Shelsie Ann Lawrence
University of West Florida
Alcohol Abuse in the Restaurant Industry
The purpose of this paper is to look at the high incidence of alcohol abuse in the restaurant industry and the possible causes. I will use studies done, but also incidences from my own personal experience of 15 years in the restaurant industry. Background
The American Psychological Association defines alcohol abuse as, “a drinking pattern that results in significant and recurrent adverse consequences.” (http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/alcohol-disorders.aspx). These consequences can be lost work days, vehicle accidents, the breakdown and loss of relationships, serious illnesses. Alcohol abuse is extremely high in the restaurant industry. It is readily available and consistently used as a reward for good behavior. The consequences of alcohol abuse are much more tolerated. I worked for a chef that would come in to work hung over and late. She would clock in, and then sit down to have a beer to help the hangover. After the beer was consumed, it was time to make something to eat, all of this eating up the first 30 minutes of her work day. She would not be punished for this behavior, because chances are, she was out drinking with one of our owners the night before. This scene would play itself out at least once a week. I also had a co-worker that was allowed to go home, due to a hangover. We will call her Sue. Sue was not much of a drinker. I would say, she probably went out once a month. Sue gets off work, and almost all her co-workers are at the bar drinking. At this particular restaurant, the kitchen and servers would close down the restaurant between the hours of 10:00pm and 11:00 pm, this would put the time staff gets off work around 11:00pm or midnight. The bar would then stay open until 2:00 am. To set the stage a bit more, it is also important to note a few other things about this particular restaurant. Staff was allowed to start drinking for free, any beer on tap and any wine sold by the glass, one hour prior to closing. Any other drinks, i.e.: cocktails, wine by the bottle, and bottled beers, were discounted half off. This restaurant did very well, and had minimal staff turnover, so they could afford to allow this. The staff dinner was served after the kitchen was cleaned and the wait staff done with all their tables. Staff meal is also called “Family Meal”, in the restaurant world. Family is what your co-workers become, in a restaurant. You spend more of your time with your co-workers, then anyone else. Restaurants are open on the days other people are off spending time with their families. You work every weekend together. You work every holiday together. You work every night together. Together you build contempt for those with “normal jobs” This is all shared together. These are things that only your co-workers and other “industry” people can understand. Most bars, in Seattle, when I cooked there, even offered “industry” discounts. Even if you aren’t drinking at the place you work, you still get a discount. You are still awarded with alcohol. So, on this night, Sue gets off work to find all her co-workers finishing up dinner and pouring more rounds of drinks. She had a particularly good night and made a hundred dollars in tips. She has been working at this restaurant for six months and hasn’t found herself fitting in yet. Fitting in, becoming friends with her co-workers, can afford many benefits. Servers are more likely to switch a shift with someone they like and know. They are more likely to help you out, by delivering food to your table, if you are someone they like. She usually eats her dinner, than goes home, while the rest of the staff stays drinking and talking about their work night. They stay because the drinks are free; they stay because when they go home, if there is someone at home, they won’t be awake to hear the stories of their work day. Sue decides to stay and...