I sometimes wonder if the “Double” is a conspiracy from the shoe industry to force bartenders to wear through their shoes in record time. Or perhaps it’s Big Caffeine, demanding endless coffee and caffeinated sodas to make it through the day. Either way, if you’re booked for two shifts back-to-back, you’re in for a very, very long day.

1. Be prepared both mentally and physically

Whenever you have to work a double or any shift in a restaurant, you usually are “let go” when business declines –  which could mean for a long shift. So if you go in prepared both mentally and physically, your day should go by much more quickly. Know that you will be there for a while and know that there is no set time for you to be cut. If you keep thinking about the fact that you want to go home, the shift will drag on.

Having a job in hospitality means you stick around until the guests stop showing up – so if people don’t stop coming in, then you will not be cut. If you know about the double beforehand, make sure that you get enough rest the day before. Nothing is worse than having to come to work after a night of partying for a regular shift let alone a double. Do yourself a favor and stay in the night before.

2. Don’t look at your watch

Looking at the clock too much can make time drag – avoid it at all costs. Some restaurants have clocks in the kitchen or behind the bar, and likely your POS will show the time – but those numbers will taunt you. Resist the urge to focus on the time, and stay busy instead. Thinking about what time it is will make the shift seem twice as long.

3. Keep busy

You know that saying, “If you got time to lean, you got time to clean?” It may sound childish but it makes perfect sense. If you have free time while at work, find something to clean or ask if anyone needs help around the restaurant. Not only does it make you look good because you are working while everyone else is standing around, but time goes by much faster when you are busy. If you keep busy around your guests, you may also find that they tip more because they see you working hard.

4. Keep calm in stressful moments

Working in a restaurant is one of the more stressful jobs out there and stress management is an extremely important skill. If you find yourself at the computer screen trying to ring food in and your mind is going a million miles an hour, just take a break and get your thoughts together. Eventually things will calm down and you will have your brain back. Being in the weeds is hard, but keeping up is so important: once you go under, it is twice as hard to get back on top of things.

Stay on top of drink refills, processing payments efficiently and taking orders promptly. Everyone has those moments when someone asks, “What do you need?” and your only response is an exasperated “I don’t know!” – Just breathe and know that this too shall pass.

5. Ask for help

It’s tempting to try to do everything yourself, but it’s not a good long term strategy. If you feel things are becoming too much, ask for help – before it’s too late. Put aside your pride and find someone who has some free time to help. Usually there will be someone who can offer a hand.  Successful bars survive on the strength of the staff’s teamwork. If people don’t work together, the establishment will struggle and everyone suffers.

6. Wear Comfortable Shoes

Perhaps the best gift you can give yourself is a truly great, supportive, and well-fitting pair of work shoes.Your feet will thank you – or maybe just complain a bit less. If you don’t have comfortable shoes, bring an extra pair to change into, and an extra pair of socks. Just a change of footwear can make all the difference in your comfort level.

Chris also swears by his “double sock” trick: He’ll wear ankle-length athletic socks for cushioning, and then tighter dress socks to offer support and to look professional. It’s annoying on laundry day but he insists it makes all the difference to his feet, especially on long shifts.

7. Eat light

That burger and fries probably looks and smells amazing. But eating heavy food between your shifts is a great way to make your second shift that much more difficult. Try to eat something light and healthy, avoiding read meats or pasta.

Likewise, you must eat! Sixteedn hours without food will – at best – make you one Hangry Bartender. At worst, you’ll get jitters from low blood sugar and lose your ability to concentrate. Eat, even if it’s fast – and try to find something healthy that will give you energy without weighing you down for the next eight hours.

8. Stay Hydrated

This one will sneak up on you. Things move quickly behind the bar, and it’s easy to find yourself four hours later without a sip of water to drink. Prioritize your hydration! Just like skipping meals, dehydration will make you feel more tired and can absolutely affect your concentration. Worse, it can cause headaches that make your “one hour left” into the longest hour of your life. Be proactive and keep a glass of water around. Even one glass can make a world of difference in how you feel.

Your Best Survival Tips

That’s all I’ve got – a few tips from Chris and a couple great bartenders I know. How do you survive the Dreaded Double? Give us your tips in the comments below!

Julia Tunstall

Julia Tunstall is the co-founder of A Bar Above and Chief Cocktail Taster. She's in charge of keeping things running smoothly around here, but you'll also find her stopping by on the Mixology Talk Podcast or hanging around the Craft Cocktail Club.