On stress and the hospitality industry . . .

The development of a career in hospitality management seems to have a rather dark down-side at times. I’ve seen the signs of stress and overwork in several people I deal with, and it’s not just because economic times are difficult and unpredictable. The nature of this industry seems to demand a constant human toll.

Although we have a long way to go before we get to the stress levels of air traffic controllers, money market dealers and policemen, several things conspire to render hospitality a rather dangerous occupation — I don’t mean physically dangerous, although there are a few chefs around with fingers missing — I mean dangerous in the sense of long-term health and well being.

You are working while the rest of the world are recreating.

Unsociable hours

For a start, consider the hours you work. Not only can they be outrageously long, but they also tend to preclude normal social activities. People in the industry tend to socialise among themselves and, as a result, can develop what I call ‘incestuous’ thinking. This happens when you don’t get an even representation of life and adopt the attitudes and behaviour of a narrow section of the community. After a while you loose the ability to view your business from the customer’s perspective because you rarely associate with them.

Then there’s your family life to consider. You can easily find yourself leaving a lonely spouse at home and rarely seeing your children. I don’t have any statistics on marriage breakdowns in this industry, but I bet the figures are high. Just among the owners and managers I know and work with the record is appalling.

Yes folks, this is a big problem in our industry

Alcohol and drugs

Alcohol is the next big problem. How many alcoholics have you seen in the hospitality industry? I’ve worked with a few very sad examples and seen quite a few others well on their way to developing a debilitating or mortal habit. In fairness, lest you

Some people just don’t have the control to stop eating

think I am preaching from a pious position, I should tell you that I have had to curtail my own drinking a few times. It’s easy to slip into the habit of having one or two every night after close. Then it becomes one or two with good customers, a glass of wine with dinner, and so on . . .

Overindulgence

Then we have rich food in abundance. Food, glorious food! Food can make you obese; food can clog your arteries and food can be just as addictive as alcohol. The public dine with you occasionally, they don’t do it all the time; you can have what you want nearly every day — you just have to ask the Chef or go to the coolroom. The rotund hotelier or restaurateur may be an image much loved by the public, but it is not a good formula for growing to a healthy old age.

When business doesn’t go well the stress can be considerable

Last, we have to deal with plain, old-fashioned business hassles. Like when you can’t pay your bills, or when they put your rent up 500%. These type of problems can eat away at you and make life very unpleasant. Of course you are never going to be able to eliminate all these difficulties, but it is useful if you learn constructive ways to deal with them. The question is how?

Well, I think I’ve discovered a workable formula for survival that may be useful. Try this — GET FIT, BALANCE YOUR LIFESTYLE, LEARN TO BE ASSERTIVE. I know it’s easier said than done, but try it. As someone of infinite wisdom once said:

“Stress is the difference between the way things are, and the way you would like things to be.”