Restaurant employee burnout may seem inevitable. With long hours, unpredictable schedules, benefits that leave a lot to be desired and demanding work, it’s no wonder that four in five hospitality employees feel burned out.
Add a pandemic and labor shortage into the mix, and the effects of burnout become more severe. For restaurant operators who manage multiple venues, burnout-related understaffing and productivity loss scale up and become costly problems.
The good news is, if you identify burnout in time, you can ameliorate it before it gets out of hand and implement safeguards to prevent it from becoming a systemic problem.
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Why Does Restaurant Burnout Happen?
Burnout refers to work-related stress and physical and emotional exhaustion that leads to productivity loss and underperformance. At restaurants, burnout inevitably affects the guest experience. According to Mayo Clinic, burnout also involves a “sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity” for employees.
A number of factors contribute to burnout in the hospitality industry, including:
- Demanding work. From managing teams and customers to constantly fulfilling orders, restaurant employees must constantly be “on” and perform at peak levels. Moreover, during the current labor shortage, many restaurants are understaffed, which means one employee is expected to do the work of two or three people.
- Long hours. According to 7shifts, dinner shifts are eight hours long, while a full shift is upwards of 11 hours, on average.
- Poor work-life balance. Restaurant employees typically have unpredictable schedules and work when everyone else is having fun: nights and weekends. This makes it difficult to maintain a healthy work-life balance, plan for childcare and juggle work with family, school and social obligations.
How to Identify Restaurant Employee Burnout
By identifying the symptoms of burnout, you can get ahead of it and give employees the support they need to feel good at work. Pay attention to these signs of burnout among your management, front-of-house (FOH) and back-of-house (BOH) teams.
- Tardiness: Running late every once in a while is understandable. However, if employees who are usually on time come in late consistently, they could be experiencing burnout.
- Grumpiness: Employees who are grumpy or rude towards other team members or customers may be feeling like they’re overworked and underappreciated.
- Calling out sick: If you see an uptick in staff calling out sick, they may have worn down immune systems due to poor physical and mental health from work.
- Substance abuse: Unfortunately, 17% of restaurant workers have been diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder. Pay attention to signs of intoxication among staff.
- Increase in comped orders: If you see an uptick in comped orders on your POS, this could be a sign that dishes have been coming out poorly or servers have been entering in orders incorrectly, which could point to burnout.
Tips for Combating Employee Burnout At Your Restaurants
You won’t be able to eliminate restaurant burnout overnight. However, by creating an anti-burnout strategy that addresses the problem from different angles, you can systematically reduce it over time.
Leverage Technology and Automation
Automation can help staff do more with fewer resources. For example, a mobile order-and-pay solution can remove taking orders from servers’ plates so they can focus on building relationships with customers. Inventory management software can alert BOH staff when it’s time to reorder, so they can spend less time manually counting inventory. Marketing automation software, like SevenRooms, can put email outreach on auto-pilot so managers can devote more time to employees and customers.
Offer More PTO
Only 45% of restaurant workers get paid sick leave, compared to 73% of workers in all industries. By giving staff more paid time off, they’ll be able to take care of themselves and be more productive when they’re back at work.
Create Predictable Schedules
Creating consistency in staff members’ schedules helps them plan their personal lives and take care of obligations outside of work that could otherwise impact their productivity on the job.
Recognize a Job Well Done
A lack of manager recognition is one of the main causes of turnover in the hospitality industry. Improve retention by implementing an employee-of-the-month program, give kudos and gamify performance to make staff feel appreciated.
Create Opportunities for Advancement
Restaurant staff can become burned out when they can’t see a future for themselves at their workplace. Hospitality groups should promote internally to give employees a trajectory for growth.
Invest in Thorough Training
Equip employees with the tools they need to do the best job possible. If someone is struggling, give them more training time. Create resources and guides they can reference if they need help. A one-on-one mentorship system can also alleviate burnout by providing guidance and kinship.
Consider a Wellness stipend
If possible, give employees a wellness stipend they can use towards a gym membership or therapy. Doing so will help employees bolster their well-being outside of work which will help them at work.
Unlike a management role, which has opportunities for respite, staff who are on the front lines have to constantly be “on.” Implement more breaks to give staff more time to unwind during their shifts.
Rethink Tip Distributions
Consider creating a tip pool for FOH staff or giving tips to BOH staff to make everyone feel like they’ve contributed to the restaurant’s success.
Monitor Customer Feedback
Keep an eye on customer feedback surveys and public reviews to see if guests complain about specific staff members. If they do, check in with them to address their performance and learn what support they need to thrive.
Anti-Burnout Strategies for Restaurant Managers
Your restaurant management team often carries the heaviest workload. From managing the daily operations of service to employee hiring and scheduling, turnover is common at this level. Implement these retention strategies to reduce manager burnout.
Hire an Assistant Manager or More Managers
If your managers are flying solo and feeling overworked, hire assistant managers to provide support.
Managers wear many hats, but not all tasks may be worth their time. Consider outsourcing admin-related tasks, such as accounting, to free managers up.
Offer Incentive Bonuses and Growth Opportunities
Incentivize performance by giving managers bonuses for achieving sales goals or meeting other quotas. If providing added financial incentives isn’t possible for your restaurant, give top performers the opportunity to oversee or open a new location or work their way up by creating new roles on the executive or senior level.
Restaurant Burnout: An Institutional Issue
While it’s natural to want to blame employees for underperforming when they feel burned out, it’s more helpful to examine how workplace expectations and culture contributed to this issue. Only after seeing burnout as a problem can you combat it effectively and reduce it at scale.
SevenRooms can automate many tasks to help your team do more with less. Request a demo today.
Restaurant Burnout FAQs
1. Why Do Good Employees Quit Restaurants?
Good employees quit restaurants due to burnout and a lack of growth opportunities. When employees feel overworked and underappreciated and don’t see a way to develop professionally at a restaurant, they’re more likely to leave.
2. What Is the Fastest Way to Cure Employee Burnout?
Unfortunately, there’s no fast fix for restaurant burnout. Instead, addressing this issue requires a multi-pronged approach consisting of more paid time off, hiring more staff, implementing automation and giving employees more avenues for professional growth.