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In The Weeds: Influenza – It’s What’s for Dinner

October 4, 2010
Sneezing kitchen

Face masks not required in U.S. kitchens. Bummer.

The next time you walk past a pharmacy or clinic offering a walk-in flu shot, I have two words of advice for you – DO IT!   Well, I mean, only if you plan on eating in a restaurant between now and February.

Here’s the deal people.  Most restaurant workers have no incentive, short of actual death, to stay home from work when they’re sick.  Allow me to break it down for you.

1. Job Insecurity – Kitchens are nothing like offices.  Every day during every shift, there is an an end event.  It is called “service,” and it can’t be put off until the next day like an inbox.  There is exactly one person for each station in the kitchen, and there aren’t extra workers hanging around a water cooler that can pitch in.  So if you aren’t there, you’ve pissed a lot of people off.  If they get through the shift without you, you’ve just proven to Chef that you aren’t essential.  You’ve also proven that despite nearly vomiting up a lung, you are a wimp.

2. No Sick Pay - says that the flu should be treated with plenty of fluids and several days of rest.  Pishaw….as if!  Groceries or rest?  Rent or rest?  Electricity or rest?  And even servers who save and budget for the inevitable few days of missed work are still often berated, written up, given crap sections or have their shifts cut once they’re healthy again by managers who expect workers to “suffer through” as a sign of their dedication.

3. No Health Insurance – Even if a restaurant employee manages to face the threat of being fired and the loss of income experienced during a routine illness, it wouldn’t do too much good because he can’t get a doctor to look at his broke ass.  The vast majority of food workers often don’t have the basic insurance coverage afforded to even the lowest level workers in other industries.  That’s not just a big F You to the employee, that’s also a big F You to you, dear diner.  It’s another way of saying, we want to take your money and in exchange we will give you food, atmosphere, hospitality and strep throat.

So as we begin this flu season, remember to wash your hands, get your flu shot and buck up on the vitamin C.  And if you’re feeling really frisky,  the next time a restaurant manager sidles up to your table to see how everything is going, you might inquire about the hourly employees’ health plan.


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2 Responses to “ In The Weeds: Influenza – It’s What’s for Dinner ”

  1. nativenapkin on October 6, 2010 at 8:25 am

    I once broke my leg on my day off and was back to work after only two days. I wanted to prove to my Chef that I was willing to march back into battle. Yeah, I was young and dumb, but I had the added pressure of the owner giving me crap about taxing his Worker’s Comp fund. Our business is not for the squeamish.

  2. bostonbetty on October 11, 2010 at 11:40 am

    You know, I just missed the free flu shot at work the other day and thought “eh, I probably won’t get it anyway.” After reading this, I’m heading to Walgreen’s at lunch. Thanks for the “booster”.