Addressing Mental Health in the Time of COVID-19

The restaurant industry is a demanding sector. You and your staff are under a lot of pressure to ensure each customer has the best possible experience. Therefore, the topic of mental health and on-the-job stress is likely a familiar one.

So what happens when a pandemic occurs? Not only are we worried about our customers, but the well-being of our staff and co-workers as well.

On any normal day, the fast-pace environment, intense working conditions, and the unavoidable run-ins with unpleasant guests is enough to cause anyone to feel overwhelmed.

However, COVID-19 has brought about new, ongoing impacts and heightened stressors. Restaurant workers are now facing a perfect storm for stress, depression, and negatively impacted mental health. This is causing many great chefs and restaurant workers to leave the industry for good.

That’s why, now more than ever, it’s important for the restaurant industry to acknowledge and address mental health.

Whether you’re an operator looking to support your staff, or a restaurant worker feeling overwhelmed, it’s important to understand mental health in the foodservice industry. More importantly, it’s important to identify some resources that are available to you.

Mental Health in the Foodservice Industry

Even during times of prosperity, foodservice workers can still experience issues with their mental wellbeing.

Research from Unilever Food Solutions found that 74% of chefs are sleep deprived to the point of exhaustion, 63% of chefs feel depressed, and more than half feel pushed to the breaking point.

Those are hard stats to ignore.

Looking at current times, you can see this impact amplified.

At the height of the pandemic, more than 8 million restaurant employees were out of work. For those still employed, they are adapting to new, stringent protocols and processes to ensure the health and safety of themselves and their guests.

There is a natural increase in fear, anxiety, and isolation brought on by conditions like this.

The Importance of Addressing Mental Health

Even though this is not an unfamiliar topic in the foodservice industry, 64% of hospitality workplaces don’t offer any solutions to alleviate feelings of stress.

That’s a problem, now more so than ever before.

When employees are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, it could be detrimental to both the individual and the business. In addition to personal health implications for the employee, this could also lead to impacted work ethic and performance at work.

When operations are proactive towards improving the restaurant working environment, both employees and the business will flourish and stay healthy.

Fair Kitchens Can Help

To help address the growing concern of mental wellbeing issues across the foodservice industry, Unilever Food Solutions launched the Fair Kitchens initiative.

The goal of Fair Kitchens (#FairKitchens) is to provide inspiration, training, and tools to make the foodservice industry a better place to work.

Fair Kitchens places an emphasis on valuing the ingredients that make up a happy kitchen. This includes passion, communication, teamwork, and time for individuals.

Resources Available to You

Mental health challenges like anxiety, depression, or substance abuse are some of the most common struggles experienced in the foodservice industry. Understanding these mental health challenges that foodservice workers experience is a great first step.

To start, Unilever Food Solutions has created a Mental Health Guide for those who are concerned about their mental health wellness or interested in facilitating a healthy kitchen environment.

Additionally, Fair Kitchens offers operators a variety of tools and solutions to implement into their work environment. From videos to guides, foodservice professionals can leverage Fair Kitchens to help themselves or their employees find support.

Join the #FairKitchens Movement

Whether for yourself or your staff, now is the perfect time to prioritize mental health in your operation.

From ideas for activities to help put the Fair Kitchens Code into practice to lists of organizations that are available to support you, Fair Kitchens is more than just a resource with documents you can download. It’s a movement that values of a happy kitchen.

Join the Fair Kitchens movement and take a step towards addressing mental health in the food service industry. When you prioritize staff happiness at the same level of diner satisfaction, you will help create a positive work environment for your team.

Visit the Fair Kitchens website to sign up and access your free starter kit. Or, learn more about how to take care of yourself and your team with this free mental health video series provided by Fair Kitchens and Unilever Food Solutions.

Dining Alliance Helps Independent Operators Succeed

These unprecedented times are causing a strain throughout the foodservice industry.

If you haven’t already considered joining a group purchasing organization (GPO), now is a great time. Dining Alliance is here to help our members succeed by empowering them to grow through money saving rebates and programs. Best of all, Dining Alliance programs are available at no cost to restaurant members.

That means cost savings back to your bottom line.

Are you interested in learning more about how a GPO can help your business? Or, are you interested in learning about additional products available from Unilever Food Solutions? Contact us! We’d love to meet you.