Mental Health in the catering sector

For employees working within the catering sector, the workload is very demanding and it is often pressurising to meet the satisfaction of customers. Seeing that restaurants are beginning to accelerate again, following lock down being eased, no doubt that catering employees will now be expected to work within a new norm.  Social distancing is now a new aspect to consider for workers in this sector, on top of getting familiar with technologies to ease the pressure, such as kitchen lifts and tablets to take orders. They also have to constantly monitor the activity of customers coming in and out of the restaurant, which overall will only heighten the pressures.

The points above, along with the extensive working hours, that employee must commit to, will attract challenge. These challenges will not only have impact the physical wellbeing of workers, but their mental wellbeing too.  Before lockdown occurred Research by Mind reported that 45% of workers felt that they are expected to cope with work stress in silence, and 31%  felt that they couldn’t openly talk to their line manager if they felt stressed. We can predict that these percentages will increase when restaurants start flowing again.

In this article, we’ll identify the key sources of stress, and how they can be remedied within a catering workplace.

How do we describe stress?

The symptoms of stress can be hugely diversified and caused by several variations. It is the body’s reaction to pressures and changes which can result in physical, emotional, and mental stress. The stress hormone cortisol is released which puts us in fight or flight mode, where we feel overwhelmed for a period of time. Stress can of course be a normal part of life and can often be useful in small amounts for helping us get motivated to accomplish tasks efficiently, even boosting memory.

Stress can occur when we’re made to give a speech to multiple people at the same time, or when taking an important test, which afterwards subsides, and we want to return to feeling normal with no adverse health effects. However, too much stress can be detrimental to us, causing us to not feel like ourselves and unable to cope. Symptoms of too much stress are:

  • Inability to concentrate
  • Chest pain
  • Body aches and pains
  • Irritability
  • Frequent colds
  • Insomnia
  • Low energy
  • Changes in appetite
  • Anger
  • Feeling depressed

What’s important is how you deal with stress. The best approach to take is to try to acknowledge and understand symptoms, reduce stress, and perhaps seek professional help.

Keeping the smile visible

Working in the catering industry, you’re probably familiar with the high stress environment such as the demanding customers, busy bars, carrying food out, endless cleaning. There’s a lack of control working in this industry, particularly with working long hours on weekends, busy festive periods that we’d prefer to spend with our families, often expected to work at short notice, and interference with our personal and social lives.

Workers in the catering industry can also suffer stress over worrying about money — with some employers paying poorly, employers being contracted to work zero-hour contracts, and tips being taken. The additional stress of finances on top of working hard in a high stress environment will be a key cause of stress.

While you cater for stress, you overall morale and productivity will be affected, which can sometimes result in more sick days being taken, putting further strain for those covering. So, what can be done to help manage stress?

How to reduce stress levels?

Perkbox, an organisation that focuses on employee satisfaction, had conducted research that discovered that 64% of hospitality workplaces don’t offer solutions for their employees to resolve their stress. If more strategies were to be implemented to improve the working environment, then both employers and the business will flourish.

So from this research, the first action to be considered by the catering industry, would be open a process, that will allow managers to have one on ones with their employees, creating a supportive environment. Trying to reduce the stigma around stress and encouraging staff to come forward with any problems they’re having will help create a network of help and trust. Happy employees are hardworking employees!

The catering industry is mainly populated by young transitional workers, so they can’t offer perks such as health insurance. What many employers don’t know about is employee assistance programmes — affordable, effective forms of stress counselling to help support workers’ health and wellbeing. If as an employer you’re unsure about how to deal with supporting your workers, contact Mind or Samaritans for free advice.



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