The world is a rapidly changing place, these days, and those changes are reflected in business, including the restaurant and hospitality industry. Between pandemic regulations, new health measures, social expectations, and eco-minded decisions to be made, restaurant owner-operators are shifting their practices and management to accommodate the sweeping influence of the all generations.
It is important to accept where society is moving, and it is important to implement new procedures with a measure of empathy. As Jason Berkowitz, founder of ARROW UP Training, innovative online training for the hospitality industry, says in a new blog post for Nation’s Restaurant News (NRN), “Attempting to shame people into showing up is counterproductive. Instead, we need to connect with and genuinely comprehend the unique individuals comprising our teams.”
In his recent post, “Navigating anxiety in the workplace: A compassionate and constructive approach,” Berkowitz unpacks the mental health phenomenon of the younger work force and an issue that more old-school restaurant owner-operators might only recently be encountering: mental health days. “For those grappling with high anxiety levels, the impact can be deeply disruptive and incapacitating,” explains Berkowitz, and as society moves to embrace mental health issues with the same seriousness as physical health issues, anxiety-driven episodes may be leading to work absences. “We often hear that today’s workforce must tough it out, just as generations before them did,” says Berkowitz. “Instead, we need to connect with and genuinely comprehend the unique individuals comprising our teams.”
Berkowitz’s expertise is verifiable. Starting as a food cashier at a mere 14-years-old, ARROW UP Training is responsible for successful restaurant teams from fast casual to Michelin star establishments. He is uniquely positioned to understand the former “tough it out” work ethic, while also comprehending society’s shift and its impact on the labor pool. His blog post for NRN carefully outlines the cultural phenomenon of anxiety issues, how managers should handle anxiety-induced absences, and the work-related and possible legal ramifications of these situations.
“Whether stressed about working a shift, showing up for an event, or meeting someone new — no matter what the scenario, we all have highly effective tools to help relieve stress and find balance in the moment,” he says, listing different coping mechanisms that he employs or teaches other to use. And then he dives into the specifics and consequences of these scenarios in the restaurant workplace, advising managers to be on the lookout for signs of depression, to avoid reactionary responses which could have legal consequences, and to tap into the true leadership skills that make good managers.
Richard Weil, owner and principal of National Restaurant Consultants (NRC), pays a tribute to a great friend of the industry. “Here in the Colorado market where NRC is headquartered, an iconic chef Matt Selby was laid to rest. Matt, or ‘Mattie’ as most called him, was a magnificent person and talented chef—and an unfortunate victim of mental health pressures and suffering. It is with great sadness that Matt suffered. We call for all food service and hospitality professionals to work to understand the importance of helping our staff, colleagues, and friends.”
Navigating social-emotional territory requires a trained professional who is prepared to lead rather than micromanage. These skills delicately balance empathy and responsibility, and our restaurant consultants are experts in training managers to lead and lead well.