Restaurant Owners: Is It Burnout or Stress?

job of a restaurant owner restaurant leadership
Restaurant Owners: Is It Burnout or Stress?

Restaurant burnout is a real thing. The restaurant industry is consistent in its inconsistency. The ups and downs, the ins and outs, they demand a lot of energy and juggling. It’s a stressful industry, so how do you know when it’s just extreme stress or burnout, and why does it matter? In this video, I explain the difference for restaurant owners between stress and burnout and what you can do about it.

First, let’s talk about the difference between the two.

People who are stressed have a loss of energy and are really tired. Those with burnout have lost their motivation. They don’t want to get up in the morning or walk in the door of the restaurant. They don’t want to talk to the manager. 

For people who are stressed, it takes on a physical toll, such as back pain, or waking up in the middle of the night with heartburn.

People who are burnt out experience more of an emotional toll. They might feel more depressed, they're sad, they have a lack of motivation.

As a leader, when you lead from that state, that's the direction your restaurant will take.

In an article published on, November 18, 2020, titled, “The Surprising Difference Between Stress and Burnout” by Brian E Robinson, a PhD., Robinson said, burnout was coined in 1974. In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) reached a milestone officially classifying it as a medical diagnosis, including the condition in its international classification of diseases, the handbook that guides medical providers in diagnosing conditions. It describes burnout as a syndrome, conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.

Four symptoms can help you recognize it.

  1. Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  2. Increased mental distance from one's job
  3. Feeling of negativity or cynicism related to one's job
  4. Reduced professional efficiency.

Feeling burnt out sounds a lot like wanting to give up. Work has beat the crap out of you and you're depressed. Now, there's nothing wrong with admitting something like that. Because we can all get to that point. We all sometimes need to ask for help.

But here are some primary signs from the article:

  • Loss of meaning
  • Mental and physical fatigue and exhaustion
  • Moodiness and Impatience, being short tempered.
  • Loss of motivation and reduced interest in commitments
  • Inability to meet obligations
  • Lowered immunity to illness
  • Emotional detachment from previous involvements
  • Feeling like your efforts are unappreciated
  • Withdrawal from coworkers and social situations
  • Hopelessness and a helpless and depressed outlook
  • Job absenteeism
  • Sleep deprivation, foggy thinking and trouble concentrating

That all sounds like somebody who's feeling quite depressed because of their job. In this case, it could be your restaurant. The article goes on to talk about new research that states the most important burnout symptom is a feeling of total exhaustion. To the extent that it can not be remedied by normal recovery phases of evening, a weekend, or even a vacation, said researcher Christian Dorman, who led a study at Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz.

The report goes on to say to protect themselves from further exhaustion, some try to build a psychological distance to their work. That is, they alienate themselves from the work, as well as the people associated with it, and become cynical. It’s showing up, but not really being there.

I hear stories of stress every day, and I worry that unattended stress can lead to burnout. So, how do you overcome everyday stress, especially in the restaurant business? How do you avoid getting burned out and or get out of that state of burnout?

Here are my “non-scientific” suggestions.

  1. Force yourself to have recovery time in your workweek. Take one or two days off every week. The place is not going to burn down without you. This goes back to my Restaurant Prosperity Formula because restaurant prosperity is freedom from your restaurant and the financial freedom you deserve. You need time away to regenerate.
  2. Take time to be introspective. Often things that cause us the greatest stress are out of our control. My father used to say it could be raining outside and you can choose to be sad that it's raining, or you could be happy. It's your choice. You can't control that it's raining, but you can control your attitude. And that is a skill that we all must learn as leaders of our business because when you're down, everyone's down.
  3. Think strategically. Come up with a plan. That's why I promote budgets so much. You’re creating a financial plan and systems plan. This is why you need time away in the restaurant. You can start thinking about the marketing, new menu ideas, expanding, training, whatever you can do. But if you don't take the time to start to think about strategically growing your business, it won't.
  4. Enlist help. In my program, I don't let you join without having what I call an implementer. You need somebody who gets shit done. I know you as a restaurant owner are already overwhelmed, and you're not going to get it all done. You need somebody who can start and finish projects. Look at your team and find the person who loves your business, who trains others and holds people accountable. This is the type of person who can be your implementer. And look outside your restaurant for help with perspective and ideas. Maybe it’s a partner, a coach, a consultant, doesn’t matter. Reach out and get help.
  5. Learn what you don't know and take action. Now that's right out of the Restaurant Prosperity Formula. The most successful people I've ever worked with understand they don't know what they don't know, so they need to learn it. They take action. Knowledge may be power, but taking action is the driving force that moves you forward.
  6. The real magic pill in all this, to reignite or not allow yourself to lose your passion for hospitality, your passion for your restaurant, keep the spark to your passion.

Now make sure you watch the next video where I offer you eight ways to reignite your passion for your restaurant so you can steer clear of burnout.

Be sure to visit my YouTube channel for more helpful restaurant management video tips.

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