As a young man I was a pretty good competitive runner. I was always an advocate for taking necessary days off during training and a break after each competitive season. I knew a lot of runners who were very proud of their consecutive days running streaks. Hearing that someone has gone out running for 536 consecutive days may sound impressive to the casual jogger or non-athlete but what I observed was that most of these guys were mediocre competitors and often underachievers. I think the same philosophy can be applied to my occupation.
Both our bodies and our minds need proper rest. I’m not just talking about just a good night’s sleep, but a break that gives us time away from our daily mental routine and away from what we spend the bulk of our physical energy on. It’s unfortunate that most people cannot afford to take extended breaks and that most employers do not have such a system in place for such a luxury. In most cases it’s unreasonable to expect our employers to give long periods of time away from our jobs, or numerous smaller vacation stints.
I think it would benefit restaurants that are attempting to be competitive from both a service and culinary viewpoint to find ways to get their employees proper rest so they are not simply mediocre at their jobs. It is however difficult in our business to have key people from both the FOH and the BOH not in the restaurant as much as possible.
I was speaking to a dear friend a few days ago, a chef, who was telling me that tears are not uncommon after work due to working such hours, often seven days per week. I know this person, a creative, hard-working and devoted chef that will give 100% under good conditions. This can happen in many occupations but I see it all too often in our industry. It needs to change, and we need to demand a better quality of life.
This past May I made a self-discovery that my work was not what I’m accustomed to and not up to the standards I set for myself and knew I couldn’t continue to function in a high quality environment. Move forward eight months and I find myself with a newfound clarity that I haven’t had in a very long time. I feel more creative, quicker in thought and more motivated than ever. With an extended break I learned a lot about myself and not only am better off for it, people around me in the workplace are too. It’s not something we all can afford to do, but we as a group that own and work in restaurants need to find a better way of doing things.
Food service is a hard business with a generally high turnover rate and low profit margins. We are strapped with a tough-guy mentality that says you get to work no matter what and you sooth your wounds of the day with some alcohol or weed then move on to the next day, the next week, month, and year. That’s no way to run a business, and no way to live your life. Being a chef, a cook, a bartender, or a server requires a lot of creativity, clear thinking, and fast-moving. The tasks involved with working in a restaurant are much easier done by happy, fresh, and clear-thinking individuals who look forward to going to work.