If you’ve worked in this industry for more than a day, you’ve probably seen it: Weary bloodshot eyes, supported by dark circles above puffy cheeks. You’ve probably smelled the mixture of grease, sweat and booze that results from one too many double shifts worked in a row. You’ve probably heard the short tempers and gravel voices of exhaustion. Maybe the person you’ve seen this on is staring back at you in the mirror. Whatever the symptom, the ailment is the same: burnout.
All jobs come with some inherent degree of stress, but fewer embrace high levels of stress as part of their very identity. Most jobs don’t start when the rest of the workforce is clocking out, or come with easy access to large amounts of liquor. The restaurant industry is unique.
“You have to balance sales and staff morale. Sometimes it’s not about money, but rather our own happiness and work-life balance.” – Chad Phelps, owner and operator of K Restaurant
From bussers to waitstaff, to general managers; anyone working in a restaurant must be prepared to deal with strong personalities, intoxicated guests and late, late nights. While it may be part of the allure of the hospitality scene, those long nights and after-work drinks can add up.
To keep restaurant owners and their staff up to snuff, there are a few things to consider.
Work-Life Balance is Essential
Chance are, if you’re a restaurant owner, operator or GM, you’re a workaholic. No one gets into the business without having a certain degree of passion for the restaurant and hospitality industry and restaurant leaders certainly didn’t get to the top by resting on their heels.
But this doesn’t mean that the business needs to be all-consuming.
“You have to balance sales and staff morale. Sometimes it’s not about money, but rather our own happiness and work-life balance,” says Chad Phelps, owner and operator of K Restaurant in Orlando, Florida.
Moreover, restaurant leaders need to know what limitations to place on staff to ensure they don’t become overworked, something that will only lead to lower levels of performance, morale and, ultimately, customer service.
Wellness Starts at the Top
To keep staff in peak performance, restaurant leadership need to lead by example. After all, employees will look to their leadership to set the tone for the restaurant.
To encourage a culture of well-rounded, positive self-care, Bruno Zacchini, owner of Pizza Bruno in Orlando, Florida, makes fitness a central part of his week.
“I am very active and do a combination of running and weightlifting at minimum three days a week with sometimes a yoga class thrown in, or I play indoor soccer, which for me feeds my competitive side and lets me blow off some steam in appropriate ways,” says Zacchini.
Zacchini believes it isn’t enough to focus solely on the physical aspects of stress to combat a stressful environment; emotional and mental well-being should also be top priorities. “Mental health, for me, means regular therapist visits and daily meditation in order to bring myself back to the center emotionally, which is important in such a volatile and demanding industry,” he says.
Work Together, Play Together
Stress can unite staff and help them form strong bonds. Many of the staff are likely running into some of the same stressors on any given shift. Giving them the ability to vent freely to one another can make them feel less alone. Set aside time to blow off some steam and show employees how much their contribution is recognized and appreciated.
“Mental health, for me, means regular therapist visits and daily meditation in order to bring myself back to the center emotionally, which is important in such a volatile and demanding industry.” – Bruno Zacchini, owner of Pizza Bruno
“The staff works incredibly hard, and it is really challenging as an owner to celebrate them and show them your appreciation for the hard work they put in throughout the year when you are managing such high-volume services,” says James Petrakis, owner of The Ravenous Pig in Winter Park, Florida. “We host our holiday party in February during the Super Bowl, a time when we can really disconnect and enjoy all we’ve accomplished as a team. Plus, good food, drink, and football is always a good time.”
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