Stressful Environment Impacts Restaurant Workers’ Mental Health

Feb 26, 2024

Mental health challenges for restaurant workers are common.

The restaurant business is high stress, long hours, demanding customers, and often lower pay. Work can involve intense, physical labor, irregular schedules, and a fast-paced environment.

“All of these can contribute to stress and mental health issues,” said local restaurant owner Marco Sciortino. “The nature of customer service can sometimes lead to difficult interactions, which may impact employees emotionally,” he said.

The Anti-Stigma Coalition will present a Facebook Live on March 4 at 4pm to discuss the unique challenges of the restaurant industry and how workers and owners can remain mentally healthy. Panelists include Evetta Applewhite, chef, The Oakk Room; Alyssa Sumers, Director of Sales & Operations, Osteria 166; and Marco Sciortino, owner, Marco’s Italian Restaurant and Marco’s Italian Deli.

Restaurant work is a high stress, demanding industry. It is NOT for the faint of heart. However, there is no question that additional pressures arise when dealing directly with society (guests and other staff). Everyone is at a different place personally when these interactions occur. We hope that people can learn and practice patience prior to them having challenges…but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way.

The reality is that times are tougher than they have ever been. People are generally scared of their security and being able to maintain their lifestyle. Thus creating more opportunity for mental health issues.


Nicholas Pitillo

Owner, Osteria 166 and Villaggio

The National Restaurant Association reports that 15.5 million people work in the food service industry nationwide and projects 500,000 new positions will soon be added in this sector. Locally, almost 46,000 people work in the restaurant/service industry according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
With many individuals working in the industry, stigma is also common.

According to Sciortino, workers may be hesitant to share their struggles due to fear of stigma or concerns about job security.

“Some workers may not have support from management,” he said. “The competitive nature of this industry may discourage employees from prioritizing their mental health or seeking help with needed.”

Recently, Cozymeal surveyed 140 chefs, to learn about stress and how the restaurant culture impacts their mental health.


said that working at a restaurant had a negative impact on their mental health


of participants said they had experienced depression


suffered from sleep disorders


said that they’d had anxiety because of working in a restaurant.

Additionally, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found restaurant employees to be the most at risk for substance use disorders including binge drinking and illicit drug use.

It’s important for us as owners to create a supportive and understanding, work environment so employees feel safe to discuss their struggles.


Marco Sciortino

Marco’s Italian Restaurant

Help is available:

SAMHSA’s National Helpline

free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

Erie County Crisis Hotline


Suicide and Crisis Hotline

988 – The National Suicide Prevention Hotline fields calls 24/7 for anyone with suicidal thoughts or who are in crisis. It offers help for Spanish-speakers and anyone who is deaf or hard of hearing.

Crisis Text Line

Text Hello to 741741

Learn more about resources for restaurant workers at

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