Posted on: January 18, 2024
Balancing Alcohol Consumption and Health: Tips for Industry Workers
"Work hard, play hard."
This old saying might be especially popular for those working in the restaurant industry who tend to enjoy a drink after a long shift. While being a bartender or server can certainly be fun and rewarding, it also comes with some health risks, particularly those associated with heavy alcohol consumption.
This blog will explore the link between alcohol use and the restaurant industry and how to maintain a healthier lifestyle.
Is Alcohol Consumption a Problem in the Restaurant Industry?
Does the food service industry have a drinking problem? One 2010 study found that 41% of food service workers could be classified as problem drinkers, with a heavy drinking rate almost twice that of other occupations (15.2% vs. 8.8%).
Most respondents said they only drink 1-2 times a week, but when they do drink, they drink a lot. Almost half of men in the industry drink, and nearly a third of industry women admit to drinking heavily at least once a month (five or more drinks a night for men, four or more for women).
The highest rates of overconsumption were among those new to legal drinking – ages 21 to 24 – but nearly a third of underage servers reported problem drinking, as well.
Why Are Restaurant Industry Workers at Risk of Overconsumption?
Let's face it: food service can be a stressful job. The pay is low, the pressure is high, and schedules are often insane. Combine this with easy access to alcohol on the job, and it's a recipe for overuse.
Drinking is also part of the culture. The workforce is young, and coworkers party together as a release valve for the stress of the job and all the consequences that the job has on their lives. Research has found that restaurant workers who socialize with their coworkers are at a higher risk of problem drinking than those who don't.
Where it’s legal, some restaurants might even allow their employees to drink on the job. That can be anything from small tastes by sampling new cocktails and allowing them to describe them better to patrons or shots from customers who want to treat their bartender. While businesses might bar employees from getting intoxicated while working, allowing any type of drinking at work puts them at risk of overconsuming alcohol.
What Are the Health Risks of Alcohol Use in the Restaurant Industry?
In the short term, heavy alcohol use puts you at risk for alcohol poisoning, risky sexual behaviors, and accident-related injuries. If you drive under the influence, you're also at risk for the legal and financial consequences of a DUI.
Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to long-term health risks such as weight gain, heart disease, liver disease, stroke, a weakened immune system, and a heightened risk of cancer. You're also more likely to experience problems with learning, memory, and mental health.
How to Balance Alcohol Consumption and Health
As an individual, you can live a healthier life by drinking less and drinking less often. That might involve declining invitations for after-work drinks, but it doesn't mean you have to stop drinking altogether (though almost one in five food service workers do choose to abstain completely).
Regular checkups where you're honest about your alcohol consumption can be useful for catching alcohol-related health problems early.
If you're a restaurant manager or owner, you're in a position to influence the drinking culture of your staff. Avoid normalizing substance abuse. Don't excuse performance problems related to alcohol, and set a strict prohibition for drinking on the job.
Responsible alcohol training can do more than fulfill legal obligations or lower your insurance rates. Look for courses like TIPS that address the consequences of overconsumption and how to encourage responsible drinking in your clientele. Heavy drinkers on your staff can get a reality check when they're exposed to this information.