Smart Serve

Smart Serve Ontario provides free mental health services to hospitality workers

Smart Serve Ontario, a registered charity dedicated to responsible liquor sales and service practices, is taking a crucial step towards improving mental health in the hospitality industry with the launch of its new campaign “Smart Serve Cares.” Delivered in partnership with Not 9 to 5, a non-profit that advocates for the mental health of hospitality workers, and GreenShield, Canada’s only national non-profit health and benefits company, the program will provide free mental health services and education to individuals holding an active Smart Serve certificate.

Canada’s foodservice industry, a vital sector serving nearly 22 million Canadians every day, is facing a post-pandemic strain. With many businesses operating at a loss and burdened by debt, the well-being of hospitality workers, often facing high burnout rates, is at risk. The timely initiative aims to bring awareness to the significant mental health and substance use challenges faced by those working in hospitality and offer meaningful support to hospitality professionals.

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“The hospitality industry is at a critical juncture,” said Gyan Chandra, Board Chair, Smart Serve Ontario. “The industry has faced unrelenting pressure, triggering a concerning rise in mental health and substance use challenges among hospitality workers. By partnering with innovative non-profit organizations like Not 9 to 5 and GreenShield, we are strategically connecting leading experts in both the hospitality and health sectors to deliver critical resources and solutions to an industry in dire need of support. Together, we can create meaningful change and build a more resilient hospitality workforce.”

Research conducted by Not 9 to 5 paints a stark picture – a staggering 87 per cent of front-line food and beverage staff report experiencing burnout, with depression and anxiety affecting 77 per cent and 84 per cent, respectively. Despite these alarming figures, only 38 per cent seek professional help, often citing financial constraints as a major roadblock.

The Smart Serve Cares campaign aims to bridge this gap by offering Smart Serve certificate holders a comprehensive suite of mental health resources, including:

  • 3 hours of free virtual mental health counselling with a therapist that best suits your needs provided by GreenShield Health, the health services division of GreenShield.
  • Online access to GreenShield’s self-guided Digital CBT, a program that uses Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and interactive learning modules to help people with anxiety and depression achieve their wellness goals.
  • Unlimited access to online resources, articles and educational materials from health experts via GreenShield+, GreenShield’s integrated digital health and benefits platform.

“Psychologically safe workplaces support a productive workforce. Investing in hospitality mental health programs benefits staff, employers, and clients; and ultimately, costs less than doing nothing. Participation in these programs fosters a healthier, more effective workplace and improves the industry’s overall well-being and growth,” says Hassel Aviles, Executive Director, Not 9 to 5. “With Smart Serve Cares, the industry now has access to resources at no cost to hospitality employers and employees alike.”

Smart Serve certificate holders will also gain access to Not 9 to 5’s transformative online hospitality workplace mental health certification, CNECTed. This self-guided certification program equips participants with skills and education on psychological safety, harm reduction practices and leadership, specifically designed to address the unique mental health and substance use challenges faced within the hospitality industry.

“Prioritizing mental well-being in the workplace is essential to unlocking the full potential of Canada’s workforce,” says Joe Blomeley, executive Vice President, Head of GreenShield Health & Enterprise Growth at GreenShield. “Today, many hospitality workers don’t have the resources or employer coverage to meet their mental health needs. Our social mission is to enable better health for all by providing more equitable access to care. Through this powerful partnership, we’re able to fill this gap by providing hospitality workers across the province with free access to the mental health support they deserve.”

This initiative aims to empower hospitality workers to prioritize their mental well-being with tools and resources aimed at navigating the challenges the sector faces. To learn more visit