Waiter Burnout: What Is It And How To Deal With It?

The restaurant service industry entails an environment much different from other fields of professional work. It can take a lot to deal with the physical, emotional, and mental requirements essential for a successful waiter. Eventually, daily events as a waiter can cause waiter burnout, which, for both the waiter and the owner, can lead to a much worse scenario. So, what is waiter burnout and how do you deal with it?

Waiter burnout occurs when the toll of a restaurant-related work environment gets the best of someone, causing setbacks that can lead to further problems. The best way to deal with waiter burnout is by having the opportunity to work in as stress-free of an environment as possible.

Read on to learn more about waiter burnout and how to deal with it. It is no secret that working as a waiter requires skills that revolve around pleasing the customer. It is also no surprise that waiters are more than likely to experience their share of negative or stressful interactions with customers during a shift. The chance to prevent or recover from waiter burnout is essential for keeping waiters satisfied and relieving stress as a restaurant owner.

What Is Waiter Burnout?

Typical burnout is all too common in any work environment. Even college students or younger face the risk of burnout syndrome stemming from too much stress affecting their schedule. Waiter burnout occurs when stress takes control over a waiter’s work environment, catalyzing physical, emotional, and/or mental struggles.

Waiter burnout can lead to several disadvantages:

  • Poor performance

  • Bad attitude

  • Tardiness

  • Reduced customer satisfaction

The above are a few of the bad habits that could develop from waiter burnout. Without happy employees, you will not have satisfied customers.

Waiter burnout is not only unhealthy for the waiter, but it can also drag business operations down, at least temporarily. As an employee in the service industry, your well-being should be one of the most important aspects of your job. Without positive work performance from you, a restaurant would not thrive.

As the owner or manager of a restaurant, you must be equally prepared to prevent or resolve problems stemming from waiter burnout. As a person in a position of authority, it is essential to remain steadfast regarding the mission of the restaurant while also giving your waiters the agency they deserve.

Causes Of Waiter Burnout

Oftentimes, waiter burnout may simply come from the hectic environment of a restaurant that never seems to have slow periods during a shift. A waiter who works four or five times a week for prolonged shifts while constantly moving around and utilizing the mental strength to please customers cannot be expected to keep themselves together without some sort of stress relief.

Waiter burnout can also be fueled by circumstances outside of a waiter’s professional life, but it is called waiter burnout for a reason. Internal causes include:

  • Long shifts with little to no breaks

  • Rude customers

  • Conflicts with coworkers

  • Struggles with self-appreciation

  • Outside problems

As a waiter, you should be aware of the common causes of waiter burnout. As a restaurant over, you should learn to recognize signs that your waiters are on the brink of wait burnout.

How To Deal With Waiter Burnout

When learning how to deal with waiter burnout, there are two points of view to consider: the perspective of the employee and the perspective of the person of power. Learning to deal with waiter burnout as a waiter can better help you to immerse yourself in a healthy work environment and feel comfortable with the people around you.

As the person in power, whether it be the owner of the restaurant or a manager, you must learn to recognize the signs of burnout syndrome to help prevent them or deal with them after they have already sparked waiter burnout. 

Above all, you should look out for your employees out of basic human decency. What is more, is that waiter burnout can lead to a poor work environment for others or a poor restaurant experience for customers.

Below are ways to deal with waiter burnout, both from the perspective of the waiter and a person with higher authority. Learning both methods can be a great way to become more familiar with dealing with burnout.

As A Waiter

As a waiter, you might begin experiencing signs that waiter burnout is approaching. Three common categories involve:

  • The physical

  • The mental

  • The emotional

If you notice your body feeling fatigued during a shift, you have likely been working too often or too consistently. Mentally, you may start developing a bad attitude, both around your coworkers and within waiter/customer conflicts. Lastly, if you feel that you cannot process your thoughts during a busy shift or develop a strong sense of anxiety or depression, you could be suffering the emotional tolls.

Below are ways to deal with waiter burnout from the perspective of the waiter. Working through your problems with your core values paired with the goals of your manager or another boss can be the best way to deal with the problems that lie ahead.

Understand The Job Requirements

Know that the foodservice industry consists of extremely underappreciated jobs. Those who have never worked as a waiter likely do not realize the stress you may experience, but you must still try your best to push through negative interactions and realize their ignorance, not their supposed intentional maliciousness.

You must also be prepared to work the hours required of you by your boss. Waiters have physical requirements to move consistently. At the same time, you are the face of the restaurant. Customers come to you with both compliments and complaints, and possessing the skills to face interactions is essential.

Talk With Your Boss

If you feel rising signs of waiter burnout, let your boss know. If they are trained in working with those with waiter burnout, they should be able to work with you to help sort out your problems, whether that be simply listening to you or giving you time off.

Stay Confident About Your Worth

If your waiter burnout stems from any thoughts that customers do not like you, that your performance is insufficient, or anything else that puts down your worth both as a professional and a person, know that your job is just as important as any other. You provide people with nourishment to fuel themselves for their responsibilities. You give them a smile that could change their day. You do the grunt work so that they do not have to.

On one hand, knowing your worth can help you push through some of your struggles. In another circumstance, however, self-awareness can help you recognize if you are currently in a toxic or unhealthy work environment. Although customers are not always the best, there are plenty of wonderful customers. Your coworkers and/or boss could be the source of your waiter burnout.

As A Restaurant Owner

It is your responsibility to watch over those you hire. You are not only providing them money in exchange for work. You must realize that they are people before they are your workers. You must learn to recognize signs of waiter burnout to care for your employees and save your restaurant from even more stress.

Recognize The Signs

If you notice an employee moving more lethargic during their shift, chances are they could be suffering from burnout syndrome. Their body may simply be too tired to continue. Other signs include:

  • A waiter calling in sick often

  • Customer complaints concerning a specific employee

  • Rudeness in conversation with the waiter

  • Failure to perform their job correctly

You must also understand that these signs are not always intentionally shown to make your and other employees’ lives more difficult. Waiter burnout can take over the mind, replacing sufficient performance with stress-induced failings.

Allow Some Freedom

When hiring, a good way to take preliminary measures to prevent waiter burnout is by allowing your waiters some freedom. Be as lenient as you are willing in allowing them to choose their work times, and do not reprimand them more than they need to be just because you might be in a poor mood on a certain day.

Give Breaks Or Time Off

Let your waiters take a ten-minute break now and then, especially when the restaurant is not busy. Even more, allow them to take time off for certain holidays or vacation days. As long as they have an outlet of time in which to relieve some of that work stress, this is one of the best things you can do personally to help them.

Remain Stern

If you get too lenient, this can kill your business. The “fun” boss is fun because he develops a good work balance among his employees. Not caring for your employees can cause them to act out too often, or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, can make them quit, causing you to have to spend more money and time on hiring new waiters.


Waiter burnout is prevalent. When a waiter becomes stressed with their work environment, their performance capabilities will deteriorate dramatically. Knowing how to approach signs of waiter burnout as both a waiter and restaurant owner can be a good way to prevent or deal with burnout syndrome in the future.


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