Restaurant Industry Insights

Restaurants Embrace Mental Health Initiatives for Staff

The restaurant industry can be tough. It’s long hours, irregular schedules, and busy shifts. Of course, it’s not just the restaurant industry experiencing workplace stress. A study conducted by Aflac in 2022 found that 59% of U.S. workers experience burnout. In 2019, the World Health Organization recognized burnout as a syndrome, stating its cause as unsuccessfully managed chronic workplace stress. 

The symptoms are loss of energy or exhaustion, increasing mental distance or negativism, and reduced professional effectiveness. And burnout and workplace stress are found to have a close association with mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and trouble sleeping.

Despite its widespread existence, the restaurant industry is one of the top spots where staff experience mental health issues. In fact, it’s right behind personal care positions regarding the number of employees who experience depression. A survey by Paychex revealed that over 80% of employees in the hospitality industry, including food services, feel burned out by their workload. Our sector was followed by manufacturing, which came in at over 77%.

While we’ve always known about the challenges inherent in the industry, we haven’t always considered how to resolve them. What’s interesting is that the struggles we faced during the pandemic and the many months that followed, left us with a greater awareness, as challenges often do. Today, many restaurant operators are choosing to help employees who face mental health issues, getting them the help that may enhance their capabilities in the industry and provide coping skills for the rest of their lives.

Restaurants Response to Depression and Burnout

At the core of many physical and mental disorders is stress. High stress levels are also one of the major drivers behind burnout. In response, some restaurants are finding ways to help employees relax and reduce their anxiety. A few of the offerings include:

  • Complimentary gym or yoga studio memberships
  • Stress-management courses
  • Paid sick days to support well-being
  • Seminars on the signs of stress and mental health issues, how to address them, and the appropriate services
  • Flexible scheduling by using apps that make it easy for employees to swap shifts
  • Early scheduling so employees can make plans outside the workplace
  • Access to online teletherapy appointments
  • Address substance abuse and find local chapters that help overcome addictions

Creating a Healthy Workplace Culture and Environment

In the restaurant industry, the top feelings associated with burnout were disdain or resentment toward colleagues or management. If that’s the case, complimentary gym memberships will do little to relieve the stress. Instead, it’s an inside job that involves a close look at the restaurant’s culture and the working environment. 

Is there clear communication? Do managers favor certain employees and brush off the rest? Or, worse, do they create an environment of unease, offering little support and tempers that are quick to flair? Are your managers under extreme stress and taking it out on the staff? Stress or anger management classes may be in order.

To help build a positive culture, consider team-building experiences. Some restaurants start softball, volleyball, soccer, or touch football leagues with other restaurants and bars in the area. Host a staff dinner or barbeque, allowing your team to mingle outside the restaurant. Not only does this enhance communications, but it also demonstrates your appreciation. 

Plan a fun event, from attending a local sporting event to enjoying a movie together or visiting an escape room. Escape rooms enhance the team spirit as they’ll all have to work together, solving puzzles and discovering clues to escape. 

It’s also important to open up communications by meeting with your staff one-on-one. While time-consuming, this initial deep dive into your company culture will reveal significant insights.  

As you can see, it’s a lot to consider. The good news is that mental issues are no longer stigmatized. If someone feels stressed or depressed, they can, hopefully, express it without being judged. Getting help is no longer considered a weakness but a strength.

The Payout

In addition to the warm, fuzzy feeling when you help another human, you can also expect some workplace rewards. As a sense of balance and peace permeates your establishment, you’ll find workers call in sick less, a higher retention rate, and increased productivity. 

A Widespread Problem

Of course, it’s not just the restaurant industry experiencing increased mental health issues. A recent survey by the Business Group on Health found that 77% of large employers reported an increase in mental health needs among their workforce. This represents a 33% increase from last year.


What industry has the most mental health issues? 

According to a study conducted at the University of Cambridge, hospitality and real estate sectors experience the highest rates of mental health problems.

How do you handle stress in the hospitality industry?

It’s important to create a good work-life balance that incorporates exercise, healthy meals, adequate sleep, and fun.

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