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Colorado restaurant industry takes new approach to mental health

Fund will be used for worker mental health needs
colorado restaurant worker.jpeg
Posted at 9:37 AM, Aug 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-22 11:37:38-04

DENVER — Anyone who has worked in a restaurant knows the work can be a grind.

Chef Troy Guard, the owner of Denver’s Guard and Grace, called it controlled chaos.

“Everybody comes in and they want to eat, they want to eat on time,” Guard said.

From rude customers to late hours to inconsistent schedules, servers and other staff can burn out more quickly than workers in other industries.

“You have to find that balance, otherwise you’ll burn out no matter what you do,” Guard said.

Guard and a growing number of restaurant bosses are acknowledging their employees’ mental health needs. Colorado Restaurant Foundation President Laura Shunk said more employees started to identify mental health as a concern after the pandemic.

“We had a fund during the pandemic that was for people who were laid off or underemployed, and when we saw mental health was becoming such a hot topic for this industry, we expanded that fund so that it covers mental healthcare,” Shunk said.

The fund provides $1,000 to any employee for inpatient or outpatient care. Shunk said more restaurants are also providing paid leave, health insurance and other benefits for workers.

Guard said he has also encouraged employees to reach out to the new 988 mental health line. He wants staff to know there’s help available, and that it’s OK to take time for themselves.

“We call it Ohana," Guard said. "I’m from Hawaii, Ohana means family."