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Do Shift Drinks Encourage Alcoholism in Restaurant Workers?

Shift drinks: a single shot, a beer, a mixed drink. It’s a perk to many restaurant employees, an incentive to avoid drinking the restaurant’s booze on the clock – and it’s also the start to a long night of pouring the paycheck back into the restaurant’s cash register drink by drink.

But some are looking at the high rates of alcoholism among restaurant workers and wondering whether or not the innocent shift drink may be partially to blame. In fact, one study out of Sweden and published in the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health says that about 63 percent of bar and restaurant employees had “hazardous drinking habits,” according to The Women between the ages of 18 and 29 who worked in restaurants had even higher rates of hazardous drinking habits: 82 percent.

Alcohol Abuse and Restaurant Workers

What’s the connection? Why are so many bartenders, wait staff, and kitchen staff turning to alcohol at the end of – and during – their shift? Some possible explanations include:

  • Access. With a ton of alcohol all around you, it’s not hard to grab a drink. A wall of liquor and customers who may offer to buy you a drink make it difficult to say “no.”
  • Pre-existing condition. Some may turn to restaurant work because of, or as a result of, an existing drug or alcohol addiction that makes it difficult for them to hold down 9-to-5 jobs.
  • Stress. Lots of tables mean lots of stress, and employees at busy restaurants may feel the pressure to move fast, get orders right, and keep the customers and their bosses happy.
  • Shift drink. After a long shift, sitting down to a beer means that employees aren’t necessarily in good condition to drive. What to do? Have another. As other employees clock out, an impromptu party can result, increasing rates of alcohol and drug abuse.

Addressing the Problem

After one South Carolina restaurant employee drank after a shift and then died in a car accident that same night, a lawsuit was filed, turning the public eye on the problem. Some restaurant owners are stepping up, even installing surveillance cameras to ensure that the staff doesn’t drink after work before getting behind the wheel – or while on the clock. Others are pulling the shift drink and striking a zero-tolerance policy for drinking on the premises for employees after a work shift.

If drinking is a problem for you that is made worse by restaurant work, often the best way to address the problem is by getting the help you need to stop drinking completely. Whether alcohol abuse or a full-blown addiction is driving the issue, we can help you to make changes in your life. Call Michael’s House today to find out what our rehabilitation programs can do for you.