How can a restaurant employee avoid burnout

Slack in the job: no time for burnout

The gastronomy is not for the squeamish. You have to be able to plug it in and at the same time be considerate and do your best. As trite as it sounds, the guest is king. The service has to work, the food tastes good and the price has to be right. "If a mistake actually does occur, the most important thing is that the guest does not notice it," says star chef Tohru Nakamura from his day-to-day work. Just like industry colleague and award-winning chef Jacqueline Pfeiffer, he also directs a well-positioned, manageable team with clearly defined areas of responsibility and room for maneuver. "Somehow there is always pressure," says Pfeiffer. "If someone has forgotten something, it can sometimes happen that we cannot arrange an entire table."

And then there is the domino effect: the kitchen has to react, the guests are put off with an intermediate course, behind the scenes there is stress and of course someone responsible who has to deal with his own conscience on top of that. "Burn-out has a high personal contribution and is also rooted in the private sphere," says Vienna burn-out coach Günter Niederhuber. »I see again and again that my clients sometimes make excessive demands on themselves. They always want more, are not satisfied with their own performance and hardly recognize their physical limits. For this reason, they are also immune to the understanding of others and want to conform to this self-imposed perfection. "

Teamwork works

“We are already biting,” Pfeiffer emphasizes, “without ambition and full throttle you won't get very far in our profession. Those who don't really want that fail because of the extreme working conditions alone. "Memories of days of work, freshly sewn cuts or feverish colleagues in the kitchen have shown her what she doesn't want in her team:" Common sayings like ›Burn-out is a rumor ‹or› I am a restaurateur and have no time for burn-out ‹scare me.« In the catering and hotel industry in particular, people live for their jobs. They pursue their dream with heart and soul, which they may have cherished since childhood. A dream that can only be successfully fulfilled with a functioning team and effective communication.

“Talking is always the be-all and end-all,” says professional chef Nakamura. »As soon as situations arise that do not meet our quality standards, we recognize and correct the error. Maneuver criticism is generally given at a later point in time outside of the stressful moment. «In his team, feedback rounds are on the agenda. The aim is to »clean the table so that you can end the day and start the next neutrally. Apart from the rank, everyone should and can express positive and negative aspects here. «Coach Niederhuber also advocates open communication,» especially from top to bottom - it makes a significant contribution and opens up the chance that ideally both sides will deal with negative news can".

Can't do it?

Even if you, as a chef de cuisine, take your team under your wing and value each and every one of them, not everyone is permanently equipped for the job. "We try very well to monitor the behavior and mood of our employees very closely in order to prevent certain situations," says Nakamura. He knows from his own experience that there are moments when you feel tempted to throw in the towel. “During my early days in the Vendome restaurant, I was mainly responsible for the fish post. On the one hand, it was a huge challenge right after my apprenticeship. On the other hand, I didn't want to disappoint anyone in my immediate environment. In addition, I was exactly where I wanted to go and stay: in a three-star restaurant in Germany. So I fought my way through, after a few weeks of great effort I gained ground under my feet and security in my work. "Of course, not every hangover is a burnout, because" those affected put a lot of work into getting there, "explains Niederhuber . "The body constantly sends signals that, in an emergency, were constantly ignored over a long period of time."

Burn-out doesn't come overnight with a bang, it creeps up on you. According to recent studies, time and performance pressure are the most important factors. Jacqueline Pfeiffer says of herself that she is tough and “still, the story with the third toque was tough. You need thick skin if you find yourself relegated in the media. At that time I wanted to hide. Today, in retrospect, I may even be happy that I was able to concentrate completely on my two toques. "

"You need thick skin if you find yourself relegated in the media."
Jacqueline Pfeiffer, Chef de Cuisine

Then as now, Pfeiffer found support and balance in private life: »I have large, well-functioning relatives and real friends who don't bend for me and vice versa. When sitting together and having good conversations, I get down quickly. At the same time, I like to spend time with myself - in nature, hiking or skiing. That gives me strength. «This is exactly what the expert advises:» Clients from this industry shouldn't necessarily look for a hobby that gives them an adrenaline rush to compensate. The tendency is clearly in the direction of relaxation. "

Nakamura is also on the right track and maybe even a few steps further: »For me, work and leisure are not necessarily mutually exclusive, the transition is fluid. The satisfaction with my work and the people who understand me keep me in balance. In this sense, I am not looking for an explicit compensation and am not the type of person who runs kilometers at night or in the morning anyway. "

Stress can be positive

Work as an identity - for this you like to accept stress and, as is not uncommon in gastronomy, many hours of work. Niederhuber: »Man is not made for the lonely island. Stress has positive properties. It makes us more productive and creative. It is the dose that creates the poison. If you have too much of it, at some point you can no longer switch off. ”What can then follow is unpleasant: physical and mental exhaustion, lack of sleep, irritability, excessive commitment, nervousness, social withdrawal and, out of desperation, those affected may resort to medication or drugs.

Those who constantly miss a good mood at work and stop treating their guests with honest cordiality bring even more momentum to this hamster wheel on the potential path to burnout. The topic still haunts companies as a big taboo, across industries and regardless of hierarchies. Even those directly affected often do not manage to deal openly with their "weakness". It is not uncommon for them to finally admit that they are not doing well. The attentive look and the understanding words of another can certainly break a barrier.

Seminars, trainings and more


The professional association for food and hospitality (BGN) starts with prevention and offers, among other things, seminars for small businesses on the subject of health.

“Health-oriented leadership” (June 11th to 13th, 2018) or “It's good that you are here! - Appreciation in the company ”(April 23 to 25, 2018) are just exemplary titles from the solid program. Under the motto "Promote quality and health in small businesses", the BGN also organizes regional seminars for small businesses in the catering industry with various cooperation partners.

More topics and dates as well as contact details at
In addition, the BGN is responsible for its own website on the subject of stress in the industry and provides tips and useful information as well as an informative radio play at A. Kitzmann regularly distributes the seminar "Positive thinking and stress management" throughout the year. The practically oriented program
is aimed at specialists and managers.
All dates and further information at

Those directly and indirectly affected can get initial advice at Psychological and occupational health tests serve as the basis for further steps. Each federal state has its own location and its own hotline.

The subject is also a concern of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce (WKO); it also has state-specific contacts on burnout prevention in companies. With the platform, the WKO specifically addresses companies and employees who care about health.

Günter Niederhuber organizes seminars on the subject regularly and again in the new year. You can find current and new dates at

For the trainer and hypnotherapist Daniela Blatty, burnout is a symptom of the modern way of life, and (work) life balance is one of her core competencies. To this end, she has written her own holistic learning program called “Limitless”: The basic seminar Limitless will take place in 2018 on the following dates: Thursday, March 8th to Saturday, March 10th; Thursday, August 16 to Saturday, August 18; Thursday 15th to Saturday 17th November. In addition to individually designed seminar content, Blatty also offers free trial seminars. More information at

Burn-out prevention is one of the hobbyhorses of the Hypnosis Center Switzerland. Under the title "Time for me: seminar on burnout prophylaxis or prevention and stress reduction", the institution offers a wide variety of modules for companies. More information at is already offering a one-day work-life balance workshop on February 9th, which is intended to help those affected to find their inner balance again. Further dates and topics can be found on the website.

Article from Falstaff Karriere 06/17.