What is Employee Burnout in Restaurants & How to Fix It

There’s no doubt that the pandemic caused significant headwinds to restaurant staffing, though the industry has always struggled when it comes to the endless cycle of recruiting, hiring, and training new hires.

With many restaurants short-staffed, required to enforce mask mandates and capacity restrictions, and more, the staff that did remain in these restaurants were often pushed to their limits.

While feelings of tiredness and sluggishness are normal in any person’s work life, prolonged exhaustion and emotional labor can turn into something much more sinister if left unaddressed. Oftentimes, this can lead to employee burnout. 

This is a term that’s become much more commonly-used in recent years, so what exactly is employee burnout, and how can restaurant owners keep this from happening in their staff? Let’s take a look. 

What is employee burnout?

Let’s begin by getting on the same page about what burnout looks like in employees.

Burnout is defined by “the state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress” according to Psychology Today

As we’ve discussed, employee burnout has always been an issue in the restaurant industry, though the pandemic only made this worse. 

Of course, the causes of burnout can oftentimes be external to the workplace, like conflict at home, financial stress, and more. Even still, these stresses can very easily seep into the workplace, and additional adversity while on the job can manifest itself through work-related burnout as well. 

Why burnout is such a problem in restaurants

As we’ve mentioned, employee burnout tends to be a prolonged issue in hospitality, especially in restaurants.

So what is so detrimental about burnout? Specifically, burnout can lead to costly employee turnover, a negative work environment, and even a hit to the bottom line. Over the long-run, burnout that goes unaddressed could have major implications for the restaurant’s reputation and operations. 

Thus, it’s highly important to keep employee burnout in restaurants at bay, be aware of signs that it’s setting in with your staff, and find ways to curb its effects so you can avoid the negative consequences of long-standing employee burnout. 

Remedies for employee burnout in restaurants

Both for the health of your restaurant and your employees, management and owners need to find ways to avoid creating an environment of employee burnout in the first place, then know how to address it when it does arise.

Of course, every business has its seasons, which is highly true for the restaurant industry. So, you likely can’t avoid stressful situations and periods altogether, though you can work to make sure that it’s only temporary and doesn’t become a permanent problem.

Continue reading below as we dive deeper into what remedies exist to prevent employee burnout in restaurants. 

Pooled tips

In some restaurants, it’s customary for each server to collect the tips they receive each night, deduct the percentages they pay out to bussers and hosts, and pocket the rest for themselves. On the other hand, it may allow the staff to be moved around to different shifts and positions–without affecting their tips–if the whole staff pools and splits tips for the day.

Giving employees variety and allowing them a break from the busier dinner or weekend shifts can be a great way to reduce the stress they face on the workplace, though you don’t want this to be transfered to financial stress if they know they will make less tips during the less stressful, weekday lunch shift.

Thus, sharing the workload more evenly between shifts, days, and stations could keep employees more refreshed, and pooling tips means they don’t need to worry about the financial implications of doing so. 

Of course, this must be done with care and thought, because you don’t want employees to take advantage of this agreement and their peers by slacking off without fear of lost tips.

Tip back-of-house employees

On a similar note, restaurants can keep their back-of-house employees happier by extending tips to them for their work.

The kitchen workers are a very essential part to any restaurant, so making sure they’re tipped for their work can keep them motivated to push through large orders and work through the stressful shifts. 

Be aware of some of the laws and regulations that exist around this practice, as you don’t want to infringe on minimum wage laws or any other labor laws in your area.

One workaround for this is to include a service charge, not a tip, on bills, usually a percentage, that will go directly to the kitchen staff. Again, these will be treated differently than tips, so make sure you’re recording these payments properly, though it can be a great tactic to keep your back-of-house staff engaged on the job. 

Mandated breaks

Another way to fight against employee burnout is to have mandated breaks for employees. Of course, you won’t be able to monitor this as closely as you may like to, but it’s important for employees to know that breaks are welcomed.

10 minutes away from the restaurant floor to decompress and relax can keep them engaged for the other two hours of their shift. While many tipped workers like those in a restaurant may want to avoid breaks for fears of missing out on valuable tips, pooling tips like we discussed above can be a way around this. 

At the end of the day, workers in any field can benefit from taking frequent and short breaks, so make sure this is policy at your restaurant. Plus, it’s likely mandated by any unions or labor laws in your area, so it should be a normal practice to begin with. 

Invest in employee training with an LMS

Lastly, training your new hires well and keeping existing employees up-to-date on any policy or procedural changes is a great way to keep them prepared and having all the tools they need to be successful on the job.

There’s nothing worse than feeling poorly-trained on a new job, which can easily lead to employee stress and burnout before the employee has even had the chance to settle into their role.

With this in mind, consider utilizing a learning management system (LMS) to train restaurant employees, and curb frustrations and employee burnout that may arise down the road.

And with a great LMS Retention 360’s Retention360 HQ platform, you can easily customize courses, communicate within the platform, and keep your employees more engaged with integrations like videos, quizzes, and more. Visit our website today and request a free demo to get started.  

Bailey Schramm

Bailey Schramm