The co-owner of one of Glasgow’s most celebrated restaurants has said that protecting the mental well-being of hospitality workers is of vital importance as the industry fights to weather a “perfect storm”.

Peter McKenna, alongside three friends, first established the Gannet in 2013 with the aim of showcasing Scotland’s unrivalled network of artisan producers, foragers and farmers.

The Herald: Pictured: Peter McKenna of The Gannet restaurant in GlasgowPictured: Peter McKenna of The Gannet restaurant in Glasgow (Image: newsquest)

Despite a decade of success in the city’s Finnieston, the chef says that no business is immune to the pressures of the current climate.

“These are probably the most challenging set of conditions that I can remember for the industry since the mid-90s,” he said.

“Owning a restaurant over the last ten years has been difficult on many fronts, but at the moment everyone is feeling the effects of the cost of living crisis.

“The price of the products we use, our services and wage costs have all increased considerably and the average person on the street has less disposable income available for going out to eat.

“It really is the perfect storm.”

READ MORE: The charity working to avert a mental health crisis in Scottish hospitality

McKenna does his best to shield his small team of staff from any worries about the wider industry, believing that responsibility lies between him and front-of-house leader Kevin Dow.

Even still, a recent series of high-profile restaurant closures including Brian Maule’s Le Chardon d’Or is impossible to ignore.

“It’s not easy for anyone,” he continued.

“Down south they’re getting the 75% business reduction rate which is brilliant, but even they’re struggling.

“Scotland is known for its hospitality industry, and it’s been so rewarding over the last 10 years to see tourists making a point of coming to Glasgow when before they might have gone straight to Edinburgh.

“Unfortunately, we’ve seen several great hospitality outlets go out of business in the last year and I fear an unprecedented amount will follow in the next six months.

"The restaurants and bars that people were coming to visit might not be there when they return next time.

“It’s tragic, and not great for the city as a whole.”

READ MORE: 'We're hanging on': Chef Nick Nairn on the perilous state of Scottish hospitality

A tough year ahead for the industry means that now more than ever, retaining skilled workers and maintaining a positive working environment is paramount.

Leading a wave of change that rallies against the long hours and demanding shifts that have long been an industry standard, The Gannet chef is a passionate advocate for a four-day working week and the benefits it has brought to his team.

“A good few years ago, we introduced a four-day working week to ensure that our staff get the appropriate time off and can enjoy their lives outside of the kitchen.

“Before then, we were hitting it hard with long hours which was not the right way to go, for reasons that went beyond mental health.

“We had a high turnover and a couple of positions that constantly needed to be filled because the of intensity of the job and the high standards we uphold.

“Reducing the working week has solidified the team by letting them know they’re respected.

“For many years after starting in the industry as a young fella, I would wake up in the morning, go straight to work, home, back to bed then work again the next day.

“I didn’t want to keep repeating that, and it was up to us to break that cycle.”

Also striving to help break this cycle is Hospitality Health, a Scottish charity founded by Gordon McIntyre in 2018 to offer industry-specific well-being support for employees.

The Herald: Pictured: Hospitality Health founder, Gordon McIntyrePictured: Hospitality Health founder, Gordon McIntyre (Image: newsquest)

As well as rewarding businesses that are challenging traditionally gruelling working conditions, and tackling the taboo surrounding addiction issues, the charity has seen over 300 mental health first aiders trained to encourage open and honest dialogue in the workplace.

Mr McKenna has for years been a supporter of their cause and knows how crucial their services will be for businesses across Scotland in the coming months.

He said: “I love what Gordon and his team are doing with Hospitality Health.

“Empowering employers to speak freely with their team about matters that can be tricky to deal with, like mental health, is a great thing.

“There’s still a bit of a stigma surrounding the topic that can make people less willing to talk, so even creating that conversation is very important.

“We have been able to utilise the support they’ve given us, but we’re also just one restaurant in a big city.

“Shining a spotlight on that and raising awareness will hopefully mean that other industry professionals will be able to benefit from their work.”

For more information on Hospitality Health, click here.