Could 2019 be the year you host an event to support your fellow hospitality people?

An amazing thing happened last Tuesday. Jose Pizarro joined forces with Chris and Jeff Galvin to cook up a storm at a gala fundraising dinner in aid of Hospitality Action at Jose’s eponymous restaurant at the top of Bermonsdey Street.

The result? A wonderfully enjoyable gourmet evening – and £17,000 in the HA kitty to spend on helping hospitality people in difficulty.

A full house of Galvin and Pizarro fans gathered to enjoy a spectacular feast, celebrating the very best of Spanish/French cuisine:

  • Croquettas squid ink with Alioli Jamón Ibérico 100%, 5J, Acorn fed Brochette of Autumn Vegetables
  • Escabeche of Yellow fin Tuna, smoked Aubergine caviar
  • Presa Ibérica 5J , Mushroom and Romesco sauce
  • Saint-Marcellin, Torta del casar
  • Apple tarte Tatin & Normandy crème fraîche.

As well as benefiting from ticket sales, we profited from a live auction, silent auction and £20 prize draw.

At HA, we run a full schedule of fundraising events aimed at generating revenues that we can then disburse as grants. And we’re immensely grateful to everyone who supports these events, which range from cycle challenges to pub quizzes, and from polo days to blue riband chefs’ dinners (check out our Raymond Blanc Dinner in London, next month).

However, we’re never happier than when kind people like Jose, Chris and Jeff reach out and tell us they’re freestyling an event themselves, on our behalf.

Could you have an HA event in you? Would you like to engage with your client base and show them you’re proud to support your own industry charity?

We’d love to hear from you.

Reflections on joining HA, and why our work is more important than ever.

Hi, I’m Jeremy, and it’s my third week as the newly-appointed Marketing Director at Hospitality Action.

During my career I’ve been lucky enough to work close to the hospitality industry for The Caterer magazine, and in digital fundraising for the international charities WaterAid and Christian Aid. I’m looking forward to bringing my experience to HA as we embark on the next exciting phase in our evolution.

The highlight of my first week was getting to experience the generosity of our supporters at first hand. I was lucky enough to join chefs Jose Pizarro along with Chris and Jeff Galvin as they prepared signature dishes for an audience of fans, foodies and suppliers – all for the benefit of HA. I was taken with how committed they were both to their own teams but also the wellbeing of the wider industry. As the auction lots rolled in, I felt a real sense of pride for our industry and those who work to support it.

As a marketing chap, I’ll be thinking about how we describe ourselves, our beneficiaries, supporters and what we do. World Mental Health Day last week was a great thought starter.

There has been a step change in the way we talk about mental health, and it’s a fantastic thing to see. From Chef Andrew Frost who took to Instagram to share the story of how HA’s action line had helped him, to high profile leaders like Sat Bains symbolically removing themselves from social media to raise awareness of the pressures of our always-on lifestyle. Our friends (and my former colleagues) at The Caterer even dedicated a whole issue of the magazine to the campaign. All of these things point to a de-stigmatisation of mental health which is something HA and other charities have been working towards for years and a fact we should celebrate.

I can’t wait to start work on developing the way we communicate how we help people and the difference it makes to their lives. Ours is a fraternal industry and the people who HA help aren’t miles away – they’re our colleagues, friends and employees – and who knows – maybe one day, any one of us could need a bit of help. HA, and the wider industry helps out our friends in a time of need to help them get back on their feet. I’m keen to evolve how we tell these stories and to develop new ways that you can support us to do more of this vitally important work.

Watch this space! I’m keen to hear any comments, stories or thoughts, drop them in the comments section below or email me at jgibson at hospitalityaction.org.uk

Mental Health in Hospitality – #timetotalk by Sat Bains

Sat Bains takes a break from social media to promote wellbeing on World Mental Health Day. He picks up the story…

“On 10 October, every year, the World Health Organisation recognises World Mental Health Day. First launched by the World Federation for Mental Health in 1992, it has run almost annually since 1996 on the same day, each year dedicated to a different theme.

While previous years have focused on “mental health and older adults”, “living with schizophrenia” and “mental health in the workplace”, this year it turns its attention to “young people and mental health in a changing world”.

In the 30 or so years that I have been a chef, the world has changed beyond belief. Industry icons are only a Twitter handle away, and in culinary terms, at least, the world has most definitely shrunk. And yet, despite a seemingly smaller world and the fact that World Mental Health Day was launched almost three decades ago, mental health still faces a relentless taboo, particularly in hospitality.

The hospitality industry has given me an incredible career – I’ve achieved things I never thought possible – but there is no getting away from the fact that it has also been a demanding career and a physical one at that.

Chefs are, for the most part, fragile souls and we live wholly in the knowledge that we are only as good as our last meal. My wife Amanda and I put ourselves under immense pressure to perform at the highest possible level, and we expect no less from our teams. We run disciplined, systemised environments with high standards, and we start our day assuming that we are all on the same page – one team, one dream.

The rise of social media has brought amazing opportunities for chefs like me, it’s enabled many of us to promote our businesses, sell tables, crowdfund and get our voice heard without being beholden to one particular newspaper or another.

It has undoubtedly helped many of us build confidence and a support network among chefs and customers alike, and a steady stream of compliments can boost your ego no end. But there’s also a dark side of social media that many people, and many chefs, struggle to handle which is why I felt that launching a blackout was so important on this critical day. And so today, along with many of my colleagues and industry friends, I am quitting my personal social media channels for one week to shine a spotlight on mental health and to promote wellbeing.

Like me, many of my colleagues have addictive personalities which plays right into the hands of social media. We live in an era where many of us are slaves to our phones and we have become addicted to notifications – notifications that open us up not only to adulation, but to trolls and critics too. This dependency is not good and for me and many others I believe taking a break from social media and all it encompasses to have time to reflect on my own wellbeing and the chefs for whom I am responsible for can only be a positive thing.

As a business, wellbeing is key for us. A shorter working week, good, balanced and nutritious staff meals and our healthcare package goes some way towards ensuring this, but we also encourage fitness too – we think it’s fundamental to a positive mental attitude.

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.”

If you need support please call the Hospitality Action help line: 0808 802 0282. It’s free, confidential and open 24/7.

London to Paris in memory of Paul: Challenge Completed

Denise nears the end of her cycle

Earlier this year we published Denise’s touching story. After suffering a tragic loss Denise summoned all her strength and determination to undertake an epic cycle challenge in aid of Hospitality Action.

In Denise’s words: “After my husband Paul committed suicide a friend suggested that it may help to have a future focus and so as we often spent Sunday mornings cycling, then perhaps it should involve some sort of cycle challenge; and so the idea of cycling from London to Paris began to take shape.

It was just coincidence that an organised charity London to Paris cycle was to set off on September the 12th 2018, the anniversary of Paul’s death. Being aware that anniversaries can throw up all sorts of unexpected memories and emotions I decided that it may be helpful to have a focus and a slightly daunting physical challenge to preoccupy me on that day. There was never any doubt that for me the charity I chose would have to be pertinent to Paul and his life and so I contacted Hospitality Action and there was no going back.

Five in the morning, London, Wednesday the 12th of September was a dark, wet and gloomy awakening. Myself and two friends met with another seventy three damp but keen cyclists in a drenched London park. We set off enthusiastically through busy London traffic. Suburbia soon gave way to country lanes, however the rain never really went away and being used to quiet Scottish roads, with the occasional car, that gave cyclists a wide berth, the proximity of constant traffic forced me to concentrate. After approximately 95 miles we gathered in a pub in Dover, a swift half Guinness then we cycled en mass to the ferry. After a long and bittersweet day it was lights off and in bed for midnight in Calais.

Seven o’clock start and it was a promising one, patches of blue could be seen overhead. After an initial cold start the day kept on improving as did the scenery. The cycling proved to be undulating with a few technical hitches (my friend experienced two punctures). Lunch was spectacular and was reminiscent of a medieval banquet laid out in a historic monastery that looked like the grandest of chateaus. Our destination day two was Abbeville and as we reached it in good time we celebrated with a verre de vin blanc or two in a local bar named The Royal Bar which just happened to be the same name as a favourite bar in our old home town.

Seven thirty start and after cycling across an atmospheric Somme it was then head down for a series of gruelling climbs. Once again the scenery was idyllic although I became aware that it all must have looked very different once as we passed by many religious statues and war graves. We reached the busy city of Beauvais at what seemed like rush hour and with less than half a mile to go to the hotel I fell at a roundabout, a momentary lapse in concentration while looking down at the sat nav and CRASH down I went while still clipped in, a very kind French lady stopped to ask ‘ca va’ and so my school French kicked in and I replied ‘Ca va bien merci’ , got back on the bike and found the hotel.

Denise and her group celebrate at the Eiffel Tower

Next morning was touch and go as to whether I’d be fit to cycle but after many drugs (supplied by a bona fide GP) and taping of my shoulder I was good, if not fit, to go. Fifty five miles on a bike in pain was pretty tough, however I was buoyed along by a stop at one of Van Gogh’s many houses, lunch in a park in Paris with the most delicious cheese, then cycling around the Arc de Triomphe and the final destination of the Eiffel Tower. The Parisians were fantastically hospitable and then reaching the end despite my fall felt quietly but massively empowering after the year that had went before.

Throughout my travels I was constantly aware of the hospitality and provision of nourishment we received. More than most I am aware of the long hours, hard work and personal sacrifice that is often made by those who provide and serve the food we eat. I am eternally grateful to them for this service, Paul loved his industry and it was to honour him that I cycled these miles to raise money for Hospitality Action.”

We at HA remain indebted to Denise for the great lengths she undertook in our honour. The hours of training and personal sacrifice that the challenge demanded were met head on by this truly inspiring fundraiser and for this we are so very grateful. If you’d like to make a donation to Denise’s fundraising page you can do so here. And of course if you’d like to take part in your own challenge event, for any reason at all, please give me a ring on 020 3004 5504 to learn about the many options available.

 

 

Pulling together to make a difference: Hywel Jones explains why he supports HA

I first became involved with the Hospitality Action Beaufort polo lunch event some eight years ago. Back then the event was half the size it is today and I was joined in the kitchen by Martin Burge and Sam Moody with Michael Croft heading up the kitchen team. Over the years I’ve witnessed the event grow in size, the amount of chefs involved double, but most importantly my understanding of the important work Hospitality Action does has grown significantly.

The 2011 Polo Day chefs

There is no hiding from the fact that the hospitality industry can be a difficult industry to work in but equally it’s a very close knit community which is why I’m sure so many of us feel strongly about helping Hospitality Action to ‘look after our own’.

The 2018 brigade alongside Susan Shore

So for me once again to be a part of this year’s event was an opportunity I jumped at.  This year I was once again joined by Rob Potter from the Manor House Castle Combe, Richard Davies from Calcot Manor, Robby Jenks from The Vineyard at Stockcross, Niall Keating from Whatley Manor and André Garret from Cliveden. We were also joined by Kris Biggs from The Rectory Hotel who although was not with us last year is somewhat a veteran of the event from his time with Martin and Richard Edwards.

The planning started back in January. Rob and André were assigned to starters, Niall and Richard to main course, Robby and I were making the desserts and Kris was preparing the afternoon teas. Our first task was to decide on our ‘common’ ingredient. Basically each group of chefs choose one ingredient that they will both use and build their dishes around that. For this year the ingredients chosen to use were salmon for the starter, lamb for the main course and raspberries for dessert. It’s always interesting to see how different the chef’s creations can be even when using the same ingredients.

Some of the delicious dishes on offer

Once the main menu is agreed we then take care of all the other details such as sourcing ingredients and sponsors, wine pairings, dietary requirements, bread and so on. This is where I begin to realise how lucky I am to be working with these other chefs. For each and every one of them nothing was too much trouble. I know how busy these guys are but anything I asked for one of them would put their hands up. Biggest shout out this year went to Rob who took on the role of making the bread from Niall who did it last year. Come the event, Rob and Mikey his pastry chef stayed up the entire night prior baking the bread, respect due!

On to the weekend itself. Richard and myself went along on the Saturday to begin arranging all the kitchen areas of the marquee. The front of house led by the amazing Sue Shore were already busy arranging and setting up all the tables and front of house areas. Once we had set up and tested all the equipment it was back to our hotels to put the finishing touches to all our food prep in readiness for the big day.

Before the guests arrived

Sunday arrived and by 8am the teams had all started arriving. The weather was once again on our side and there was that sudden moment of realisation that this is it, if we have not thought of it by now it’s too late!

Thankfully though the biggest drama we had was a fryer that we could not get lit. This was no issue for Richard though, he simply jumped in his 911 and sped off to Calcot (within the National speed limit he assured us) to use the fryer there.

From then on the day flew by; first the canapés were served closely followed by the lunch itself. The food these guys produced was outstanding and when you consider that they cooked for 300 guests in basically a big tent in a field it’s even more impressive. It was a pleasure to cook alongside them.

Guests enjoying the hospitality

Finally once the afternoon tea was served there was time to breathe so in true chef’s form the beers were cracked open and the banter started to fly.

It’s a great feeling knowing that you have all worked together as a team towards a common goal and achieved it. I took my eldest son along to help on the day and he said in the car on the way home that it’s the best day he’s ever had in a kitchen.

I asked him why he thought that and he said he liked the way everyone worked together to help each other out. I guess we never really know in life when we will need help but it’s reassuring to know that in our industry if or when we do need help it’s there through Hospitality Action.

This year we raised over £50,000 at the lunch. Being a part of such an event is a very rewarding experience and one I’m very proud of.

Hospitality Action is such an amazing charity with an incredible team driving it forward. The more people that get behind the stronger it will get and this is where we can all lend a hand. If you feel you can help, get in touch with the team and be a part of something special. Give them a call: 020 3004 5504 or email fundraising@hospitalityaction.org.uk to see how you can get involved and improve the lives of others.

 

Celebrate the Mandarin Oriental team’s big hearts – and share in our good fortune

A wise man once said that “misfortune nobly born is good fortune.”

I quoted Juvenal at the Worshipful Company of Innholders dinner, last week; now I’m referencing Marcus Aurelius. I wonder how you say ‘get me’, in Latin?

When a fire broke out at her hotel this summer, just one week after it had unveiled a multimillion-pound refurbishment, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park GM Amanda Hyndman must have wondered what she had done to deserve such misfortune. That the fire struck two days into Amanda’s stewardship of the hotel only added insult to injury.

“It’s at times like this that you discover the great pride and loyalty the staff have in the hotel,” she told The Caterer at the time. “There has been a real ‘can do’ spirit amongst everyone. The London Fire Brigade has been amazing and we have had tremendous support from our neighbours with hampers arriving from Harrods and hotels such as the Berkeley, Bulgari and  Jumeirah being so incredibly generous.”

Demonstrating a stoicism that Marcus Aurelius would have applauded, and humbled by the support they received, Amanda and her team quickly decided to turn a negative into a positive.

In days, they had launched FANtastic London, a charitable initiative that aims to thank their local community for its support and care after the fire.

FANtastic London is deploying 400 of the hotel’s workforce to support charities and organisations active or based in the capital, as repairs to the hotel continue. Amanda estimates as much as 40,000 working hours will be donated before the property’s reopening, later this year.

Beneficiaries of the scheme include Walking With The Wounded, Age UK, Thrive Battersea Garden Project, Oxfam, the London Fire Brigade, the Felix Project – and Hospitality Action.

Each week, volunteers Ksenia (pictured with HA’s Astrid Wears-Taylor) and Malin spend a day at our Farringdon office, supporting our fundraising and grant-giving efforts.

And, this week, a crack team of envelope-stuffers will converge on our boardroom to help despatch the Autumn edition of our Golden Friends newsletter.

From a terribly difficult situation, Amanda and her management team have found a way to galvanise their workforce, give them valuable life experiences, and help further the work of many good causes.

It’s been our good fortune at HA to benefit from the altruism shown by the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, and for this we’re hugely grateful.

The hotel’s support of HA continues next Thursday, 20 September, when Amanda and her team host a reception on the Serpentine Solar Boat, Hyde Park, in aid of us.

If you’re free, we’d love you to join us. Tickets are £95 per person. Please email mlewis@hospitalityaction.org.uk if you’d like to help celebrate a noble and philanthropic initiative over a glass or two of fizz.

SME alert: the business case for subscribing to HA’s employee care programme

I’ve outlined the value our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) delivers subscribing clients previously, on this blog.

Our EAP provides employers with a means to increase their teams’ well-being, morale and performance. It offers a comprehensive suite of benefits that takes a holistic approach to employee welfare, providing specialist, independent and confidential advice, support and assistance, 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.

I know what you’re thinking. Comprehensive support of your whole team – that’s got to be expensive, right?

Actually, no. Far from it, in fact. Subscribing to our EAP costs just £5 per employee per year, with a base threshold of £250, which we apply to cover set-up costs.

In other words, any hospitality SME with up to 50 team members pays just £250 to keep their workforce happy, healthy, engaged and work-ready for a full year.

Beside all the philanthropic, emotional reasons for wishing to subscribe, there are clear business reasons for doing so.

Taking into account the agency cost of hiring a full-time employee, if buying into our care programme stops just one team-member from leaving, you’ve already more than recouped your return on investment.

The same cold logic applies when it comes to staff absences. If our EAP can keep just one member of staff at work for a few days rather than off dealing with a personal problem, so saving you the cost of temporary cover, again you’ve more than covered your initial outlay.

I’d urge you to look at our EAP, not as a ‘nice to have’ a cost to the business, but as a means of boosting productivity and profitability.

In Service Through Friendship by Madeline Calon

The Society of the Golden Keys of Great Britain and the Commonwealth  has a long standing relationship with Hospitality Action (HA). We are a friendly association of hotel concierge that has been in existence since 1952, when a group of Head Hall Porters of several leading London Hotels met and agreed to set up an organisation which closely resembled one formed in France called Les Clefs d’Or (The Golden Keys). The first President was Mr Jimmy Stewart (not the actor!) and he served from 1952 until 1956. As the 20th President of the Society I am thrilled to be able to carry on the great work of all those who have gone before me and of course, continue to work closely with HA.

Within the Society we actually mirror some of the services offered by HA. The Welfare Officer is there to support and acknowledge the numerous life changing events of our members and we send flowers, fruit and cards to any member who falls ill, or are housebound. For our retired members we hold an annual lunch, and send them Christmas cards and gifts, and the Welfare Officer telephones and visits as many of our members as is humanly possible. HA offer a similar service via the Golden Friends scheme, and I’m sure it is purely coincidence that their support network is also “Golden”!

The Society has been a keen supporter of HA for decades, long before I became a member of the Golden Keys back in 1996. I have strong memories of previous committee members encouraging us to support HA and I am so proud to be able to continue this tradition. Each year the Society raises funds by taking part in the London 10K run and participating in an Annual Charity Golf tournament. The raffle proceeds from our annual Gala Dinner and Dance are always donated to HA and this year I had the pleasure of presenting a cheque for £9,170 and hope to continue our fundraising for many years to come.

Some of our London 10K team
Taken at our 2018 Golf Day

I would urge everyone to find a way to support HA’s fantastic work, either by fundraising in your own unique style, or by donating your time to telephone past employees who may be feeling lonely. In Service Through Friendship is the motto of The Golden Keys and nothing represents this better than our friendship with HA. If you are part of a hospitality association or society and would like to get involved with the charity please email fundraising@hospitalityaction.org.uk or telephone 020 3004 5504. The relationships you form by doing so could last decades.

 

Update: Mitchell tells his own story of confidence rediscovered and hurdles negotiated …

Back in April, I posted a blog titled Recovery through Positivity: how HA helped get Le Manoir’s Mitchell Collier back on track.

The blog described how two dents to his self-esteem and a serious health scare had left Mitchell’s confidence at rock bottom – before Hospitality Action stepped in to help.

Mitchell’s story is an inspiring example of how enlightened employers can support their workforces by adopting our Employee Assistance Programme. The blog got massive traction on social media – so much so, that we asked Mitchell if we could make a video of his story.

Top man that he is, he immediately said yes. Thanks Mitchell, you’re a star.

Is the health and wellbeing of your team and the success of your business worth £5 per head per year? If so, email me at mlewis@hospitalityaction.org.uk or call me on 07919 324978. We’d love to help you.

How Olleco are turning waste oil into a balm for hospitality people in difficulty

Back in February, I write a blog detailing how cooking oil supplier and recycler, Olleco, supports Hospitality Action as part of its wider CSR commitment. 

“Olleco understand that supporting HA creates a virtuous circle”, I wrote. “By supporting our efforts to keep hospitality professionals happy, healthy and work-ready, they are helping build sustainable businesses around the sector – and therefore future-proofing their own business.”

Kate Mortimer, Olleco’s Group Marketing and Communications Manager, told me: “In 2012 we embarked on a journey to find a charity partner who could help us extend our ethos of care. 
Individuals working within the catering and hospitality sector are key to our business. The very people the charity helps are the people that we deal with on a daily basis, delivering cooking oil and collecting organic waste streams.”

Every time Olleco sells cooking oil or collects used oil from its customers it makes a donation to HA. This summer, the total amount the business has donated has reached a staggering £100,000. One hundred thousand shiny pounds!

It’s no exaggeration to say that HA would be unable to help people like Simon Holwell (pictured at the top of this page and featured in the video above), without the support of Olleco and all the other businesses and individuals who tirelessly raise funds for us.

Congratulations on your milestone and thank you from the team at HA and all our beneficiaries.

Would you like to benefit from the virtuous circle of supporting HA? Drop me a line at mlewis@hospitalityaction.org.uk or call me on 07919 324978.