Updated: Sep 15
Having worked in hospitality for over 15 years I understand and appreciate the stigma surrounding it regarding the high-pressured working environment. People who work in the industry often work extremely long hours, back-to-back with extraordinarily little breaks in between and one of the main reasons recruitment for the industry can be difficult.
When you decide to work in hospitality you do so mainly because you love it, you love the people and you are passionate, so, these hours are to be accepted, it is considered normal. But should it be normal that because we view our jobs as a passion that we should compromise on things that are important such as our own health and mental health?
Kris Hall, the founder of The Burnt Chef Project recently quoted on Instagram “Happy Chefs make happy food.” This statement resonated with me so much that I felt compelled to contact Kris regarding the work that he is doing for the hospitality sector to raise awareness for mental health in the industry and for men.
What brought you to start the burnt chef project?
"I've been working within the hospitality industry for around 9 years from, a wholesale perspective, and have seen first-hand the struggles of mental health issues with both colleagues and friends. Long antisocial hours, tough environmental conditions, and consistently high pressures to perform are just some of the things that professionals within this sector are dealing with daily.
Years of these conditions provide a hot bed of psychological and psycho-social issues such as high stress levels, anxiety, depression, alcohol, and drug abuse not to mention the impact that the working hours and conditions have on personal relationships with friends and families.
There is a strong stigma within the hospitality trade. The term "Badge of Honour" is often used and refers to an individual who will suffer in silence at personal cost over letting the team down or to save being singled out. We want to change that on its head and redefine the term. Every person within hospitality should be able to discuss the state of their mental health and gain support from their peers and employers. It is important that although mental health can't be seen it is regularly discussed and policies reviewed. Those that speak out against the stigma and should be the industries new definition of Badge of Honour."
People who enjoy their work are more productive than those who do not. So why is it acceptable in hospitality to push the very people who provide that first-class service to breaking point, to burn out? This is the very reason so many people do not stay in the industry, why we have a high turnover rate, why there is a national shortage of chefs throughout the UK. If your flower does not bloom, you do not pick the flower in which it grows. You fix the environment. This must be the same for chefs, and our front of house staff in hospitality. The responsibility lays with management to ensure this environment is created and mental health is treated seriously within the industry and the working environment. When asked what management can do to help Kris Hall said,
Could you give some simple tips and tricks for restaurant owners/managers to start taking their responsibility and create a safe environment where mental health is highly valued and looked after?
We suggest a number of measures which include:
Distributing hours evenly across teams
Adopting a zero-tolerance approach to mental health stigma
Ensuring staff know their rotas and days off at least 1 week in advance giving them time to plan
Upskilling staff to ensure even workload
Spend time training staff to improve the management of their workload
Reducing the number of working days to mitigate longer hours
Offering flexible working hours to those with families and young children
Regular breaks away from the working environment to reduce fatigue and stress
Reducing split shifts to a minimum
If all businesses in the UK adopted a zero-tolerance to mental health stigma our work environments would be safer, and more inviting. Simple things like giving your staff a rota a week in advance gives them the opportunity to plan, to create a plan for down time. This time is crucial for anyone who works extremely long hours to recuperate and for their mind to feel balanced and for their life to be balanced.
With talks of lock down ending soon and gradual ease back into the new norm I believe it is essential for individuals, companies, and management to look at what they can do to help with mental health. People have already suffered during lock down, look after your staff, look out for each other. The hospitality industry will bounce back, and restaurants will be thriving. Now is the perfect time to introduce new policies, new changes that can help create a better environment and a better culture.
Kris Hall and The Burnt Chef Project are a fabulous ambassador for mental health throughout the UK and strives to continue to raise awareness.
What are your ambitions with the Burnt Chef Project? Within the UK and abroad?
"Hospitality employs close to 72 million people worldwide with 3.2 million within the UK alone. We have barely scratched the tip of the iceberg with our message and there is a lot more work that needs to be done in both improving the saturation of our message and challenging workplace stigma. I’d like to see the Burnt Chef Project become synonymous with leading the charge against workplace mental health stigma and that the hospitality industry flourishes and improves as conversations and attitudes on this subject begin to change worldwide."
You can support Kris Hall and help raise awareness for mental health through www.theburnchefproject.com
When it comes to working in the hospitality sector we want to encourage and support the future generation, the next Gordon Ramsay’s and Clare Smyth and create an environment that does not shout ‘Mind over Matter’ rather an environment to help them grow.
After all happy chefs make happy food.