The happiness-obsessed psychologist and philosopher William James once said, “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” Having worked in the restaurant industry for years, I don’t agree with that sentiment. If you’ve ever suffered from employee burnout and work-related stress, I think you’d disagree with him too.
Don’t get me wrong: there were a lot of things I loved about the industry. Pre-shift food tastings were awesome. I got to know a pretty interesting cross-section of people over the years—many of whom I’m still in touch with today. And I learned a lot about the importance of customer service and communication.
That being said, I did eventually quit the industry. No matter how much enjoyment I felt at the job, whether working in the FOH or BOH, I just couldn’t trick myself into “thinking” the stress away.
My Employee Burnout Story
It had been a particularly slow day shift, so I wasn’t surprised when the manager made cuts early on. However, the second all the servers had finished their closing side work and walked out the door, a massive flood of customers hit.
An oversized family party that took up half of one of the dining rooms.
I saw the panicked look in the host’s eyes as she realized the customers were piling up at the front of the restaurant. I saw the jaws drop behind the front line as the cooks and chef realized they weren’t prepared for that rush. I counted over 40 heads within a span of 15 minutes. Even if the bartender could help me deliver drinks and if the manager could pull herself from out of the office, we’d still have to deal with the imminent backup in the kitchen and the resulting backlash from all those customers with un-refilled drinks, cold burgers, and a very frazzled server.
That was the shift that ended it for me.
I gave my notice once the shift manager resurfaced hours later. I explained that the stress wasn’t worth it. My body hurt. My head hurt. My feelings were hurt (even though I knew the customers were just taking their frustration out on their main point of contact). And, to be quite honest, I felt defeated. Everyone in the restaurant—in the kitchen, on the floor, and even management—were miserable 24/7. What was the point?
There’s A Lesson Here
When I look back at that nightmare shift and everything that had built up to it, I catch myself thinking about how lucky restaurant employees are today what with all the advancements and improvements that have been made since. But then I see memes like these and realize that not much has changed for many restaurants.
Work-related stress is no joke. Everyone is affected by it.
Restaurant work stress is a heavy and costly burden, especially for restaurant operators and managers who have to find a way to balance it along with their other responsibilities. But if your restaurant starts to suffer from low productivity, more injuries, higher absenteeism, and employee turnover, you’ll want to nip that in the bud sooner rather than later. The cost of replacing employees—in terms of money, time, morale, and more—won’t be worth it to you in the long run.
These days I write a lot about the tools restaurant operators need in order to improve their business. I talk about the power of cloud-based technology (like the Better Chains management solution) and how it can make a world of difference for restaurant operations. And I wholeheartedly believe that.
I’ve seen firsthand what the cloud can do for businesses (outside of the restaurant industry) and I know that one easy way to reduce stress for everyone is by investing in a system that will start solving problems from the top-down. While restaurants operations will never be 100% stress-free, gaining better control over costs, training teams to be better prepared for anything, and freeing up management to focus on running the business (instead of pushing paper) is a good place to start.