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Why Hospitality Is Facing A Mental Health Crisis

Updated: Apr 6, 2023

Why is the hospitality industry such a breeding ground for mental health struggles? What's being done to safeguard the mental wellbeing of those working in restaurants, cafes, hotels and coffee shops worldwide?

Mental health campaigner Kris Hall is working with purpose to challenge the stigma that still surrounds "speaking up" within the hospitality sector, as the founder and CEO of The Burnt Chef Project. For Kris, the hospitality industry is facing a mental health crisis - and the time has come to open up the conversation.

Kris Hall The Burnt Chef Project

Kris joins Second Mountain Comms' founder Ben Veal for episode 14 of Good Journeys with Second Mountain, the podcast series that explores the lives of inspired people and their inspiring stories.

Episode 14 of the Good Journeys with Second Mountain podcast is out now.



"I just kept asking: why? Why is that the way that it is?"

Kris Hall founded The Burnt Chef Project in 2019 - now a globally-recognised, not-for-profit social enterprise that raises awareness and provides training and market-leading support for mental health issues within the hospitality trade, worldwide.

As CEO of the Burnt Chef Project, Kris is deeply passionate about creating positive change within hospitality - a sector that has found itself under great strain in recent years - as well as improve the industry’s sustainability and open up valuable conversations around mental health struggled. And through The Burnt Chef Journal podcast, Kris and his team also explore leadership, mental wellbeing and look to inspire the future of the culinary world.

The Burnt Chef Project is rooted in humble beginnings and Kris' curiosity and appetite for change. It was initially borne out of a small Bournemouth-based photography project to illustrate the mental wellbeing challenges faced by some of the professionals working within hospitality, as Kris explains on the #GoodJourneysPod.

"I was sat having a conversation with a friend of mine, who's a chef. We were just talking about the [hospitality] industry; I was talking about my experiences and he said he'd had similar experiences himself with his mental health and was telling me stories about the long hours and the impact it had on family life - and I just started asking: Why? Why is that the way that it is?"


"You feel so alone and shamed"

Kris' passion for better mental health is grounded in his own lived experience. Speaking openly and candidly on the 'Good Journeys with Second Mountain' podcast, he talks about his own personal journey to mental wellness, including his experiences with making the brave decision to go to see a therapist for the first time.

"I remember going to the front door ... and the last thing I did before I rang the doorbell was I looked over my shoulder both ways just to make sure that no one has followed me there. Maybe that's a bit of a paranoia to do with the illness I had at the time, or maybe that was just the sheer sense of shame or stigma that I'd experienced, but that was the reality. And I sat down in that chair and [the therapist] said: 'What do you want to get out of these sessions?' and I said 'I just want to walk around with a big empty space in my head.' I'm so envious of everyone that I see ... because they don't have all of these negative thoughts and these insecurities."


"I didn't know the gravity of the conversation that I'd started"

Kris' black and white portrait photography project - "designed to really show that more goes on behind the scenes than you might think; you don't really know what's going on inside someone's head" - started a big conversation, especially on social media. "It was like I'd opened up this Pandora's Box; I have a moral obligation and a duty to do something now."

Recognising the dire state of the industry, Kris' passion for helping to represent the voices of overburdened professionals working within hospitality quickly grew - especially with many finding the COVID-19 pandemic to be particularly challenging.

"Lockdown was incredibly difficult for all of hospitality," reflects Kris. "The effects of it are still being felt today. But hopefully, as an industry, we're now in a much more forward-thinking place than we were when we went into the pandemic."

Despite The Burnt Chef Project having already helped tens of thousands of individuals to date, for Kris the work is only just getting started: "In reality, we've barely scratched the surface. There are 72 million people in hospitality worldwide and we're not even covering one percent of that at this time; we've got a lot more work to do."

Episode 14 of the Good Journeys with Second Mountain podcast is out now.

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