10 October 2019 is World Mental Health Day, an opportunity for everyone associated with the hospitality industry to consider the role they play in fostering a happy and supportive kitchen culture.
Research has shown hospitality workers to be at a greater risk than most of depression, substance abuse and anxiety. While unusual hours, a fast-paced environment and dealing with tricky customers are part of the job, unacceptable behaviour inside kitchens such as bullying, intimidation and illegal working conditions are not. World Mental Health Day exists to give prominence to global mental health education, awareness and advocacy. It’s a worthy initiative supported by Unilever Food Solutions (UFS).
As a company that is deeply aligned with the hospitality sector, UFS is taking active steps to shine a light on toxic kitchen culture in an effort to end the talent drain and establish a better understanding of what makes a harmonious and productive workplace.
That is why UFS has chosen to be the driving force behind a global movement for positive change.
UFS has recently partnered with other like-minded companies to create #FairKitchens, a programme designed to inspire a better kitchen culture in our industry by providing tools, training and resources to help businesses become a Fair Kitchen, and publicising the positive actions of operators who treat their staff with decency and respect.
At UFS, we believe it is time for change. While more people than ever are dining out, fewer are choosing hospitality as a profession.
The industry has a culture problem and it’s now being exposed in various forms across newspapers, television and social media. From systemic issues around wage theft to a general lack of care for employee wellbeing, it is likely many of the problems stem from learned behaviours that have become normalised.
This unfortunately extends to victims; with the fear of losing a job, they choose to remain silent. Worse still, many talented people simply leave the industry.
The Fair Kitchens movement is anchored in a belief that a positive kitchen culture makes for a healthier business. With a stable staffing group comes a happy and productive team, and your diners will enjoy the best quality offering your team can produce.
UFS believes there has never been a greater need for a global advocacy programme like #FairKitchens.
Already in Australia, the 65-venue strong Hog’s Australia’s Steakhouse has pledged itself to the programme’s ideals. In fact, the company signed up the very day it learned about #FairKitchens.
UFS and its partners know that change won’t happen overnight but for the long-term health of the sector and those who derive employment from it, the commitment to shift attitudes is worth the effort.
By raising awareness of the need for cultural change and acknowledging foodservice operators who run Fair Kitchens, UFS and its partners believe they can begin to change the way professional kitchens choose to run their operations.
On World Mental Health Day, we are reminded of the importance of this work for hospitality employees who are feeling vulnerable and under-appreciated.