Covid-19 lockdown is a once in a lifetime opportunity to address the brutality of our industry’s culture, with depression, stress and drug and alcohol abuse way higher than they should be.

It’s no wonder this business has long been struggling to recruit and retain staff.

Lockdowns have led to teams being furloughed or made redundant in mass numbers. What this means is, it’s the first time in my two-decade long career when we are not too busy to explore and challenge our work place values.

I urge business owners and head chefs to spend this time planning for a cultural revolution – so that when lockdown ends we bounce back as sustainable, proud and healthy – attributes we could not boast before.

Covid-19 has just met an industry already self-destructing. Are our diners aware of the trauma masked by the smiles we offer when we’re greeting them in our establishments? I’m sure it would bother them.

I’m saying this as someone who loves the business. I’ve worked at Raymond Blancs Le Manoir, I’ve cooked for the C-suite at Barclays global head office and I’ve led events at iconic venues such as Abbey Road Studios. I am a chef of 21 years, and now I am on a mission to change our industry.

Let’s greet the new workforce with a new outlook – one which nurtures a sense of calling

Chef shortages and a lack of quality staff are endemic these days. Hospitality is turning into a stop-gap job, especially in front of house.

It’s not true that young people have less grit than we did. It’s just that they are attracted to jobs which embrace their passion and nurture their sense of purpose. And they simply won’t tolerate abuse.

Our culture needs to focus more on why we are showing up to work and make sure our staff is here for a reason aligned to the company’s.

Wellbeing and sustainability are high on the Millennials’ agenda. So we need to adapt as an industry. We need to give staff the tools to shut off, the tools to see when they are suffering from mental illness, and to speak up before they reach a crisis point.

The Caterer published a survey last year that found 64% of respondents were aware of drug use in the workplace. 62% did not think the sector took care of its employees. 73% of chefs admitted to calling in sick due to stress.

And in response? Only 10% had received training to support health and wellbeing. We need to re-evaluate our culture and build resilience right across the sector.

We need new leadership techniques for controlling stress and speaking to staff in a positive manner. We need healthy high performance. Our staff need to believe their destiny is in their own hands; that they are allowed to thrive and to help others to fly.

We have the time. The industry will not be back to normal for possibly 18 months – many of our trained staff will have left the business by then.

Let’s greet the new workforce with a new outlook – one which nurtures a sense of calling and supports a lifetime in the business.

If anybody would like any support, whether you are in charge of a big team or you are an individual who could do with some help, drop me an email.

Let us work together to create a new dawn, a new improved industry that thrives in every way.

For more information about creating healthy workplace teams please contact Shane at Jasper Wellbeing.

Hospitality Action is able to provide sign posting and support for hospitality workers seeking to address addiction issues.