Life in the restaurant, the party never stops

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It’s midnight and the manager of a crowded bar is gathering his troops for a brief moment of calm on a Saturday evening. It’s not the first time tonight that the manager pulls out a bottle of Wild Turkey and pours a glass for each of his exhausted employees. They lower the fire and after a series of high fives, the staff immediately get back to work.

These so-called “staff meetings” took place every few hours, where crouching behind the bar with a bottle of Wild Turkey and a bar of thirsty customers, Hassel Aviles and his colleagues could take a moment to calm their nerves before returning in the trenches.

Aviles, 38, has worked in the food and beverage industry for more than 20 years and is no stranger to the partying, booze and drugs that plague the business. The nature and schedules of the restaurant industry have led to a party-centric work culture, which is inherently detrimental to the staff who find themselves there. For many, this lifestyle can lead to a host of personal issues, including mental health and addiction.

“Sometimes when I get out of my shift, I don’t want to think about work anymore,” said Kimberley Moriarty, a third-year journalism student at Carleton University. “I want to think about something else. And most of the time, you and a few other co-workers were fired at the same time as you and you all finished your shifts at the same time.

“So you guys are going to have a beer and decompress together and then maybe it will turn into something else that you know will obviously escalate.” – Kimberly Moriarty, third-year journalism at Carleton

No 9 to 5

In response to this, Aviles and Ariel Coplan founded Not 9 to 5, a Canadian organization focused on raising awareness of mental health and addiction in the restaurant industry.

“The biggest issue is how easily partying fits into our lifestyle,” said Tyler Da Silva, executive chef at ByWard Market’s Sidedoor Contemporary Kitchen and Bar, who has worked in the industry for 15 years old.

When you work for a government job, you work from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. or from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. What happens is after work, you have your happy hour, you go home, you relax, and then you start again. Silva explained.

The constant energy required weighs heavily [photo by Spencer Colby]

“We don’t have that in this industry. We work 10 hours a day, and when we’re done working, the only thing we have is bars and casinos. It is our outlet. When you’re done with your shift, you’re on an emotional high, and whether it’s a busy night, a shitty night, or a good night, you keep looking for reasons,” he said.

“You find reasons to party, you find reasons to drink.”

Aviles said it’s a huge problem in the industry because people need a way to kick the high after work, and the easiest way to do that is to drink.

“After a shift, the energy buzzes and you’re supposed to fall asleep? It’s kind of an impossible act,” she said.

Moriarty said the high energy of the job affects him physically and mentally.

“If I work shifts and then come to school, my legs will bounce in class, because I just need to get up and move. But in terms of mental health, it’s just a lot of stress and anxiety that it puts on you,” she said.

The party affects everything

Laurier Lamontagne, 26, a chef at Sidedoor, went out at least three nights a week in his early twenties. Four days of debilitating hangovers have since persuaded him to practice moderation.

“You have fun first, then you feel bad afterwards. So going out always seems like a good idea at that point, and then you wake up and realize it really wasn’t,” said The mountain.

He said the constant drinking, partying and hangovers likely hampered his progress as a chef.

“There’s no direct correlation, but most of the time, top cooks are less likely to go to hell when they’re done working,” he said.

After he stopped going out as often, he began to take on more responsibility at work and is currently researching menu tweaks, which he said he couldn’t have done before.

Now Lamontagne can spend more time researching and helping Sidedoor develop its new menu.

The party culture is so deeply ingrained in the industry and has always been romanticized by celebrities like in Anthony Bourdain’s book, Kitchen secrets.

“It’s a huge factor in promoting this image that we have of ourselves as rock star chefs, that we can go out and do anything and everything,” Da Silva said.

Because of this, he said he thinks some people consider it an honor to be able to go out drinking, slam a few beers in the morning, and still function at work.

Although Lamontagne himself doesn’t buy into the glorified lifestyle of a rock star chef, he said that when he started out in the industry he was told by chefs, “It’s about caring , go out, get drunk, and then do the whole thing. restart.

“I feel like there’s still change that needs to happen in this very male-dominated and patriarchal industry that we work in, where being strong is about enduring, pushing yourself to the max and rewarding yourself. with substances after the shift,” says Aviles.

The combination of work and school led Moriarty to cut back on his drinking after work. “I walked away from you know, having a beer after a long day at work or doing that kind of thing because I’m like, okay, I have to go home and do some schoolwork.” she says.

“But in the summer, when I didn’t have class, I drank a little more. And I think that came with the whole mentality of working hard and playing hard. Like being in a very fast-paced, high-stress environment, that takes a lot out of you.

“Being in a very fast-paced, high-stress environment takes a lot out of you.” [photo by Spencer Colby]

The legacy of those tough chefs who endure whatever a service throws at them, while sweating a hangover, teaches young industrial workers that it’s part and parcel of the job.

“There’s also such isolation that’s happening,” Aviles said.

“I know more people who go out on their days off just to not be alone. So where are you going so you’re not alone? A bar. And it all starts with one. – Tyler Da Silva, 15 years in the industry

Da Silva said he would also see colleagues entering the restaurant on a slow Sunday, simply for company.

Aviles sees this loneliness as part and parcel of the mental health and addiction issues many people in the industry develop. Not 9 to 5 collections industry specific data on Mental Health in the Food and Beverage Industry, and out of 400 respondents, when asked if they suffered from mental health issues and/or addictions, 87% said yes.

“It’s so heartbreaking, but not at all surprising,” Aviles said.

Aviles began working as a waitress at age 17 and has over 20 years of first-hand experience in mental illness and the restaurant industry. She has suffered from anxiety and depression since high school, but it wasn’t until her mid-thirties that she began to talk more openly about her illnesses, which she says is essential to her healing and recovery. his recovery.

Aviles said the culture of serious work doesn’t cultivate real conversations about these issues.

“Over the years I realized this was a fatal problem,” she said. “If more of us were talking about this, we would find that eight or nine out of 10 people in the room feel similar things.”

Speak up and find solutions

Aviles’ work with Not 9 to 5 focuses on exactly that. She said the first step is simply to recognize the high that results from the hectic and strenuous nature of their work, the impact of the hours and the amazing things that the back and front of the house manage to accomplish at each shift.

“I would also say that anyone in a position of authority or leadership has a huge responsibility to influence work culture.” – Hassel Aviles, co-founder of Not 9 to 5

For example, rewarding staff with substances is something many restaurants do.

Aviles said owners should avoid offering staff free or discounted beer after shifts because it encourages a party culture by putting alcohol directly into the hands of their staff.

“Something I would definitely change would be accessibility to alcohol or other substances as a coping mechanism to deal with stress and work things because that clearly has negative effects on people,” said said Moriarty.

Instead, restaurateurs could give back to their staff in a constructive way.

Ariel Coplan, co-founder of Not 9 to 5 owns and operates several restaurants and said he negotiated discounted gym memberships for all of his staff. It has also implemented a four-day working week, in which staff are not allowed to work more than four days in a row. This, along with its strict no-overtime rule, helps combat the toll of working long, hard hours.

Aviles said one of the most important things is working to have honest conversations in the workplace around the reality of the restaurant industry and the struggles the majority of people face. Supporting each other through good and bad service, whether it’s an after-shift rant or a five-minute conversation about mental health, is the first step to developing the conversation and move towards a healthier work culture.

Moriarty also said finding coping mechanisms and talking to other people in the industry can help.

“Coping mechanisms are hard to come by, especially when you’re in [an] an industry that has a party culture around it, but it’s definitely about talking to people who stayed in the industry through that, like their party phase and now they’re like, this isn’t is just a job,” she said.


Feature graph by Sara Mizannojehdehi. With files by Marieta-rita Osezua.

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