Beppo Buchanan-Smith, proprietor, Isle of Eriska Hotel
"When my family opened the hotel for the first time for New Year's Eve, we forgot to tell the guests when to come down for the Champagne reception.
"They all turned up at 7pm and were ready to eat by 7.30pm. It soon became clear that dinner would be over by 10pm and everyone would be waiting for two hours for the bells at midnight. So I sped round the hotel, changing the time on all the clocks forward an hour.
"However, a bright member of staff pointed out that some guests might check their watches. So we reset them again.
"The only good news is that all these shenanigans filled the time and, before we knew it, the midnight bells were playing."
David Nicholson, proprietor, Holbeck Ghyll, Windermere
"Christmas has, for the past 20 years, meant a full house, with guests on a four-night package.
"One year, heavy snow meant cars being abandoned 800 yards away and guests being ferried back and forth in our four- wheel-drive car. Then there have been power failures with chefs cooking by candle-light.
"One year, my mother fainted during Christmas Day lunch - luckily, there was a doctor in the house!"
David Broadhead, secretary, the Travellers Club
"When I worked at the Savoy in London, the manager would play Father Christmas during lunch service.
"One year, the housekeeper confirmed that the costume was in the first-floor linen room. But some wit thought it a good prank to misplace the beard! Frantic searching proved futile.
"I dispatched the duty manager to find some cotton wool balls and Pritt Stick and we set about adhering a makeshift beard to my face.
"All went well for a time. One celebrity guest asked me to present his wife with a diamond ring on his behalf. But there was no kidding the kids, who clearly felt duped by a bogus Santa!"
● The 16th General Managers' conference, organised by the Master Innholders, will take place on 19 and 20 January 2009. For more details and a booking form, go to www.masterinnholders.co.uk
Sometimes, the best-laid plans for seasonal celebrations turn out like playing with fire
Published by: The Caterer