If the restaurant industry were a patient getting the results of an annual physical and psychological exam, the doctor’s report might read as follows: Blood pressure and heart rate during service are dangerously high, an indication of chronic stress and a sleep deficit. Drastically reduce caffeine intake, and cut back on alcohol. Respiration rate is off the charts; you need to monitor your breathing during the shift, and find ways to control your physiological response to stress. Lab tests show an alarming level of controlled substances, and we see that you’re still smoking during breaks. You also complained about recurring foot, joint, and back pain, and we noticed…
You get the idea. The restaurant industry is in very bad shape.
Several recent high profile suicides of Michelin-starred chefs have highlighted the problem, but relatively little has been done. While other industries are making headlines for offering workplace meditation sessions, fitness trainers, and onsite yoga to increase profits and workforce morale, ours makes news for having the highest rates of substance abuse, worker attrition, and employee burnout. At a staggering 19% of the total workforce, we also have the highest rates of mental illness.
In order to function under stress, our workforce needs to be in optimal physical and mental condition, yet many of us are starting service sleep deprived, high, hungover, or heavily medicated. We can’t keep expecting our employees, many of whom are struggling right out in the open, to “tough it out,” “man up,” or “grow thicker skins.” These archaic philosophies do far more harm than good. It’s time for some fresh thinking.
I call it Hospecology: an approach to hospitality that brings the well-established practices of meditation, fitness, and mindfulness together with emerging technologies to help restaurant industry professionals manage work-related stress and avoid burnout. Again, other industries have already introduced similar programs. We need one of our own that’s tailored to our industry’s needs.
We can start by identifying people from within our industry who’ve already made a personal commitment to their health and well-being and give them a platform on social media to inspire others: chefs who surf waves or shoot hoops to get into flow-state before they clock in; bartenders who meditate and do breath work before service to increase their energy levels; servers who hit the gym and stretch after work to metabolize a tense shift, and managers who practice mindfulness to better handle their emotional response to stress. We need to lift these people up and make them our guides.
I love the ideas in this article. Keep up the good work.