder decision over the course of the night.

Take Breaks

It may be difficult advice to follow at the busiest of times, but we always need to have moments of rest to sustain ourselves and stay functional. Of course we can’t take breaks when we’re right in the middle of serving a customer, but a short break can usually be managed. In the grander scheme taking breaks has been proven to improve our concentration and make us more productive. When the prefrontal cortex is working to complete tasks over a long period of time, if breaks are not taken, then its ability to focus will decline. Allow yourself those breathers – even if it is just for five minutes.

Choose Your Shoes Carefully

As the old saying goes – invest in your shoes and your sheets because when you’re not in one you’re in the other. Bartenders working long shifts should pay attention to one rather than the other, as long hours spent on your feet always call for the highest in pedal comfort. Selecting your shoes for working on the bar is something that should be done sensibly, and with the wellbeing of your feet prioritised over style. One trick that some bartenders resort to is wearing two pairs of socks to give that extra cushioning for those long nights.

Drink Water

It is very easy to forget to hydrate when we are engaged in an activity, and the result of this can be a headache, lethargy or lowered concentration. Bartenders should not ever forget to drink water regularly, and especially for those working long hours. Sugary drinks like cola may be helpful for energy purposes, but if too much is consumed then the sugar content may cause an insulin spike followed by a sugar crash, which could bring a number of health problems, such as headaches, dizziness and hunger. Bartenders are best sticking with water, perhaps with a slice of lemon for the antioxidants and minerals lemons can offer.

Work With Your Team

bartenders working together

Cooperation is key to the running of a bar and no bar is functioning to its fullest without staff that work together and help each other. This is especially important at those critical moments when you are feeling the pressure and need someone to provide cover while you take a quick break, or finish the stock taking before the Friday night rush begins. Members of the bar team need to be close, without any tensions and willing to see each other through the busy times.


Remember that you are a bartender and not a vending machine, so even in the busiest and most stressful times you are there to provide an enjoyable experience for your customers or guests. Studies have shown that the mere act of smiling releases dopamine and serotonin in our brains, which increases our happiness. So even when times are tough we can lift our own mood by smiling, and also bring some charm to the bar that is so important in this business. Say it with a smile… and a cocktail!

Maybe you will find that your plan to work ridiculously long hours every week was, in fact, a bad idea and that new car can wait until next year. But then again, spending some time working intensely has benefits more than just financial ones. We all learn from challenges, so it may be that working back-to-back shifts for a month will help you to hone your Raspberry Caipirinha, or master your flaring moves. But most importantly, remember that everything on the bar is to be enjoyed, so even when you’re exhausted, don’t forget that winning smile.

If the exciting world of cocktails and bartending is one that appeals to you, take a look at the bartending courses we offer at European Bartender School.