The Secret Struggles of Working in the Restaurant Business

Working in the restaurant business can be rewarding on many levels, but it also comes with its unique set of struggles. These are just some of the challenges that workers in the restaurant business regularly face.

Long, Late Shifts

Particularly after the global pandemic we’ve experienced, many restaurants are finding themselves understaffed. Which means that the existing staff is usually overworked.

Add to this the fact that many food establishments are open late into the night, as well as all day on the weekends, and the results are odd working hours and shifts that are too long, leading to overall fatigue that results in more mistakes being made.

Physical Exhaustion

Working in the restaurant business is physically demanding. From dishwashers to waiters, and from chefs to bussers, restaurant roles require spending time on your feet for most of the day.

It’s not surprising that people who work at food establishments complain of back pain, neck pain, repetitive motion injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches, and other physical issues.

Ungrateful Customers

While some customers are a delight, others can be a nightmare. They treat restaurant workers like dirt. They’re demanding, demeaning, insulting, and ungrateful for the important service being provided by people who are working hard to earn their pay.

They’re ignorant of the heavy workload each staff member has to carry and the high number of patrons that need to be served. Ungrateful customers drain the energy of even the hardest-working restaurant staff members.

Poor Tippers, Low Wages

Some restaurants choose to pay their workers living wages. Others won’t or can’t, and this creates tremendous stress for workers.

In an industry that over-relies on tips to fill in wage gaps, poor tippers are a big problem. Naturally, there are those who feel that it’s the restaurant’s responsibility to pay workers, not the customer’s, and they choose to tip little to nothing.

Unfortunately, the one who suffers in this scenario is the underpaid restaurant worker.

Inadequate HR Policies

Overall, the restaurant industry is a disorganized sector with poor HR policies. If a worker complains, little is done to improve working conditions.

More often than not, management opts to replace workers who speak up rather than make needed improvements. This simply isn’t fair.

Mental Fatigue

As a result of being overworked, underpaid, insulted by patrons, and underappreciated by management, far too many restaurant workers experience mental fatigue. They show up to work drained, and this creates a vicious cycle that can hurt the establishment’s reputation in the long run.

According to Nation’s Restaurant News, an independent publication covering the foodservice industry, some of the top reasons workers are staying away from the restaurant industry include these:

• Wages & Benefits: Even as other types of workers are starting to see better wages, restaurant workers are still being underpaid and getting few, if any, benefits.

• Leaving for Other Opportunities: The struggles of working in the restaurant business are pushing good people away – many are seeking higher paid jobs that are more stable and provide a more consistent schedule.

• Mental & Physical Health Concerns: Feeling both mentally and physically exhausted, many workers are prioritizing their health and leaving the restaurant business.

Resulting Poor Service

What happens when restaurant workers are undervalued and disrespected? Over time, even the best and most motivated workers will start to provide poor service. It’s unavoidable.

Unhappy, stressed-out workers can’t do their jobs well. And when this happens, everybody loses, from customers who are getting poor service to restaurant owners who are seeing their clientele grow smaller.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Like That

Of course, with a little cooperation from management and patrons alike, restaurant work doesn’t have to be a miserable experience.

By hiring enough staff, scheduling in regular breaks, paying a living wage, and using the latest technology available to simplify everything from ordering and delivery to business management, restaurant owners and managers can create a work environment that’s enjoyable and less demanding.

And by putting themselves in the shoes of the kitchen and wait staff, patrons can start to treat restaurant workers with greater respect, understanding the struggles and challenges they face on a daily basis.

By treating restaurant workers with the courtesy and respect they deserve, the secret struggles of working in this business can be diminished for a better experience all the way around.

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