Pressure In the Restaurant Kitchen
This evening I watched a program on Australian television which looked at the level of stress behind the scenes in restaurant kitchens. The stress level was so high that some chefs and other workers had succumbed to the pressure cooker environment by taking their own lives. The story focused on the life of one particular chef who was married with a beautiful wife and young child but the pressure in the restaurant kitchen was more than he could cope with and ultimately he responded by taking his own life.
You can view the program here as recorded by the ABC 7 30 Report Click Here
Many work places demand long hours and intense pressure but the hospitality industry seems to be right up there as being one of the most stressful workplaces. This is especially true in those high end restaurants where guests pay good money for an amazing eating experience. They sit at beautifully dressed dining tables in their designer clothing waiting for this extraordinary meal they are prepared to pay dearly for. These patrons, keen to show off their favorite eating place, are totally oblivious of the stress being experienced by the chefs and waiting staff in their attempts to satisfy each customers expectations. The kitchen staff work long hours and are constantly on their feet . Fatigue, anxiety and fear can overwhelm them at any time and being a place with easy access to alcohol they may resort to imbibing while at work.
How Much Pressure is Too Much?
Recognizing pressure in the restaurant kitchen.
The environment in the kitchen is hot and steamy. The space is limited. Staff are under each others feet. Chefs are trying to turn out their best signature dishes determined to please. The waiters are desperately trying to appease the frustration of customers waiting patiently and then impatiently for their long anticipated dining experience. As the pressure increases things start to go wrong. Orders get mixed up, a key ingredient has run out, staff are getting irritated and edgy until finally someone snaps. The pressure in the restaurant kitchen is too much to cope with and tempers begin to flare.
It is no surprise that many people will find this kind of workplace extremely stressful. They will suffer silently for a time, then it starts to gradually take its toll on them until given a few triggers the whole thing boils over and genuine people struggling to cope, fall victim to some form of mental illness that will be exacerbated by an increase in drug or alcohol abuse, lack of sleep and bouts of extreme anxiety. The final result may be a total mental or physical breakdown and in some cases, suicide.
What Causes this Level of Stress in the Kitchen?
Some burning questions concerning pressure in the restaurant kitchen.
Is it the business owner pushing his staff to do more than they can possibly cope with.?
Is it the incompetency of the head chef, not being well-prepared for the menu he has placed in the restaurant?
Perhaps it is inexperienced waiting staff getting orders mixed up or not managing to attend to other needs of patrons?
Or are we the patrons to blame for our unrealistic expectations?
These are just a few questions that have been rolling over in my mind since viewing the program.
Stress in the workplace is not unique to Australia, it is happening all around the world. Awareness of the issue should bring about a desire to change the situation by examining ways that some of the stress triggers can be eliminated.
It is not right that even one life is lost as a consequence of the pressure of work.
Finding Balance in the Kitchen.
A recipe for change to reduce pressure in the restaurant kitchen.
I have run a hospitality business myself so I have some personal experience of these kind of pressures.
My suggestions would be:
- Do Not Watch Gordon Ramsay. …..Ever.
- Build a website outlining the menu and suggest customers wanting a special dish within a particular time frame to pre order online. That way the head chef has a good idea of what to expect and the amount of ingredients he will need ahead of time.
- Ensure adequate working space for every staff member so that they are not tripping over each other.
- Value every staff member, encourage them with compliments when they are doing well and pay them well. .
- Cut down the noise of cooking clatter and chatter in the kitchen and play some inspirational or calming music.
- Ensure every chef working in the kitchen is very familiar with the menu items and how they are to be presented.
- Waiting staff should not have to share the same floor space as the chefs.
- Capitalise on the quieter moments by ensuring staff take time out. Have a room nearby where they can sit down and relax.
- Educate the customers to adjust their expectations so that they understand that if they are ordering something special, they need to wait and may have to pay a little extra.
- Allow all the staff to be involved in decision-making as far as choice of menu and allocation of duties is concerned.
Maintaining a stress free workplace is essential for staff well being.
Many workplaces can be stressful and can lead to mental illness if measures are not taken to ensure everyone is well cared for and coping with the demands of that particular workplace. We can eliminate pressure in the workplace kitchen with considered planning and thought.
One life lost as a result of a stressful work environment is one life too many. Occupational Health and Safety is paramount to the ongoing success of any business and the staff should be considered as the most valuable asset for that business. They need to be valued accordingly and systems put in place to ensure a harmonious stress free working environment for everyone. The people in authority should treat each one with respect and listen to their individual concerns. They should never be spoken to in an intimidating way as Gordon Ramsay does in the following video.