Published on: March 4, 2020
by Kevin Coupe
Eater has a story about how, "according to research conducted by Unilever Food Solutions, the global supplier to the food and beverage industry that has taken an active interest in mental health in the industry, 74 percent of chefs are sleep deprived to the point of exhaustion, 63 percent of chefs feel depressed, and more than half feel pushed to the breaking point."
In fact, "a 2015 study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (MHA) ranks the restaurant industry highest among 19 industries for illicit drug use and third highest for heavy alcohol consumption." And the MHA believes that things aren't any better today.
Which is why, the story says, there are numerous organizations that have "sprung up over the past three years in an attempt to save a workforce that is collectively hanging by a thread." Among them: "Ben’s Friends, a support group for restaurant industry professionals who struggle with substance abuse, in 2016 to break that stigma. Today, there are chapters in 12 cities; the newest chapters in Louisville, Kentucky; Kansas City; and Washington, D.C. each had over 30 people show up to their first meetings … Restaurant owners and managers are seeking out seminars, trainings, and consultants to help their workers feel safe and stable at work.
"In addition to Ben’s Friends, chef Patrick Mulvaney’s I Got Your Back program out of Sacramento, California, offers employees peer-to-peer counseling; some restaurant groups are experimenting with capped working hours, wellness initiatives, and a more open kitchen culture where talking about mental health is the norm. Although restaurants’ individual policies differ, all of them align on one crucial step: It’s essential to make the effort to talk with every single employee on a regular basis to check in and see how they’re doing. In the restaurant industry, this basic human gesture is a radical act."
The restaurant business is known for being an incredibly tough place to work, with enormously high rates of addiction. (Also sexual harassment … I wonder when they will come up with programs do deal with that.) It is heartening to see that there are efforts being made to address the problems that high-pressure can create.
In Portland, Oregon, the story notes, restaurant group and charcuterie maker Olympia Provisions has started a program that encourages employees to skip that after-work drink and instead earn a token for doing things like "yoga, rock climbing, spin classes, and other physical activities that provide an outlet from work. Employees can even trade in 20 tokens for a spa treatment."
Eater goes on: "Today, over half of Olympia Provisions’ staff participates in the program, opting to not have a shift drink once or twice a week in exchange for a token. This means that each month, employees are redeeming gift certificates for a range of activities.
"Ultimately, it comes down to caring for your staff in the way you would treat your family or friends."
Which is a good and Eye-Opening mantra for any business.