Why hospitality workers need a healthy work/life balance. Blog by Emma Underwood

The Staff Canteen

Emma Underwood, general manager of Where the Light Gets In and former Burnt Truffle restaurant manager is one of our new bloggers for 2018.

In her first official blog with The Staff Canteen, Emma discusses the importance of having a healthy work/life balance and why jet-setting is vital to the restaurant business.

decoration for christmas dinner with wine glass 23 2147716260We’ve made it through. December is over and the Christmas period has passed. The once-a-year diners with their requests of extra ice, side plates, highchair for the toddler they neglected to mention on booking have retreated back indoors for the next 11 months or so. It’s a tough time when working in restaurants, an endurance period designed to push you to the very limits of your gravy boat and prosecco flute supplies. The habit of shops putting their Christmas decorations up as soon as the last Halloween pumpkin has left the shelf means that the period gets longer every year, and those big party bookings now seem to test the rota for months, rather than just a couple of weeks. All Christmas shopping is done during the ten minutes snatched for another staff tea of turkey sandwiches, meaning lunch services are relentlessly interrupted by Amazon deliveries. It’s a period when we are all at our most selfless and generous, sacrificing time with our friends and family in order to provide strangers with precious moments with the ones they love instead. While it may not always feel it, Christmas is ultimately the most rewarding time of year to be working in hospitality. It makes the Christmas dinner champagne that you bought at cost price through the restaurant taste all the better.

Healthy work/life balance

This is why it is so vital to have a healthy work/life balance at this time of year. I am so fortunate to work in a restaurant that closes for the first couple of weeks of January, but many don’t operate in the same way as us. Having a restaurant full of exhausted staff is damaging and counter-productive, but plenty are still guilty of it. The 90 hour caffeine-fuelled working weeks that are far too common in this industry are nothing but detrimental, to both employee health and to guest experience. It’s little wonder why so few see this as an attractive career. Everything improves after some rest: memory, enthusiasm, drive. It’s the duty of all employers within hospitality to fully recognise this and ensure their teams are given the time off and working conditions they deserve.


Tomorrow I fly to Lisbon for a week. My colleagues are currently in Paris, Copenhagen and South Africa. We’ve already been sharing with one another the food we’ve been eating and the new wines we’ve been enjoying. One of the best ways to stay inspired in this industry is to learn how to fully enjoy the entire restaurant experience. To be given the chance to languish over a 5 hour meal in a Parisian bistro is to discover the producers their sommeliers are excited about, the vegetables the kitchen are going crazy for, the different glassware, cutlery and crockery to marvel over, or even just learn a new way to fold the toilet paper. Time away from the restaurant is integral to its operation, we all just need to make sure we get ample amounts of it.

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

The Staff Canteen

Editor 10th January 2018

Why hospitality workers need a healthy work/life balance. Blog by Emma Underwood