Hospitality Burnout: The #1 Reason Restaurant Leaders are Leaving the Hospitality Industry (Part 1)

Sep 23, 2023
Gavin Kaysen in the restaurant dining room of Spoon and Stable,

Photo Courtesy of Spoon and Stable, captured by Bonjwing Lee


If you’re feeling emotionally exhausted, physically depleted, detached from yourself, and notably disconnected from any sense of meaning in your work and your life, you’re likely experiencing burnout.

The prevalence of burnout in the hospitality industry is one of the most significant reasons we created our 6-month, 1-on-1 Leadership Development Program, designed to support burned out hospitality leaders to create a life and livelihood that’s sustainable and energizing.

We hope this post offers some helpful insight into why burnout is so common, and how to recognize and heal it.


If you are a hospitality leader and you’re feeling…

  • Exhausted by the effort you’re exerting to create happy, thriving teams
  • Frustrated by the lack of results you’re seeing from that effort 
  • Burnt out by your own schedule
  • Overwhelmed by constantly catering to everyone else’s needs and requests  
  • Resentful of the ways in which your own needs aren’t being met
  • Disenchanted by your job responsibilities and day to day reality

…read on.

We’d like to offer a few big reminders to hold onto:

  1. You’re not alone in feeling this way. I spent at least a decade of my career bouncing around the list above, and tragically, I think the reason Hulu’s hit show The Bear cuts so deep, is because their depiction of burnout is so damn relatable to restaurant people.
  2. There isn’t something wrong with you because you’re feeling this way (it actually makes a lot of sense that you are!).
  3. You can shift out of this (and waving a magic wand that delivers 20 qualified managers, chefs, and team members to your doorstep isn’t the only way to get there…though it would be nice, right?!), and it’s your responsibility to do so.

First thing’s first.


Why do you (especially if you own a business) feel like you’re bumping up against a dead end on a career path that used to bring such a sense of purpose and connection to your life?

Hospitality is all about taking care of others.


When we start out in this business serving tables or cooking on the line, becoming great at our jobs is a version of becoming a really great people pleaser.


In restaurants, catering businesses, wineries, and bars, you are taking responsibility for the emotions of your guests.

You are selling this promise: “Come as you are, with all of your needs and contradictory allergies and ever-changing reservation requests and the giant sack of emotions from the rest of your day, and we’ll make you feel better.”

“Through our thoughtful care, our attunement to your sense of belonging, our willingness to set aside what might work best for us so we can honor what works best for you, and our passion for food, drink, and hospitality, we’ll send you out the door feeling happier and lighter than when you came through it.”

That’s a hell of a commitment. What a beautiful gift you give your guests.

Oftentimes, getting really, really good at guest service, whether you’re delivering it from the dining room or the kitchen, is how you get promoted.

After mastering every station on the line, you become a Sous Chef, and after killing it on the floor as a server, you become a Dining Room Manager, then a General Manager, then a Director of Operations. Some of us even choose to open our own hospitality businesses.

Photo Courtesy of Minneapolis St. Paul Magazine, captured by Caitlin Abrams


The problem that emerged in my own climb up the leadership ladder (and while I wish I was unique, experience tells me I'm not) is that I then took all of my well-practiced, carefully honed people pleasing skills and put them to work in my new role as the leader of a team.

And, honestly, it worked out pretty well in early chapters of my career. I was managing small enough teams that I could bend and flex and accommodate almost all of my colleagues without completely killing myself (but I sure did come close on a few occasions!). It worked...until it didn't.

It took me so much pain and many years of believing that saying "yes" and being liked was the most effective way to manage a team before I started to understand that growing as a leader IS NOT about learning how to relentlessly accommodate an-ever growing number of folks.


What got me to where I was couldn’t get me to where I wanted to go.


If these signs of hospitality burnout sound familiar to you or you recognize them in your team, read our next post on leadership burnout, which digs into the 5 most effective ways to shift yourself into a more sustainable and energized approach to leading in this industry.

Cheers to leading this profession forward.


We've been called wise big sisters and restaurant whisperers. 
Want a regular dose of our actionable industry insights to overcome overwhelm,
gain confidence, and build a life and livelihood you’re in love with?

Add our newsletter to your inbox.

We won’t send spam. We promise.

Website and photography created with assistance from Wildly Creative
Privacy Policy | Terms + Conditions | Disclaimer
© Salt & Roe 2024