Risk Factors of a Toxic Workplace in the Food Service Industry

Risk Factors of a Toxic Workplace in the Food Service Industry

In the food service industry, dedicated employees work tirelessly to ensure that patrons enjoy their meals and dining experiences. With National Food Service Employee Day approaching on September 25, it’s a fitting time to appreciate their hard work and also acknowledge the less visible challenges they often face behind the scenes, such as workplace toxicity. This day reminds us of the importance of recognizing and addressing these issues, as they can impact both employee well-being and the overall success of food service establishments. 

A toxic workplace includes harassment, discrimination, and misconduct, and it affects millions of employees in various industries, including the food service sector. In fact, there are more sexual harassment claims filed in the restaurant industry than any other industry.

In this blog post, we’ll shed light on some alarming statistics regarding toxic workplaces, the risk factors associated with harassment and misconduct in the restaurant industry and discuss how Work Shield, a pioneering incident management solution, can tackle these issues from the bottom of the food service chain to the top.

The Alarming Statistics:  It’s important to understand the scale of the problem, as workplace toxicity statistics are often alarming:

  • Harassment: According to a survey by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), 75% of employees who experienced workplace harassment never reported it. This problem can persist for extended periods within the fast-paced and frequently demanding atmosphere of the food service industry.
  • Discrimination: The food service industry has its share of discrimination issues. Reports show that employees of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, and women are disproportionately affected. This not only harms employees but also negatively impacts customer experiences.
  • Misconduct: Instances of workplace misconduct, such as theft, fraud, and safety violations, can put both employees and customers at risk. Unfortunately, many food service employees fear retaliation if they report misconduct, leading to a culture of silence.

Risk Factors for a Toxic Workplace In the Restaurant Industry: The restaurant industry showcases numerous key risk factors for harassment, as emphasized by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Select Task Force in their research on workplace harassment

  • Decentralized Operations: Many restaurants, franchises, or kitchens operate in locations separate from their main corporate offices. Such decentralization can hinder adequate supervision and adherence to corporate values and workplace behavior standards. Consequently, employees may lack a channel to voice their concerns.
  • Young workforces: Young employees may lack the self-confidence to resist unwelcome overtures or challenge conduct that makes them uncomfortable. Young employees may be more susceptible to being taken advantage of by coworkers or superiors, particularly those older and more established in their positions. 
  • High Turnover Concern: Frequent employee turnover in the restaurant industry can lead to workers leaving before expressing their concerns. If staff feel their positions are easily substituted, they may prefer to leave rather than address problems. As a result, management may remain unaware, and those at fault might not be held accountable.
  • Customer-Service Mentality: The adage that “the customer is always right” is widely believed to be true, which may cause staff members and management to overlook or even condone inappropriate behavior. Additionally, it is common for managers to downplay the seriousness of harassment, and employees may worry that speaking out against or reporting misconduct will be interpreted as a lack of dedication to providing excellent customer service.

Work Shield: A Solution from the Bottom to the Top: Work Shield is revolutionizing how workplace misconduct is handled across various industries, including food service. Here’s how Work Shield’s comprehensive approach can make a difference:

  • Multiple Reporting Channels: Work Shield provides a safe and confidential platform that includes multiple reporting channels for employees to report workplace misconduct without fear of retaliation. Employees can report anonymously, if desired, via a call center or directly online, 24/7. This encourages employees to speak up, even in industries with a history of silence. 
  • Unbiased Investigations and Resolution Recommendations: If a reported incident necessitates an investigation, a Work Shield investigator gathers evidence, conducts investigations, and provides recommended resolutions in a fair and consistent manner.  These investigations are managed within Work Shield’s incident management platform, and communications are sent to client contents and the certain parties throughout the investigation phase.
  • Analytic Reporting: By housing all incident data within Work Shield’s incident management platform, clients are able to run real-time analytic reports to spot trends in their employee population. For instance, clients are able to run reports by location, incident type, gender, manager/non-manager, among other data points.  
  • Cultural Transformation: By addressing misconduct promptly and fairly, Work Shield helps organizations foster a culture of accountability and respect from the bottom of the hierarchy to the top. This cultural shift can reduce incidents of toxicity over time.

At Work Shield, we understand the severity of harassment, discrimination, misconduct, and toxicity in the food service industry. Through our full-service incident management platform that offers multiple reporting channels, we provide a safe space for employees to speak up about the misconduct they experienced or witnessed. As we celebrate National Food Service Employee Day, let’s commit to addressing workplace toxicity and taking action to ensure that food service employees can work in an environment free from harassment, discrimination, and misconduct.

Learn more about Work Shield’s incident management solution here. 


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