This article was written by Katie Fairchild for Modern Restaurant Management.
The majority of restaurant operators expect the restaurant staffing shortage to extend into 2023 or later, according to the National Restaurant Association’s 2022 State of the Industry Report. Inevitably, the constant stress of being short-staffed and working tirelessly to fill the staffing gaps is causing many restaurant managers to suffer from job burnout.
Stress is part of the territory as a restaurant manager. The long hours, endless tasks, and physical demands are expected, but can also be managed. However, if the stress begins to carry over into one’s personal life, taking a mental and emotional toll that makes a person feel they can no longer function, it may be considered burnout.
The physical and emotional stress of job burnout not only cause increased manager turnover but can also lead to serious medical conditions including fatigue, depression, sleep disturbances, cognitive impairment, and more.
All careers have their ups and downs. If a manager begins feeling that the downs are consistently outweighing the ups, there are steps that can be taken to fix the underlying issues. Below are five ways to combat burnout and bring satisfaction back to the job.
Take Some Time Off
Yes, the restaurant needs its staff, but staff also needs some time outside the restaurant. Take a day off or book a vacation to regroup. If taking time off is not an option, then consider if there are certain work tasks that can be completed outside of the restaurant. While this may not equate to fewer hours worked, it still provides relief from the constant demands that inevitably pop up when physically in the building. With so many restaurants using cloud-based management software, tasks such as creating employee schedules, paying invoices, ordering product, analyzing recipes, and more can be done remotely – even via a mobile app in most cases.
Know One’s Limitations
Write down obligations for the week and prioritize them. Don’t feel guilty saying “no” to items not on the list. This might take some getting used to, but sometimes it’s not possible to meet the expectations of others – and that’s ok.
As long as the job is getting done while maintaining professionalism and creating pleasurable guest experiences, one can limit the number of additional tasks taken on. If a restaurant operator says “no” because they sincerely do not have any more time to give, people will understand. It is a temporary setback and there will be plenty of opportunities to make up for it.
Ask for Help
Even if a restaurant operator puts in 12–15-hour days, there will always be more to do. Some managers may think they can’t afford to be away from the restaurant, but can they mentally and physically afford not to? The restaurant will not crumble if the manager needs to sleep a full eight hours tonight.
When it is impossible to make time to do everything that needs to get done in a day, perhaps another manager or key employee can help create the month’s schedule or enter the invoices. Chances are colleagues have also felt bouts of burnout and will step up to help during this temporary rough patch. Coworkers are not mind-readers, so restaurant managers need to raise their hands and ask for support.
It is important for managers to take a step back and remember why they chose the restaurant profession. Restaurants create the food, drinks, and special environment where people gather with family, friends, and colleagues to enjoy themselves and make memories. When experiencing burnout, they should look beyond the daily tasks at hand and remember the big picture. An operator’s duties may include creating schedules, counting inventory, and entering invoices, but that does not define them. They should instead focus on why they chose this career path in the first place. What about the career brings joy? Why does the work matter? What are the small rewards that can keep them going?
Connect with Others
Lean on a support system. There is a lot of research on “burnout syndrome,” and depression, detachment, and isolation are a few of the common symptoms. Managers should keep this in mind and try not to close off from those around them. Whether they reach out to family, friends, or co-workers, a good support system can help managers cope with temporary exhaustion. If they have access to an employee assistance program, they should take advantage of its services.
Restaurant managers experiencing job burnout should remember they are not alone. Feelings of being tired, overwhelmed, or pushed to the limit are all signs for employees to tap into a support system. Burnout cannot be fixed overnight, but preventative measures can be taken to get operators back on their feet and feeling confident in their profession.