Behind the Smiles: Working in Hospitality

Feb 18 / Gary Olding
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Working in the vibrant world of bars and restaurants in Illinois is a multifaceted experience, filled with excitement, camaraderie, and challenges. Behind the scenes, a diverse array of roles — servers, bartenders, bar backs, chefs, dishwashers, managers, and more — come together to create unforgettable dining experiences. However, amidst the hustle and bustle, there are significant difficulties that hospitality workers face daily.

The Many Hats We Wear...

Dealing with Customers

Interacting with customers is a cornerstone of the hospitality industry, but it's not always smooth sailing. From demanding patrons to difficult situations, navigating customer service can be emotionally taxing. According to industry surveys, over 70% of hospitality workers report experiencing verbal abuse from customers at least once in their career.

Physical Demands

Long hours on your feet, late nights, and physically demanding work take a toll on the body. Studies show that over 60% of restaurant workers experience chronic pain due to their job demands.

Mental Health Struggles

Constantly maintaining a cheerful demeanor while dealing with the stresses of the job can lead to mental health challenges. The fast-paced environment and pressure to perform contribute to high levels of stress and anxiety among hospitality workers. In fact, nearly 50% of restaurant employees report symptoms of depression.

Substance Abuse

The hospitality industry has a well-documented issue with substance abuse. The accessibility of alcohol and the prevalence of late-night shifts contribute to higher rates of alcohol and drug consumption among workers. Shockingly, hospitality workers are twice as likely to struggle with addiction compared to the general population.

The Balancing Act

Work-Life Balance

Separating work life from personal life can be difficult in an industry where late nights and irregular schedules are the norm. Nearly 60% of hospitality workers report struggling with work-life balance.

Required Training

In Illinois, hospitality workers are required to undergo specific training, such as BASSET (Beverage Alcohol Sellers and Servers Education and Training)(visit and Food Handler training (visit While crucial for ensuring safety and compliance, these additional requirements add to the workload and time commitments of already busy professionals.

The Silver Linings

Life Skills and Confidence

Despite the challenges, working in hospitality provides invaluable life skills. From communication and problem-solving to teamwork and adaptability, hospitality workers develop a diverse skill set that translates to success in various aspects of life. Over 80% of hospitality workers report feeling more confident in their communication skills after working in the industry.

Financial Incentives

One of the perks of working in bars and restaurants is the potential for lucrative tips. While wages may be modest, tips can significantly boost earnings. For many workers, tips provide financial stability and opportunities for advancement. In fact, over 70% of hospitality workers rely on tips as a significant portion of their income.

The industry workers

Cultivating Resilience and Adaptability:

Despite the hurdles they face, hospitality workers demonstrate remarkable resilience and adaptability. They develop the ability to think on their feet, multitask efficiently, and remain calm under pressure – skills that are invaluable both within and outside of the industry. Moreover, the collaborative nature of the work fosters strong interpersonal connections and a sense of camaraderie among team members, creating a supportive network that extends beyond the workplace.

Addressing Industry Challenges:

While the challenges within the hospitality industry are undeniable, there is a growing recognition of the need for systemic change. Advocacy groups, labor unions, and industry stakeholders are working together to address issues such as workplace safety, fair wages, and mental health support. Initiatives aimed at promoting a healthier work environment and improving employee well-being are gaining momentum, signaling a positive shift towards a more sustainable and equitable industry.

Investing in Training and Education:

As the landscape of dining evolves, there is a greater emphasis on investing in training and education for hospitality workers (visit Beyond the mandatory certifications required by the state, opportunities for professional development and skill enhancement are increasingly available. From culinary workshops and wine tastings to leadership seminars and management training programs, these initiatives empower workers to grow and thrive in their careers, paving the way for long-term success and advancement.

Celebrating the Unsung Heroes:

In closing, it's essential to recognize and celebrate the contributions of the unsung heroes of the hospitality industry. From the dishwasher diligently scrubbing pots and pans to the line cook meticulously crafting each dish, every member of the team plays a vital role in creating memorable dining experiences. Their dedication, hard work, and passion for their craft are the driving force behind the magic of hospitality, and they deserve our utmost respect and appreciation.

 Final Thoughts

Working in bars and restaurants in Illinois is a labor of love, filled with both challenges and rewards. While the road may be paved with obstacles, hospitality workers continue to persevere, driven by their passion for food, drink, and hospitality. As we reflect on the complexities of the industry, let us remember to support and uplift those who dedicate their lives to serving others, for they are the heartbeat of our dining community.
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