How do you cope with pressure in the hospitality industry? Read Emma Underwood's latest blog

The Staff Canteen

Emma Underwood, general manager of Where the Light Gets In and former Burnt Truffle restaurant manager wants to know why is there so much pressure in the hospitality industry?

In her second blog with The Staff Canteen, Emma discusses how time affects restaurants and staff,  the perspective everyone needs to take during service and how a meal delivered through stress and tensionwill be passed on to the guests.

Cooks Chefs Food Restaurant Kitchen 2623071

time is one of the biggest guiding

factors in a restaurant

Timing is everything

During service, time is one of the biggest guiding factors in a restaurant. A table that receives a course three minutes late can feel like a disaster, or guests that arrive 15 minutes after their reservation time seem to commit some insurmountable betrayal. Those 4-6 hours of lunch and dinner are a careful choreography of steps between the kitchen, front of house and guests, and any missed beats risk sending a whole service into disarray.

Putting it into perspective

My (chef) boyfriend was assisting in a cookery workshop recently, and he was talking to one of the guests about the importance of timing in the kitchen. With the pressure of the pass mid-service, 5 minutes can often feel like a lifetime, and the urgency you feel is incredibly overwhelming. The workshop guest identified with this, they were a manager at a hospital, where 5 minutes in an operating theatre can cost up to £20,000, and 5 minutes for someone who cannot breathe is the difference between life and death.

This story to me really highlighted the perspective we all need to take during service. No matter how important it feels, it’s just a bit of dinner. It’s not going to cost us £20,000, and no one is going to die, so why does it often feel this way?

Feeling the pressure

The pressure within restaurants, both inside and outside of the kitchen is immense. It is crippling and consuming to the point where you hear the ticket printer in your sleep, dreams haunted by images of a never-ending, horrendous service. It means that my boyfriend wakes up every morning with a sore jaw, stress causing him to grind his teeth in his sleep, and it has led so many of us to suffer from crippling anxiety and mental health issues. Just for a bit of dinner.

The reasons behind this disproportionate amount of pressure we all feel are numerous, but I think one of the main factors is that restaurants are incredibly emotional places to work in.

quoteFor your guests, their meal is not just about the food on their plate or the wine in their glass, it’s precious time they get to spend with someone they care about.

Their experiences at your restaurant are often very personal, and you want to make sure that they remember them for the right reasons. Moreover, the growth of social media and online review sites about restaurants means that the dining experience now extends far further than the few hours they spend with you. Poor meals can now be broadcasted to the whole world, permanently, with sometimes massive consequences.

The team you work with also play a huge role in that ‘life and death’ feeling. Restaurants are one of the only workplaces where you spend an inordinate amount of time with your colleagues, many teams become like families, so to let anyone down by making a mistake can feel like the end of the world.

It is vital therefore that we all take the time for perspective, in a restaurant is incredibly sensitive, and a meal delivered through stress and tension is only ever going to be passed on to the guests. Few people will notice a course running a couple of minutes late if it is delivered with a relaxed smile, and your mental health will benefit immensely. Ultimately, it’s all just a bit of dinner.

Blog by Emma Underwood, General Manager, Where the Light Gets In

Emma Underwood blog image
Emma Underwood

Emma Underwood is the general manager of Where the Light Gets In, based in Stockport, having previously worked at Burnt Truffle in Heswall, part of Gary Usher’s ever-expanding restaurant empire.

Emma started working with Gary in 2012 when she joined the Sticky Walnut team as a waitress before moving to the sister restaurant, Burnt Truffle as the restaurant manager.

Emma is also a co-founder of the TMRW Project along with Anna Sulan which was set up in 2015 as part of their Chefs of Tomorrow dinners.

The project acts as a platform for people starting out early in their career to help them grow, learn and connect with each other.

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The Staff Canteen

Editor 9th February 2018

How do you cope with pressure in the hospitality industry? Read Emma Underwood's latest blog