It can be difficult to identify when colleagues are struggling with stress and mental health. Mental health problems can distract employees from day-to-day tasks but it can also present more visible symptoms. The team at Pilot Light have identified the below four steps to help the conversation flow when looking after a colleague’s
mental health:

ASK: Start by mentioning anything different you’ve noticed. Maybe they’re spending more time at the bar, coming into
work late, or missing social events.

Question: “You’ve not quite seemed yourself recently. Are you okay?”

Remember, we often say “I’m fine” when we’re not. So if you think something’s wrong, don’t be afraid to ask twice.

LISTEN: Try to give your full attention, without interruptions. Don’t feel you have to diagnose problems, offer solutions or give advice. Follow-up questions are good too. They’ll help to let them know you’re listening

Question: “That can’t be easy. How long have you felt that way?”

ENCOURAGE ACTION: Help them to focus on the simple things that might improve their wellbeing. Suggest that they tell other people they trust about how they are feeling and if they have felt low for more than two weeks, suggest they see a doctor.

Question: “Are you getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and eating properly? Maybe there’s something that’s helped before?”

CHECK IN: Suggest you catch up soon – in person if you can. If you can’t manage a meet-up, make time for a call, or drop them a message. This will show you care and you’ll get a feel for whether they are feeling any better.

If you’re worried that somebody’s life is in immediate danger, go directly to emergency services.

Hospitality Action provides mental health awareness training for all levels of staff, helping operators understand how to identify and deal with mental ill-health and stress in the workplace. Employers can also subscribe to their Employee Assistance Program which is a care package that provides peace of mind to employers through a range of specialist, independent and confidential support services to employees 24/7. Visit for more information

Case Study

Howard Lewis, General Manager at Novotel Liverpool Paddington Village Hotel tells us how he is actively working to reduce anxiety and stress in the workplace. “It is vital that high standards are maintained constantly, meaning that working in the hospitality sector can be very demanding at times. Let’s not forget that even the best employees struggle to perform without role clarity, this can lead to stress, poor performance and anxiety.

My team and I conduct regular one-to-ones with staff members to check in with them. We are also in the process of putting together engagement surveys to evaluate stress levels more effectively. With this in mind, I encourage all our managers and senior stakeholders to work closely with their teams to promote staff wellbeing and stress management.
I encourage my staff to work as a team and make sure the workload is equally distributed. I am also a big believer in recognising and rewarding positive output and performance. The senior leadership team and I also support our teams to socialise together outside of work, and we organise a number of social events ourselves as a business. Moreover, despite the hospitality industry being 24/7, I also try to offer flexibility where possible to reduce anxiety and stress levels.”

Case Study

Gina Barbachano, Mixologist at Hanky Panky discusses what she feels are the most common causes of stress in hospitality and how she leads her team to maintain a positive working environment.

“I think the real problems especially post covid are long hours, not having the tools to work (not only equipment or products but the structure of the enterprise) and unfortunately, I see more and more colleagues struggling with building a team. Less people are willing to join this amazing sector at the moment, which is a shame. Another problem some teams experience is the absence of communication from the leaders.

For the team at Hanky Panky, after working for almost 4 years together, I can quickly realise if someone is stressed out because they change their mood, might use abrupt manners or in little details like punctuality and their facial expressions. It is important as a manager to check in with the staff as soon as possible, in order to make them feel better, help resolve whatever problem it might be and also have a better and smooth service for the day.

The most important thing is to lead by example and always step in to help someone before the other asks. This creates a culture of looking outside one’s responsibilities, making the team feel supported knowing that we will finish every task as a team. This community we create allows us to be more creative through collaborations and opens up further dialogue on how we can be better every day.”


Alexandra Watson, success and wellbeing expert gives guidance on how to create a positive environment at work, despite the current economic challenges: “The whole reason working in a kitchen is stressful is that you’re only as good as your last service. There’s an extreme amount of intensity in a short space of time.”

“There are several ways to create a positive environment which can help at all levels, the first is to show up for work in the right way. That means you are energised, you have a clear and happy mindset. You’re not bringing your “stuff” to work – there’s no place for your stuff – leave it at the door. That’s helpful for you and everyone else, especially if you’re the chef leading by example.

Start the working day early as that enables you to take a breath and generate a clear idea of what needs to be done that day, not rush into an environment of high stress. Make sure you know what the priority is and what can come after it. Sometimes you see in the environment someone fussing over things that aren’t important and this can ignite conflict and argument.

Lastly, make sure everyone has a proper break. Take a breath, go outside, get some fresh air (away from everyone else if you can) and take a moment. It’s a busy environment with everyone running around.”


Jason-Candid Knüsel is Managing Director of Healthy Hospo, a not-for-profit organization working towards a dream of a happier and healthier hospitality industry. Providing a wide range of training and classes to hospitality businesses, the organisation also offers free resources and content on their digital channels to help and support people working globally across the hospitality industry. In this article, Jason discusses why tackling addiction in the industry is so important.

“With the pandemic only adding to the stress for many working across hospitality, mental health and addiction issues have only got worse over the last few years. Addiction is a big topic and unfortunately, it isn’t discussed enough in the industry. When you consider that bartenders are licensed drug sellers and alcohol is incredibly accessible to them, it does seem strange.

Hospitality businesses will have regular health & safety meetings around how to lift boxes correctly, how to use a knife safely and what to do in case of a fire but zero on the dangers of alcohol and other addictions that unfortunately come hand-in-hand with the industry. Considering so many more people are suffering from mental health each year than are tragically dying or being injured in fires, it doesn’t make sense to me.

We need a rethink and with many businesses struggling to find and retain staff at present, it has to be time for positive change. I firmly believe an operator’s duty of care is to the staff and the staff’s duty of care is to the customer.
If the staff are happy, customers will vibe off that and will receive the best food, drink and service. If staff are unhappy, demotivated or are struggling with mental health issues and/or addictions, they are not going to be at their best and that will ultimately affect your business, brand and bottom line.

Long hours and double shifts without breaks or proper sustenance have to be a thing of the past as they all leave their mental mark and can open up that road to addiction. Staff need regular breaks, they need good food that will nourish and fuel them, and they need to be treated well, appreciated and have a voice.

Just like with fires, the key to stopping addiction is prevention and that can only happen if we all start to talk about the issues and mental health more. Employees need to know that there is someone to turn to, someone to speak to and someone to support them. The more people talk, the easier talking, finding solutions and making positive changes becomes.”

If you are suffering from addiction or need help and advice, visit for more information


Pilot Light is a global social impact initiative, committed to raising awareness of mental health and providing support to the hospitality sector. If you are experiencing a personal crisis, are unable to cope and need support, text SHOUT to 85258.

Hospitality Action is dedicated to support organisations and employees within the hospitality sector, offering arrange of services from counselling support, financial assistance and training. Assisting with complex issues such as addiction, financial difficulties, relationship breakdown and bereavement, their free advice hub provides guidance and links to further support.

Mind provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem through local services, confidential Infoline and legal advice.

Samaritans is available to anyone who needs help with their mental health 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Call 116123 free of charge to instantly access the support you need or email the team at if you feel that writing down your thoughts and feelings is easier for you. They also have a self-help app available for download so you can keep track of how you are feeling and receive recommendations to help you cope and stay safe in a crisis.


The Burnt Chef Project, founded by Kris Hall was set up with the sole intention of eradicating mental health stigma within the hospitality industry. One of the main reasons for stress and burn-out in hospitality is long hours. If you’re
looking to mitigate long working hours for your teams, the top three things to consider are:

MENU CONSOLIDATION: Does your menu have too many options that require additional
prep time? Consider reducing prep by purchasing pre-made stocks, sauces, prepped veg, prepped juices or fruit for cocktails.

COMMUNICATION: Find out what hours your team would like to work. We’ve found that many
businesses are employing part-time members of staff to supplement the busier periods and allowing those with longer shifts to take some time off. Perhaps an IT consultant who has a natural flare for the culinary world and wants to “dip their toe in the water” or maybe it’s the dental nurse who wants to share their creative design on mixology to supplement their income.

FLEXIBILITY: It doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing” approach. Sometimes you can ‘tweak’ your working week or individuals’ hours in one area to save another. We need to consider more dynamic ways of working. For more information, visit

Building A Happy, Motivated Team

Best selling author and happiness expert, Andy Cope gives us his advice on how to build confidence within teams to improve job satisfaction

What role can managers play to boost staff morale?
There’s ‘leadership’ with big L and little l. ‘Big L’ is the strategic stuff but that’s useless unless you get small things right. The ‘little l’ acts of leadership are crucial in building confidence and trust. Catch people doing things well and tell them. Also, praise team members behind their back. Your nice words are likely to find their way back to the team member and the second-hand nature of the praise somehow super-charges the impact.

How can they make individuals feel part of the team?
The biggest missing link in high pressure hospitality situations is listening. Most staff want to do a superb job but we’re often so busy barking out orders that we forget that our team are buzzing with ideas about how to deliver awesome service, so ask and listen.

What skills training should they invest in?

For me, skills training is secondary to attitude. If you have a positive team, with an ‘extra mile’ attitude, they’ll learn anything. So invest in anything that will enhance their spirit, confidence and positivity.

How can operators achieve a happy team?
Share the good news stories (customers who’ve had a terrific night or events that have gone well). As a rule, high performing teams have a positive to negative communication ratio of 6:1. That means 6 bits of praise, encouragement, laughter, banter and good news for every grumble. That sets the tone.


Set up by former chef Merly Kammerling in 2018, Me, Myself in Mind provides workshops, one-to-one therapy and group facilitation for businesses and individuals, specifically working in the hospitality industry. Merly’s mission is to educate others on stress reduction techniques, mental health awareness and the importance of learning coping skills, emotional resilience and self-awareness.

“Alongside realistic rotas, these simple things can show you’re open to the subject, but it’s not just about your employer though – you need to take responsibility for your own mental health and managing your own stress,” says Merly. Here are a few of his tips to get you started:

Recovery – like any battery, you need to recharge so make time. Sleep is important but it’s not the only way to recharge. Think of things that recharge your mind, body or soul. It could be a podcast, a book, calling your family, the gym or something else – find your fit.

Turn SHOULD into COULD – should isn’t motivating, in fact it can make you feel worse about yourself especially when your inner critic says things like ‘I should be eating healthier’…. ‘I should be exercising instead of sitting on the sofa’. Stop berating yourself, kick out the should and replace it with could. ‘I could go for a walk’ or ‘I could have a portion of vegetables for dinner tonight.’

Breathwork – in times of stress, anxiety or mental fatigue, concentrate on your breathing. Focusing on your breath and belly breathing is one of the quickest ways to help deactivate your fight or flight response and access a state of calm. Allow the belly to expand and deflate for the count of 4.

Self-massage – feeling tense or stressed on the way to work, on a break or when finishing? Give areas of your body where you hold tension a bit of attention with a light self-massage. Massaging the neck and tops of shoulders can be especially relaxing. Try it, you will feel the benefit.

Sing from the rooftops – well maybe not necessarily from the rooftops but singing and humming can be great for stress. This stimulates the vagus nerve which also has the power to communicate and reduce our stress response.
For more information, visit