It seems that there is a bit of a cultural revolution in the restaurant industry these days. Or at least the small beginnings of one.
Mostly I am interested in a number of articles that have popped up in the last few years. All of them discuss the challenges to mental and physical health that comes with working in a restaurant. I’ll link them to the bottom of this article.
This elephant in the room is nothing new if you have worked in the industry for any period of time. Oddly enough, I think we are seeing the details fall into place for change to come about in the industry.
I worked in restaurants for about 15 years at 7 different establishments. And at almost all of them, I saw the same perfect storm of work hard play hard attitude. This has been so consistently ingrained in the culture of the industry that it seemed like the only way of life for many in the industry.
But there never seemed like a great reason to address the problems at hand. Before the days of sky rocketing rents, jobs that pay the same for less work, and a stark drop in people wanting to take on the arduous task of becoming a restaurateur, there wasn’t any reason for change. It was (and still is) a place to be a part of a bustling night life, make some extra money while you are in school, and an industry that was open to everyone.
But a business based on small margins and talented employees can start to have a problem when the tides change.
Today, restaurants have to compete in a race to the bottom. Margins are tight (averaging 2-6%), with all costs having to be balanced by a continually busy restaurant. Unfortunately, these extremely busy workplaces have taken the toll on employee health. Many employees are leaving the industry because of exhaustion and burnout. Losing an employee is going to have turn around costs in lost efficiency and training a new team member. Workplaces that do not build supporting their employees into their costs can pay even more when they have to find new recruits.
This was not a big problem a few years ago. New employees were easy to find because there was always a fresh stack of resumes to choose from. Why fix the problem when your workers are replaceable.
But I know a good few restaurants who can’t find anyone to fill positions in today’s work environment. This means the staff you do have are going to work longer hours and work harder during those hours. This causes more burnout in a never-ending cycle. This problem has officially caught up with the industry.
Many restaurant owners don’t have degrees in HR and Occupational health practices. Its understandable that they didn’t start a restaurant to solve the problems of human performance and mental health at work. Many started in the industry and worked their way up through the different positions until the direction of ownership became the obvious next step in their career. Culture change can be difficult when many managers and owners came up through this system.
But we don’t all have to sit and say “well that is how we have always done that.”
Can we change the way restaurants support their employees? Definitely.
Will we need to see the strain the job has on employees and manager alike? Absolutely.
Will this give you the edge in a industry of people ignoring the problem? Without a doubt.
The owners and managers that take this challenge on will be ones that I believe will usher in new standards for excellent workplaces and break these stigma’s that come with restaurant work. I am tired of hearing people refer to restaurant work as the in between to a ‘real job’. Or that people ended up in restaurants because there was no other place to go. But if we want to create the great workplaces we envision, it starts with restaurant employees being supported in their performance at work.
So I ask two things of you:
For Restaurant Employees:
I want to hear your stories. I want to know of your struggles in the restaurant and your successes to perform better on your job.
Send me an email at : firstname.lastname@example.org
For Restaurant Owners:
I am creating an online portal launching in the Fall 2019. This will have all kinds of resources to support your employees and run a better restaurant.
You can check out the portal here:
And Guess What! Fill out the form at the bottom of that page to get the early adopter discount!
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