The hospitality industry is fraught with potential hazards. The long hours, late nights, and easy access to rich food, booze and drugs can take their toll. But a new initiative in Toronto hopes to offer an alternative for those mired in the trenches of the restaurant biz.

ROAM Toronto is a not-for-profit collective whose main goal is to offset the habits and lifestyles of the hospitality industry. They believe those working in hospitality should have all the benefits and access to health and wellness that other professions have had for years. We spoke with two ROAM Toronto founders, Rachel Bies and Kathleen Shattock, to find out what it’s all about.

SDTC: What was behind this initiative?

RB: Our main goal isn’t to change the face of service or the staff but to offer help in financial planning, goals, fitness and nutrition in order to better equip them from burning out and being able to withstand the demand, whether they’re behind the bar, in the kitchen or an owner.

KS: In the past, no one really took people working in the hospitality industry very seriously, but that attitude is changing and people are starting to have long, fulfilling careers. We’ve all worked in the industry for years and are starting to realize the physical, emotional, and financial toll that this lifestyle has had on us and our coworkers, so we decided to think of ways that we could treat our bodies with a little more respect and care. Ideas started building from there on how to offer financial planning, goals, fitness, nutrition, etc. in order to better equip staff, FOH and BOH alike, to not burn out.

Will this function as a union for those in hospitality?

I want to be be cautious about the word/term ‘union.’ Yes, we’ll be a collective, members-only based community. That being said, we’re also learning our footing and future goals each week. What I can say is that the demand for benefits, therapy, and such is growing every day and we’re really excited to give back to our communities. Especially because these individuals go out of their way to provide exceptional service – it’s time someone looked out for them.

Why have you included addictions counselling as part of your mandate?

We all know the late nights and high social demand that is part of being in the hospitality industry – so we figured we needed a venue/branch for those who feel it becoming dangerous. We can help, support and point them in the right direction.

There’s also a nutrition component; can you explain?

We want to alter the composition of the “staff meal” from all carbs and late-night binge meals to include clean proteins, healthy fats and carbs. This way, staff can have energy throughout service and less crashing. Also, we will include seminars on making healthy snacks to bring to work, how to batch cook and how to make healthy cocktails.

How much will it cost to join?

Currently membership is $20, which gives you access to the calendar, events and newsletters. All events, seminars and retreats will be competitively priced after that.

Is there anything else about this program you want us to know?

We’re really excited about this incentive and we’ll be partnering up with some of the best gyms, studios and instructors in the city so we can offer discounts and specialized classes to our members. Sign up to get updates on our mailing list, follow us on Facebook or email to find out what we’ve got going on.