Self-Care for Service Workers

Recently, as you may have noticed, there’s been a labor shortage in the foodservice industry. From coffee shops to drive-throughs to sit-down restaurants, the industry has seen both an increased demand for their product and a decreased supply of employees.

It’s not my place, nor is this the platform, to speculate about why there’s a labor shortage. As an employee working in the service industry, though, I believe now is as good a time as ever to talk about self-care for service employees.

I’m a server and bartender at a local upscale casual restaurant where I’ve worked for over two years. I truly love working there. The staff are close, our clientele are loyal, and the food is outstanding. We are not, however, immune to the labor shortage. While we’re working as hard as we can to maintain an exceptional level of service, sometimes things get a little overwhelming. For that reason, I wanted to share some of the self-care practices I use as a server/bartender.

The biggest one is working to avoid burnout. Serving is a physically and mentally demanding job. Being on your feet, moving quickly, and remembering multiple orders and requests from guests for several hours straight can take its toll. Before work, I try to make sure I eat a filling meal that’s also high in carbs to maintain energy and make sure I’m not too hungry after an 8 or 9-hour shift. I also have to make sure I get enough sleep to recover from the previous day. When I’m at work, I make sure I’m drinking water as often as possible. Staying hydrated is so important when you’re constantly moving, and cold water also helps keep you alert and focused.

Before work, I usually also take some time to prepare myself psychologically. I’ll do some mindfulness work and get myself in the headspace to serve. I try to leave external stressors at home so I can keep a clear head and prevent myself from getting distracted at work. Of course, that’s not always possible, but I can see a difference in my performance as a server when I’m distracted by personal stress.

On the other hand, I also try to leave work stress at work and avoid bringing it home whenever possible. I have a hard time with this one. If something goes wrong at work, I have a tendency to dwell on it and let it affect me more than it should. Working in the service industry means making tons of small mistakes, though.

At the end of the day, the most important self-care practice I can employ is giving myself and the rest of my staff grace. We’re all juggling several different tasks at once while also working as a team to make sure every guest has an outstanding experience. If I can’t get to something as quickly as I would like, I have to remind myself that I am one person. I have one body, and that one body can only do so many things at one time. I have to not only forgive myself if I miss something, but also be willing to ask for help when I need it.

In short, I do what I can to prevent physical burnout, I practice mindfulness to keep my head clear, and I give myself grace by forgiving my mistakes and asking for help.

To all the food service workers out there, I know this is a tough time, but we’ll make it through. Take care of yourselves. ❤️

As always, stay safe and stay healthy.


Kayla W