The results come after operators told The MA alcohol use was cultural to the catering industry: Justin Bone said the accessibility of alcohol at a bar made it “a good place to be an addict”, with the hours, stage, alcohol and groupies making bar-work “the closest thing to being a rock and roll star”.
Similarly, celebrity chef Tom Kerridge believed the hospitality worker’s lifestyle was all about “excitement, late nights, meeting people, buzz and adrenaline”.
The Michelin-starred chef of Marlow gastropub the Hands & Flowers said: “If you work a Monday-to-Friday, nine-to-five job, for instance, as an accountant, you’re not surrounded by alcohol and your place of work is not one where people go for fun and there’s a DJ playing; but if you work in hospitality, it’s your workplace as well”.
Help for mental health
The problem is nothing new: 2011 research by The Insider showed chefs were nearly twice as likely to be addicted to alcohol and drugs than the average person.
Kris Hall, founder of the mental health charity the Burnt Chef Project, said addiction can impact an employee’s ability to work well in addition to impacting mental and physical wellbeing.
The Burnt Chef Project features a 24/7 helpline for hospitality workers wishing to talk about their mental health.
Hall said: “As an employer, you want every member of the team to be as healthy and happy as possible, but you also need them to be working to their strengths and performing well in their role – not just for their team, but also for the company as a whole".
Operators should educate themselves on the signs of addiction and create compassionate work environments that foster openness and trust, to help staff feel supported.
Red flags might include taking more days off work than usual, difficulty focusing at work, noticeable changes in physical appearance and appearing anxious for no reason.
Signs something is wrong
Unexplained changes in personality, mood and co-ordination can also be signs something is wrong.
“If you’ve spotted these signs, talk to the individual privately and express empathy rather than blame or accusing them of anything,” said Hall. “Make sure you’re approaching the conversation with facts rather than assumptions – for example, saying you’ve noticed a smell of alcohol rather than accusing them outright of having a drinking problem.
“Addiction is often someone's way of managing very difficult feelings or experiences. Stress tends to fuel addictive behaviour, so criticising, demeaning or shaming them will only push your colleague away and may even encourage them to seek further comfort in self-medication.”
The Drinks Trust, an organisation providing support to those in the drinks trade, encourages those struggling with addiction to seek out self-help groups, cognitive behavioural therapy and detoxification.
If you are struggling with your relationship to drugs or alcohol, find support here:
The Burnt Chef Project: https://www.theburntchefproject.com/
The Drinks Trust: https://www.drinkstrust.org.uk/downloadable-resources