We may be in competition but when it comes to giving something back we’re all one team, by Philip Newman-Hall

Little did I realise sitting at The Hotelier of The Year Lunch at Summer Lodge in 2010 that nearly ten years later the seeds of a post lunch discussion would still be germinating and that we would be arranging the fourth Back to the Floor Dinner at The Dorchester on April 26th 2019.

Mellowed by a glass of wine or two, Danny Pecorelli (MD Exclusive Hotels), Amanda Afiya (then Deputy Editor The Caterer), John Stauss (then GM The Four Seasons London), Simon Numphud (MD AA Hotel Services) and I were thinking of how we could give more back to Hospitality Action our main industry charity.

The light bulb moment came and the idea of Back to The Floor was sown.

Senior Hoteliers and Industry luminaries could go back to their roots and be waiters for a night serving guests and raising money at the same time.

I thought at the time that it would be a one off event and that would be that. How wrong could I be?

In 2013 the first seed eventually germinated…….yes three years is a long germination but sometimes things are worth waiting for.

Danny Pecorelli kindly hosted the first Back to the Floor dinner for 120 guests at Pennyhill Park and a team of 16 delivered an impeccable night of riotous hilarity (supposedly called service) compered by Peter Hancock to our guests who kindly donated £25,000 to Hospitality Action. Unfortunately I won the award for the “worst waiter” on the night………..never let these things get you down!

That’s that I stupidly thought.

Not to be……..Danny and others said we should do it again….and again….and again….

We progressed in 2015 to The Langham, London where Duncan Palmer kindly provided the venue. 220 guests, 40 industry luminaries brought together in a common cause and £52,000 raised for Hospitality Action.

2017 took us to Grosvenor House, kindly hosted by Stuart Bowery, 350 guests, 55 members of the team and £91,000 raised. (I believe this still to be the highest amount raised at a single event for Hospitality Action).

2019 is now upon us and we are going to do it all over again. Zoe Jenkins of The Dorchester Collection’s Coworth Park very kindly persuaded the team at The Dorchester to host this years event and we are hoping for 400 guests, 70+ Industry professionals and to raise over £100,000 for Hospitality Action on the evening of Friday 26th April. Peter Hancock will be performing his usual magic act of removing money from guests pockets via auctions and raffles! My sincere thanks to the kind folk at Laurent-Perrier for generously providing towards our champagne reception, sadly I cannot guarantee there will be no spillages.

The guests at each event have been a mixture of industry and our guests get an opportunity of really meeting the hotel GM or industry luminary who is serving them in a very relaxed manner. It’s better networking than any sales event!!

Danny Pecorelli and Julian Tomlin at Back to the Floor 3, 2017

None of the above would have been possible without the generous support of the host hotels, the teams in them, the industry leaders who give their time to be the waiters and the sommeliers, our suppliers of food and beverage and the people especially at Hospitality Action and those who support the logistics behind the events. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

This brings me back to the title of this piece. We may be in competition but as an industry the hospitality industry is brilliant at working together for a common cause. We all know that we have led charmed and blessed lives working in hospitality but not everyone is as fortunate as us. It only takes a serious illness or a mental breakdown or sudden death to bring a family to its knees and it is up to us to support those members of our profession in their time of need.

Back to the Floor is a fun way for senior industry professionals to give back and highlight what is important in society today. It also makes us all realise what hard work cooking and serving our guests is and that our teams give so much each and every day.

I have been proud to have been a small part along with many colleagues of Back to the Floor and hope that it will be part of the industry calendar every other year for many years to come.

I started with germination, like an Oak Tree which started as an Acorn, our little post lunch seed has to me blossomed beautifully.

If you would like to donate a prize, purchase any places or perhaps even sponsor the evening please contact Giuliana: gvittiglio@hospitalityaction.org.uk or call 020 3004 5504 for any further information.

Stand up and be counted: How you can lend your support this year

2018 was yet another record 12 months for HA as we spent over £880,000 supporting more hospitality people in need than ever before. We were there for the waiters and chefs, event planners and kitchen porters, restaurateurs and food operators, to make sure that every member of our community had somewhere to turn in their hour of need. With UK hospitality set for an uncertain time one thing will remain set in stone; HA will be there to lend a helping hand when times get tough.

Of course, we can only be there thanks to the generosity of our fantastic supporters. A great way to get involved and kick start our New Year fundraising is to attend one of our renowned events! Not only will you network with industry greats, have a fantastic time and enjoy delicious food and wines but the money we raise will help people just like Rebekah, Daniel and the Ellis family. Be sure to save the following dates so you and your colleagues can attend one of the following fantastic events:

A Tour of Highclere Castle including lunch and afternoon tea at
The Vineyard at Stockcross, Monday 8th April
Enjoy a stunning three course lunch at the Vineyard
with a tour of Highclere Castle, the real ‘Downton Abbey’

Back to the Floor 4, The Dorchester, Friday 26th April
It’s fourth time lucky as senior figures from the industry go Back to the Floor once again!

The Big Fat Quiz, Park Plaza Westminster Bridge, London, Spring TBC
Put your general knowledge to the test and be sure not to miss out
on your chance to become our 2019 Quiz champion

Northern Polo Day, Cheshire Polo Club, Sunday 23rd June
Enjoy a wonderful lunch prepared by award-winning winning chefs
prior to a thrilling game of polo

Social Sunday, nationwide, Sunday 30th June
Participate in Social Sunday and serve up something special this summer

South West Polo Day, Beaufort Polo Club, Sunday 15th September
Enjoy an outstanding lunch prepared by award-winning chefs
prior to a spot of polo and afternoon tea

Northern Lights Dinner – Autumn TBC
Celebrate the best the North West has to offer

Chairman’s Golf Day, Buckinghamshire Golf Club, Wednesday 9th October
Join us for our fourth annual Chairman’s Golf Day

Christmas Fundraising Dinner, London, Monday 25th November
Kick-start the party season with HA; celebrated chefs to be announced

If you fancy taking on a personal challenge don’t forget we have plenty of adrenaline-filled experiences in store for those wishing to raise funds and get fit at the same time.

Or why not consider nominating us as your Charity of the Year? By doing so you’ll have the opportunity to promote your organisation to a wider audience, achieve your Corporate Social Responsibility objectives, motivate and team build, generate great PR and, most importantly, make a real difference whilst having fun!

However you decide to support us this year you’ll be making a real and direct difference. Now is the time to stand up and be counted so be sure to keep an eye on our events page or send me an email fundraising@hospitalityaction.org.uk to get involved.

Commit to getting fit in 2019

Happy New Year to all of our fantastic supporters, I hope you had a restful Christmas and you’re looking forward to the year ahead. Who knows where it will take you! After the indulgences and excesses of the festive season, this is the time of year that we resolve to get fitter, maybe lose a few pounds and set a goal to work towards. If this sounds familiar, and you need a little motivation, why not sign up for a challenge event on behalf of HA today?

Take a look at these fun and adrenaline pumping challenges that you can choose from:

The Great Manchester 10k – Sunday 19th May
Le Tour de Cuisine, The Cotswold Cycle Challenge – Monday 10th June
ASICS London 10k – Sunday 21st July
Prudential Ride London-Surrey 100 – Sunday 4th August
Le Tour de Cuisine, The Northumberland Cycle Challenge – Monday 9th September

Not to mention year-round sky dives at locations across the UK for the thrill seekers amongst you!

By working towards a challenge with HA you’re more likely to hit your fitness goals and fundraising targets knowing that every hill you cycle or mile you run will help fellow hospitality people in need.

Mark West and his mum

The money you raise by committing to get fit on our behalf will go towards helping people just like Mark whose mum passed away from lung disease last year. With no life insurance or funeral policy in place, and no other close relatives to share the burden, Mark and his brother were left to split the cost of her funeral between them. Thankfully we were able to help cover Mark’s share due to the overwhelming generosity of our supporters. Please rest assured that every mile you run or hill you cycle will make a massive difference to the lives of our industry colleagues.

To make 2019 your time to shine simply give me a call on: 020 3004 5504 or email me: gvittiglio@hospitalityaction.org.uk

Here’s to a great year ahead!

HA’s 2018 in five defining moments …

It’s a year, now, since I moved from The Caterer to Hospitality Action. I thought I’d round off 2018 by capturing my thoughts on the past twelve months. Here’s my 2018 in five defining moments.

When the chips are down, sometimes only chips will help 

Back in January, as I was trying to get my head around the sheer breadth of services our charity offers, a colleague suggested I rifle through the “thank you” file. In it, I found a note, handwritten in pencil, from a little boy called Liam. Liam and his dad had enjoyed a family day out to the cinema on us and had written to thank us. Our Family Days Out scheme gives families that are under the cosh a little ‘us’ time, a chance to regroup in the face of ongoing difficulties.

Liam’s thank-you letter hit home: for the cost of a couple of cinema tickets, some pop, a bag of chips and a ride on the bus, we’d given Liam and his dad a memory to treasure.

Liam’s story demonstrates how support can come in many shapes and sizes.

As well as Family Days Out, we run our Golden Friends scheme to keep loneliness and isolation at bay for industry retirees. We offer an Employee Assistance Programme that helps employers keep their teams happy, healthy and work-ready. We award grants to people in financial difficulty. We facilitate a phone friends scheme that provides lifelines for the elderly. And we offer bespoke counselling for a wide range of issues.

As hotelier Sally Beck said in February, once you understand what we do, you fall in love with us!

Enter Mitchell … 

By his own admission, until his life hit a bump in the road, Mitchell Collier thought he was the last sort of person HA helps. Young, healthy, forging a career at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, he felt indestructible. It turned out he was exactly the kind of person HA helps.

In early 2017, Mitchell’s health and confidence took three body blows: his relationship broke down, he was overlooked for a promotion, and he received a cancer diagnosis. HA arranged for counselling to put Mitchell back on his feet. By Spring of this year, he was back on track, and he approached us to volunteer as a case study. The resulting video drew an enormous response on social media. An HA star was born.

Too often, the perception of HA is that we exist solely to help drunk or substance-addicted chefs. Of course, we do help chefs with addiction issues, and anybody else fir that matter, and we’re proud to do so. But that’s just a small part of what we do. We help people with all sorts of problems, from all types of business, in all spheres of hospitality.

Mitchell’s generosity of spirit and willingness to act as an ambassador for HA was a crucial development. He debunked the myth, once and for all, that HA is for other people.

A social whirl for a good cause …  

Principal patron, Jason Atherton had already been running Social Sunday for three years, when I joined HA. The summer fundraising initiative across his London restaurants was his way of supporting the charity, and had already raised many tens of thousands of pounds for us.

This year, Jason and I drew a line in the sand: from 2018 onwards, we agreed, Social Sunday would be opened up to the whole industry. Our vision was to establish a date in the hospitality calendar when the industry looks to itself, and looks after its own.

The response was heart-warming. From Leith to Land’s End, hospitality operators concocted their own ways to support Social Sunday. In the end, more than 50 businesses across the country took part, raising a huge amount of money in then process.

In 2019, Jason and I plan to go nuclear with Social Sunday. Watch this space.

The mental health imperative 

In May, we marked Mental Health Awareness Week  by hosting an event at the Royal Lancaster London, to shine a light on the issue of stress in the hospitality workplace. Research conducted before the event suggested that a worrying 80% of hospitality professionals regard their job as stressful sometimes or most of the time, while 51% – over half! – described their job as being stressful most or all of the time.

The event and its ripples across social media proved – as if proof were needed – that there’s a ticking mental health time bomb under UK hospitality.

On World Mental Health Day in October, two Michelin-starred chef Sat Bains blogged for us and set a lofty goal:

“Beyond our four walls, we are fortunate to have Hospitality Action to support people in our industry through the hardest of times. Together with HA, we can break the stigmas that stop so many people asking for help and create an environment where people feel they have both the support of their line manager or a friendly ear at the end of HA’s action line.”

Amen to that, Sat. This’ll be a clear goal for us next year.

The need for help never goes away … 

Like the magic porridge pot in the children’s tale, the HA in-tray never seems to get any emptier. This winter, the delays around universal credit payments and the continuing fear, uncertainty and doubt around Brexit have sparked a steep rise in requests for support from HA.

Into 2019, we’ll move Heaven and Earth to help as many people as we can – but we’ll need your support in this. I look forward to working with you next year, to make UK hospitality a happier, healthier and more nourishing place.

Meanwhile, Happy Christmas from the whole HA team.

Be like Raymond Blanc and help us to raise funds this Christmas

Christmas can be a particularly tough time of year for those who work in hospitality. With long hours and demanding work schedules, those who turn to us for support have little time to focus on themselves as they do all they can to give others their perfect Christmas. And that’s why, two weeks ago, celebrated Chef and Hospitality Action Patron Raymond Blanc OBE kick-started our festive celebrations at a rather special fundraising dinner which raised an epic £29,000!

Agnar Sverrisson and Monsieur Blanc

Monsieur Blanc was joined behind the stoves by some of his protégés and peers including Benoit Blin and Gary Jones of the two Michelin-starred Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Robin Gill of the award winning The Dairy and Aggi Sverrisson from the Michelin-starred Texture. Lending support throughout the evening was Chino Latino’s Executive Group Chef Werner Seebach who opened his restaurant doors at the Park Plaza London Riverbank and enabled us to host our final fundraising dinner of 2018 at this fantastic location.

The mouth-watering main course

We are extremely thankful to all of our sponsors including Aubrey Allen, Classic Fine Foods, Devon Eel Company, Jellybean Creative Solutions, Mash, Oranka, Reynolds, Swaledale, Taittinger, Wellocks and Wenlock Spring as well as prize donors, including Condé Nast Johansens who contributed a fantastic £500 worth of gift vouchers, to help ensure the evening’s success.

It’s not too late to raise money on our behalf this December. For a quick way to help us #spreadsomewarmth simply text WARM18 £10 to 70070 to donate £10. Or why not sign up to our “Hats off for HA” campaign where we’re asking restaurants and hotels to donate their cloakroom fees during the month of December. To find out more and get your fundraising pack email Kirsty at klyons@hospitalityaction.org.uk or give us a ring on: 020 3004 5505.

Debt and un-seasonal visitors

Sadly, we continue to receive many calls from hospitality people who are living in fear of a visit from the bailiffs. In the UK 1 in 14 adults are in problem debt, and the financial pressures of the festive season often add to that burden regardless of whether there are extra shifts available during December.

Callers often complain of aggressive language in letters and intimidating behaviour from bailiffs on the doorstep. Debts can quickly spiral beyond control and leave people bewildered and at risk of having property re-possessed.

This issue has attracted national interest with people like  Martin Lewis the ‘Money Saving Expert’ calling for a change in the law to address the risk of suicide as a result of financial worries. A change in the law is something we’d applaud.

If you or a colleague is worried about mounting debt, there are lots of ways we can help you.

The first thing to do is not panic – pick up the phone and call our 24/7 helpline on 0808 802 0282 – we can give you practical advice to help get things back on track.

Specialist debt advice – working with our partner PayPlan we can help you come to terms with your debt levels and look at your best route forwards.

Psychological support – money matters can be stressful and put pressure on all aspects of daily life. We’re here to provide a friendly ear and practical advice.

Hardship grants – You may qualify for a grant to help you with household expenses to provide a little financial breathing space

Winter fuel grants (for working age and retired people) – fuel poverty is a real issue at this time of year, you may qualify for a grant to help with spiralling energy costs.

The stress caused by debt can be stressful and in extreme cases, life threatening so if you or a colleague are worried call us on 0808 802 0282 or for information on our grants visit the Grants page on our website or call the grants team on 020 3004 5500.

Listening, engaging, empathising: steps to reducing suicide in the hospitality industry

I want to talk about suicide. Specifically, I want to open a debate on how to help hospitality workers reaching the point of despair by offering practical and emotional support; and by propagating a culture across the industry in which people are able to talk about their darkest thoughts and, crucially, are listened to and spoken to sensitively and appropriately.

It’s been heartening to hear the industry talk more about mental health issues over the past few months. At HA, we’ve played our part. We were proud, for example, to work with The Caterer on their recent mental health awareness themed issue.

But, as an industry, we’re still losing far too many precious lives to suicide.

We live in a hectic and overwhelming world. For some people, this can spark feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and depression; and these in turn can set off a downward spiral of negative thinking.

People contemplate suicide for many reasons. According to the Samaritans, it’s often caused by an accumulation of difficulties that leave people feeling there is no way out. The kinds of difficulties that might increase the risk of suicide include relationship breakdown, painful or disabling illness, bereavement, bullying, loneliness and financial difficulties.

People with conditions such as severe depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia can be particularly vulnerable. There is also a very high correlation between suicide and substance abuse.

Add the particular stresses hospitality people encounter – pressure, adrenaline peaks and crashes, long hours – and you have a dangerous cocktail.

According to research from mental health charity, Mind, suicide rates are higher in men than in women across all age groups. Suicide is now the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK.

Suicidal feelings are driven by the fear that you’ve reached the end of your resources. But with the right kind of support, resources can be restored and replenished, pain can be processed, and new ways to live life can be found.

In 2019, we’re determined to create a step-change in attitudes and prevention strategies across hospitality.

Suicidal behaviour is often described as a “cry for help”, as if it’s not to be taken seriously. But passing off talk of suicide as attention-seeking is dangerous. Anyone thinking or talking in these terms is in deep distress. If someone you know is talking like this, don’t be afraid of engaging with them. Talking about suicide with a sympathetic listener has never driven anyone to kill themselves.

But how? And how do we spot the signs, if someone isn’t actually talking about suicide?

The time has come to put strategies in place across the industry.

We’re not experts in this field, and there are many experts out there. We’ll seek their their expertise, then focus it through the lens of hospitality.

At this point, we’re looking for expressions of interest. Does this post resonate with you? I’m at mark@hospitalityaction.org.uk, or you’ll find me on Twitter (@marklewis32).

By collaborating on this important project, we can save lives.

 

The Staff Canteen helps Hospitality Action as it helps build careers …

Support for Hospitality Action comes in all shapes and sizes.

Some people like to skydive, others prefer to ease into a bath full of baked beans. Troy Smith opts for Tough Mudders and other endurance sports. Meanwhile, Denise this summer cycled from London to Paris in memory of her husband, Paul.

Next month, our friends at the Staff Canteen, the UK’s largest online network of professional chefs, are supporting us at the first of a new series of events aiming to celebrate hospitality as a great career choice.

UK hospitality will never resolve its enduring skills shortage until it takes proactive steps to sell itself as a career of choice – and that starts with showcasing why it’s such an amazing sector to work in.

The Staff Canteen Live college tour is taking top chefs back to college in a first step to tackling the chef shortage at grass roots level, by highlighting the many and varied career options available in foodservice. The tour aims to inform students on how to forge a successful career in hospitality. It’s being run in partnership with the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts.

The tour’s first stop is at Westminster Kingsway College, on Monday, 3 December, where students will be able to quiz a panel of chefs comprising Michelin-starred John Williams MBE, Executive Chef at The Ritz; Alyn Williams, Chef Patron of Alyn Williams at The Westbury and The Wild Rabbit; Rob Kennedy, Culinary Director at Compass Group UK and Ireland; Glenn Evans, Head of Food Development at Las Iguanas; and Ruth Hansom, Head Chef at Luton Hoo Hotel.

For John Williams and Ruth, the event will be a trip down memory lane – both studied at Westminster Kingsway.

John is encouraging students to “listen and learn from us as we have been there and done it”.

And Ruth agrees. “It’s important to nurture and encourage young people into the industry”, she says. “It can be tough but it’s also rewarding, which is why it’s important to find the best route for you. It’s key to show young people all the avenues as they are so diverse.”

Mark Morris, Founder of The Staff Canteen, says: “on our panel are some of the most successful chefs working in the industry today. They all began their careers in a very similar environment to the students who join the tour. I hope we communicate that our panel have been successful through hard work; and that all that’s separating the students and them, is a structured career path and a strong work ethic.”

The event will be live-streamed on The Staff Canteen’s Facebook page and YouTube channel from 5pm. It’s the first of four events at colleges around the UK, in the coming months.

If you’d like to get involved in future tour events, email jen@thestaffcanteen.com or call 0330 202 1051.

And what’s in it for HA? The Staff Canteen will be donating £1000 to us on behalf of the chefs on the panel, to reflect the fact that we provide a safety net to catch chefs and other hospitality workers, if they fall.

Thanks, Staff Canteen.

Forget Black Friday, we’ve got LOTS of awesome gifts

 

Before you get swept up in the consumerist wave of Black Friday and Cyber Monday take a moment to check out our 16th Christmas annual online auction.

Forget socks, flamingo egg cups (really, they’re a thing) or never-to-be-used vouchers for shops that only have three branches at the opposite end of the country. We’ve got some of the most unique and exciting gifts for the foodie in your life.

Today sees the launch of our annual online auction. There are some amazing lots on offer including:

There are some unique experiences in our auction that make the perfect gift for that special someone. The final deadline for bids is 2pm on Friday November 30thget your bids in now.

Your gift won’t just make your loved one’s Christmas magical, you’ll be spreading some warmth to our beneficiaries. Your generosity could help a family through one of their most challenging times.

Plus, if you buy one of our lots we promise you won’t get involved in a brawl at ASDA over a TV.

Going once… Going twice… Get bidding!

 

 

Joining the Fundraising team, and events to look forward to

Hi, I’m Kirsty, new Fundraising & Marketing Executive at Hospitality Action.

It is my third week as an official member of the Fundraising team; however, I have been working with Hospitality Action for the past year, across the Fundraising, Grants and EAP teams as the charity has been growing and getting busier. This has given me a unique perspective into how HA works, and how we help to support the people in our industry on a daily basis.

My background is in scientific publishing, administration and events organisation, and I hadn’t had any involvement in the hospitality industry prior to joining HA. I have learned so much about how the industry works and the hard work done every day by amazing, passionate people behind the scenes that the public don’t see when we visit a restaurant or hotel, for instance.

It has also been a real eye-opener for me to see the struggles that people who work in the hospitality industry, or who have previously worked in the industry, go through. Whether it is somebody applying for a grant, or making use of the EAP via their workplace, in my relatively short time at HA I have seen so many stories of people who have fallen on hard times through illness, addiction, trauma or other  difficult circumstances. It has been humbling to see how the work that HA does to provide the support they need – financial, emotional or otherwise – has such a huge impact on their lives, and how grateful they are to the charity for providing the support they are often desperately seeking.

The work that the Fundraising team do is crucial to raise the funds to make all this possible. I’m very excited to have joined the team here at HA, knowing the work that I will be doing will have a tangible benefit to those in need. There are a lot of exciting fundraising events coming up, and I can’t wait to be a part of making those events fun for everyone, and raising money for HA at the same time.

26 November: Raymond Blanc OBE
This December: Hats Off for HA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am very much looking forward to being involved in this year’s Christmas events. The Festive Fundraising Dinner on 26th November with the legendary Raymond Blanc OBE will certainly be a special evening, and a great way to kick off Christmas celebrations. I am also co-ordinating a brand new fundraising campaign running throughout December called Hats Off for HA, where we’re asking hotels and restaurants to donate their cloakroom fees to us – an easy way for businesses to generate awareness, raise money and be in with a chance of winning a prize.

Interested in taking part in Hats Off for HA? Or attending an event? Or perhaps you want to know about other ways you can support HA? Say hello and email me at klyons@hospitalityaction.org.uk or call me on 020 3004 5505.