Industry supports Le Tour de Cuisine!

On Monday last week over 200 cyclists set off on our Le Tour de Cuisine Cotswold Cycle Challenge. The event, sponsored by Calcot, Sky and Technogym, has raised a phenomenal £37,000 and counting!

Sixty cyclists joined us for a delicious pasta supper at The Gumstool Inn in the grounds of the Calcot Manor hotel on Sunday evening. As well as loading up on carbs, it was also an opportunity to swap top cycling tips ahead of the big day. It was Calcot’s equivalent of the HA Social Sunday event and they kindly donated all proceeds from the three-course meal.

Fifty cyclists were up and ready for the start at 8am, some having made the three hour journey up from London that morning (not on the bike!). Everyone was in high spirits despite what lay ahead!
A further 100 cyclists joined us for the 60 and 40 mile routes while
another 50 cyclists took on the 20 mile challenge.

Team Sky getting ready for 100 miles
The Gold Key Media Team set off for 60 miles

The ride was certainly tough but the hospitality along the way was, as you would expect, excellent! There was a feeding station at The Village Hall in Barnsley, catered for by the team at Barnsley House, as well as another at The Painswick. Riders also enjoyed refreshments laid on by
The Protein Ball Company, Nestlé and Creed Foodservice.

The Chewton Glen 100 milers
Mark Godfrey from Deer Park Hotel in his dinner jacket!
The Vacherin Team setting off on the 100 mile route

Meanwhile, some cyclists stopped for what was described as ‘the best mac n cheese ever’ at Whatley Manor. Some even ended up doing 40 extra miles just so that they could double back to Whatley for an extra helping!

At 2pm the tired-looking cyclists began to cross the finishing line but we were ready for them with a medal and a glass of Taittinger Champagne, courtesy of Hatch Mansfield. Calcot also laid on a great BBQ with the kind help of Creed Foodservice team and the cyclists sat in the hotel garden enjoying the sunshine as they waited for their team mates to return.

Creed Foodservice at the BBQ after their ride

This was truly a day to celebrate the industry we work in and it was humbling to welcome back our cyclists after an extremely tough challenge.

The Arch Hotel Team with their medals
Team Sky after the challenge with their medals

Well done to everyone who participated, you guys really are all
amazing
and such an inspiration!

Teams who took part included Sky, the Calcot Collection, Bespoke Hotels, CH&Co Group, Chewton Glen, Creed Foodservice, Exclusive Hotels,
Gold Key Media, Greenclose Hotels, Lucknam Park, Red Carnation Hotels, The Arch, The Pig Hotels, Vacherin, Preferred Hotels & Resorts,
Farncombe Estate, The Vineyard, Firmdale Hotels, Total Produce,
Whatley Manor and The Goring.

Here’s to Le Tour de Cuisine Cotswold Cycle Challenge 2019 – if you would like to join in the fun next year and raise some funds for the charity,
please email me via astrid@hospitalityaction.org.uk

Can you imagine a world without volunteers? We couldn’t.

Without our volunteers, we couldn’t run our Golden Friends scheme.

Our Golden Friends get-togethers enable industry retirees from all walks of life, who usually dine alone, to socialise without discrimination and meet like-minded people.

Without our volunteers we would have no one to meet and greet Golden Friends at our lunches and teas – no one to spot the guest who is on their own and might be a little nervous, welcome them with a friendly smile, introduce them to other members and get them chatting like they’ve been coming for years.

Here’s proof from a Golden Friend:

“My husband & I had worked together in the licenced trade for some years.
When he was diagnosed with vascular dementia it wasn’t even a question that I would care for him. As the years progressed his personality changes became very distressing and at times heart-breaking.

For me, Golden Friend lunches were an escape to a place where no-one knew my personal circumstances – a place where I could chat and laugh with people my own age and share past stories from the industry, in what felt like a guilt free environment. After my husband passed away the lunches are my happy place through difficult times and a chance to make and continue friendships.”

Continue reading “Can you imagine a world without volunteers? We couldn’t.”

Sushi masters, cricket matches and communal tables: Social Sunday is just one month away!

Social Sunday is just one month away today, and chefs across the nation are hatching some grand plans to mark it and raise funds for Hospitality Action. and help transform hospitality lives.

Social Sunday was the brainchild of Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton. For three years, Jason, principle patron of HA, has run the event to fundraise for the charity. Since launching Social Sunday in 2015, he has raised over £100,000 to help his fellow hospitality professionals.

This year, on 1 July, we’re taking the concept nationwide – and operators are  finding some imaginative ways of supporting.

As usual, Jason’s London restaurants will play host to a fantastic roster of guest chefs, among them Tom Aikens, Tom Sellers, Paul Ainsworth, Martin Morales, Clare Smyth and sushi master, Endo Kazutoshi.

At Dom Chapman’s Beehive in White Waltham, meanwhile, Social Sunday will be piggy-backing lunch service, a hog roast and a spot of cricket.

HA patron and super-supporter Heston Blumenthal is adding a £1 donation on all bills at The Fat Duck, The Hinds Head, The Crown, The Perfectionists’ Café and Dinner by Heston London during the week of Social Sunday.

Another HA patron, Tom Kerridge, is kindly donating a percentage of takings at the Hand and Flowers and the Coach on 1 July.

Further west, Niall Keating and The Caterer’s Hotelier of the Year Sue Williams are welcoming the legend that is Sat Bains to Whatley Manor, where Niall and Sat will be cooking up an eight-course storm together.

Further up the country, at Manchester’s Hotel Football, there’s a Sunday lunch in our honour …

… and Gary Usher’s growing northwest empire (well done on the Pinion crowdfunding triumph – £86k!!) will be holding Social Sunday dinners in all four of its restaurants: Sticky Walnut, Wreckfish, Hispi and Burnt Truffle. Guests at all venues will enjoy five-course tasting menus at communal tables, in keeping with the social aspect of the evening.

North of the border, Tom Kitchin will be adding £1 to every bill throughout July.

With Social Sunday four weeks away, there’s still time to find your own way to support Hospitality Action. Please shout if you need our help.

 

 

 

The mental wellness imperative: an open question to the hospitality industry

Spending last week on holiday in Cornwall gave me time to reflect upon this month’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and the stories it sparked.

Hospitality Action marked the week by partnering with HR in Hospitality to co-host a breakfast event at the Royal Lancaster London, to shine a light on the issue of stress in the hospitality workplace. You’ll find context to the event in my previous blog post.

I was preparing to draw to a close the Q&A session that concluded the event, when a hotelier called Darryl took up the roving mike and shared with the room his experience of spending time in the iron grip of depression. Silence fell across the room, and jaws dropped, as he spoke. In just a couple of minutes, Darryl made real the mental wellness issues we’d been debating for over an hour. Delegates left the hotel humbled by the fact that he’d chosen our event as a platform from which to tell his story.

Since our event, three more chefs have been in touch with HA to share their stories. Two approached us in confidence. The third, Charlie, has told his story on Twitter. As the hashtag says, it’s clearly #timetotalk.

Staring out at the Atlantic at Sennen Cove last week, I thought about what the industry needs, to equip it to help Darryl, Charlie and others like them.

HA already helps people for whom mental health issues have become acute. We offer people counselling … we provide them financial support when they are unable to go into work.

But what if there were a self-support mechanism that helped keep mental health problems at bay, in the first place? I’m thinking prevention rather than cure – but what would this look like? And how could HA facilitate it?

One thing’s for sure: there’s a need. As one chef said on Twitter in response to Charlie’s post, “it’s a case of which chefs I know who don’t battle these things … “.

Let me know what you think: we may not have all the answers, but we’ll do our damnedest to provide new services to support the industry we serve. You’ll find me at mlewis@hospitalityaction.org.uk – email me.

 

“The black dog still exists” … combating stress and depression in the workplace

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. To mark it, Hospitality Action and HR in Hospitality co-hosted an event yesterday morning at the Royal Lancaster London, to shine a light on the issue of stress in the hospitality workplace.

Managing your team’s stress levels is important for two reasons. First, keeping its workforce healthy and happy is the right thing for a caring and enlightened employer to do. Second, a healthy and happy workforce is also a work-ready and productive one – stress can result in high sickness absence, high staff turnover, low morale and under-performance.

To get a sense of the scale of issue, prior to the event we ran a survey with media brand Dewberry Redpoint and comms agency Mercieca.

The results paint an alarming picture.

We began by asking: “is your job a stressful one?”

Only 5% of respondents reported that their job is rarely stressful. A worrying 80% told us that their job is stressful sometimes or most of the time. And 51% – over half! – described their job as being stressful most or all of the time.

Our next question asked respondents to choose the one statement from four options that best described their place of work.

Just 3% said they rarely deal with stressful situations. Lucky them …

Roughly a third, 30%, chose “there are some stressful times, but we are really clear on how we can get support.” Another third, 34%, reported that “most of my colleagues have suffered with stress at one point or another. We wish we had more support.” And 33% selected “we all suffer with stress, it’s part and parcel of job.” This last answer is most alarming: can a third of hospitality professionals really be resigned to living with stress on a daily basis?

Question three asked whether stress levels had increased over the past three years. With 79% of respondents reporting that it had, we are clearly dealing with a worsening problem.

Next, we asked what were the main causes of stress at home and in the workplace. At work, pressure was the biggest cause, referenced  by 75% of respondents. Though poor management was mentioned by 39% of respondents, it was reassuring that only 13% cited bullying/harassment as a cause of stress – still 13% too many, but a sign that the more Neanderthal style of kitchen management is finally becoming a thing of the past.

In the home, respondents pointed to relationship/family issues (35%), health issues (30%), debt issues (24%) and addiction issues (11%).

Our research asked if the organisations where those surveyed worked offered mental health awareness training. The answer was “yes” for just 17% of managers, only 9% of employees, and 16% for both.

Meanwhile, 56% of respondents thought that employees are more likely to discuss mental health issues with employers than previously. The 44% who answered “no” used worrying vocabulary like “stigma”, “taboo”, “weak”, “embarrassed”, “macho”, “brutal”, “scared” and “militaristic” …

If your business could do more to support employees with mental health issues or any other challenges, please do consider our Employee Assistance Programme.

Research presented, I then chaired a discussion panel featuring the Royal Lancaster’s GM and a great advocate of HA, Sally Beck; Hawksmoor HR manager and EAP client Sofia Gassne; Law Express MD, Karen Archer; Work with Nest director, Maggie Campbell; and Kate Nowlan, CEO of our EAP partners, CIC.

At the end of the session, something extraordinary happened. A hotelier called Darryl took the mike and proceeded to tell us his story of depression and of pulling back from the brink of despair. He describes his experiences frankly at his blog, Mind the Gap.

I’ll leave Darryl with the last word, as I did yesterday.

“The black dog still exists, but it doesn’t mean I’m bad”.

A Whole Lot of Fun – Flagship Quiz Breaks Records!

A record-breaking £85,000 was raised on Wednesday evening at our annual Big Fat Quiz! Taking place at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London the event was an enormous success and raised the most since the quiz began back in 2007!

The fundraising got off to a fantastic start when Daniel Pedreschi, Regional General Manager UK at PPHE Hotel Group presented us with a cheque for £19,533 – raised through the popular StreetSmart Campaign.

The quiz, hosted by legendary DJ Pat Sharp saw joint team CESA, Jellybean Creative Solutions, Propercorn and Wenlock Spring crowned champions out of the 55 competitive teams who took part. It was a closely fought battle with joint team Delifrance, Kellogg’s and Tyrells in second place and The Caterer coming third.

Over 500 guests enjoyed a three course meal of ham hock, chicken and leek terrine, slow-cooked shepherd’s pie and apricot and vanilla sponge mousse with coconut ganache and almond crumble. Guests were also able to bid on star auction lots, hosted by celebrated chef and HA Patron Brian Turner CBE, including an overnight stay for two guests in a Suite at The Dorchester and two tickets to see the England v India test match at Lord’s this summer.

It goes without saying that we’re extremely grateful to all of our sponsors, without whom the evening simply wouldn’t have been possible. Sincerest thanks to Bidfood, the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge, Syft, Fusion FSM and all those you see listed above.

It was a fantastic evening! If you’d like to host your own (slightly smaller!) quiz to raise funds for Hospitality Action, or you have a brand new fundraising idea you’re keen to get off the ground please give me a ring on 020 3004 5504 to talk things through.

When the thud of envelope on door mat reminds you the world hasn’t forgotten about you …

This pile of envelopes can only mean one thing: it’s time to ship the latest mailing of our bi-monthly Golden Friends newsletter.

All hands were on deck last Friday – super-volunteer Denise‘s among them – to stuff into envelopes the fifteen hundred copies of the newletter we send out to our Golden Friends.

Golden Friends is a contact scheme for people who have worked within the hospitality industry and are now retired. It is a free scheme and is open to anyone who is over pension age and has worked within the hospitality industry in the UK for at least 7 years.

We use the phrase, Golden Friends, because we hope that the programme’s members are enjoying their golden years. But of course, for too many elderly people, retirement can bring with it loneliness and isolation. The loss of a life partner and worsening mobility only exacerbate this.

As well as the newsletter, the programme sends members birthday and Christmas cards and gifts, and invites them to regional lunches and teas where they can meet old friends and make new ones. (If you can donate a lunch or tea please click here for further details.)

Members can also request an introduction to one of our befriending volunteers, who keep in touch with Golden Friends through home visits and over the phone. I’ve written about my phone friendship with Dora, previously.

The Golden Friends newsletter is a mixed bag of content. The latest edition has information about how to join an audiobook library; advice on how to create bee- and butterfly-friendly gardens; and some enjoyable content about the NHS, which celebrates its 70th birthday this year. Sudoku lovers are well catered for; as are bakers, who’ll enjoy this month’s banana bread recipe.

Our Golden Friends love to browse each new edition. For some of them, points of contact with the outside world are few and far between, so just hearing the thud of post on door mat is a pleasure.

The newsletter is sponsored by the Worshipful Company of Innholders. Bless them for this gift to the people who laid the foundations of today’s hospitality industry. And well done to Hospitality Action’s Jenny Gill for compiling it.

 

Recovery through positivity: how HA helped get Le Manoir’s Mitchell back on track

When you’re young, it’s easy to think you’re indestructible. Your whole life is stretched out before you, the opportunities are endless.

But there are no guarantees in life. No one can know what lies around the corner. Just ask Mitchell Collier, Guest Relations Manager at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. I’ll let Mitchell tell his own story.

“From the age of 14, I knew hospitality was what I wanted to do. I may have been elbow deep in dishwater but I already felt part of something bigger. For me, hospitality isn’t just the service we deliver but the collaboration of people with their own unique traits and skill sets.

“Knowing that I felt destined for a career in hospitality, I began to chase my dream. After two years studying Hospitality Management at Buxton College, I accepted a position at South Lodge Hotel, where I progressed within the Guest Services team. I joined Le Manoir in 2016, with the drive to continue my journey further. Life was good …

“In the Spring of last year, my life turned upside down. Following a decline in my health and several visits to the doctor and to hospital, I was diagnosed with a form of skin cancer, in June.

“The last thing you expect to be doing on your 21st birthday is to be recovering from emergency surgery to remove a cancerous growth. It’s certainly not what I had planned!

“Days before my surgery, I was also informed I’d been unsuccessful in applying for an internal promotion. And, in the same week as my surgery, my partner decided to end our relationship. I felt alone, a failure, and I couldn’t comprehend having been told I had cancer. Despite being an optimistic, positive and joyful person, I couldn’t see light at the end of the tunnel.

“A close friend at work saw my struggle and told me to seek help from Hospitality Action’s Employee Assistance Programme, which our company offers to all staff members. If it wasn’t for her suggestion, I honestly don’t know what position I would be in today. The support and reassurance I got from just one telephone call was the pick-up I needed.

“I was offered six sessions of counselling by Hospitality Action. After a few sessions with the counsellor, I still felt I wasn’t back to my normal self, so after a quick call they agreed on a further six.

“My counselling was to help me come to terms with everything I’d been through. I described it to my counsellor as trying to download a 10GB file with a bandwidth of 1KB. I just wasn’t able to process everything and became stuck with what was going on in my life and how I could move forward. I had all the emotions going on and I just didn’t know where to start with them all.

“On returning to work I found certain situations very difficult to handle. Le Manoir is a bucket-list destination for some people, so I was around guests who’d unfortunately not been so fortunate with their treatment and were coming for a last special occasion. My counsellor was able to teach me techniques to help me process everything a little bit at a time, and to clear my mindset.

“The counselling brought me back to a place I was familiar with. My positive outlook and happy attitude were back, and I felt ready to tackle the challenges that had been thrown at me over the previous three months. I reapplied for the promotion and, with perseverance and support from the counsellor and a fresh outlook, I was promoted to Guest Relations Manager early last November. I then got my all-clear at the end of November, so it really was a great month for me. I go back to the Churchill in Oxford every three months for scans and check-ups to make sure nothing has come back. It’s great to have such attentive after care.

“I am 21, turning 22 in June, but I’ve decided that this year is going to be my 21st birthday revisited, since I didn’t get to celebrate last year while I was recovering from surgery.

“I am so grateful for the support Hospitality Action gave me; and I admire their commitment to supporting individuals struggling in our industry. Without a safety net like the one they provide, I fear my story would have been very different. Everyone will come across struggles in their life and sometimes it’s just a helping hand that makes a big difference.”

Mitchell, more power to you for inviting me to tell your story, and good luck with your recovery. You know where we are, should you need any further support.

Mitchell received our support because Raymond Blanc and his management team at Le Manoir had the foresight and duty of care to subscribe to our employee care programme.

I urge to do the same for your team members, and ensure they remain happy, healthy and work-ready.

Charity supporters walk the rooms of Downton Abbey

Last Thursday we offered our guests the opportunity to tour Highclere Castle in West Berkshire, to lunch and have afternoon tea at The Vineyard at Stockcross and we raised £13,000 for Hospitality Action.

We ran this event for the first time in 2017 and for the second year running we sold out in just a few weeks. We love organising this popular event because it opens the doors to new supporters, who are prepared to travel for miles for the opportunity to tour Highclere, enjoy a Champagne reception and a fabulous three-course lunch with paired wines at The Vineyard.

Chef Robby Jenks once again prepared the most exquisite menu not just for the lunch, but also for the array of sweet treats for the afternoon tea, which was gladly received upon the return from the castle tour.

The Vineyard Hotel, a Relais & Châteaux 5 star hotel and spa, is renowned for its impeccable service, 3 AA Rosette restaurant and award-winning, 30,000-bottle wine cellar. All guests highly praised chef Robby Jenks and his brigade.

Even the short coach journey to Highclere Castle was enjoyed, driving through the beautiful countryside, taking in the green fields dotted with sheep and new born baby lambs, one of the sure signs of spring, to finally reveal a stunning country house set within a 5,000-acre estate in Hampshire, the country retreat of the Earl of Carnarvon. Highclere was a filming location for the British comedy series Jeeves and Wooster and it was also more recently used as the main location for the award-winning period drama Downton Abbey. We even had an actor amongst our guests, a proud extra who took part in many episodes in the series and proved to be quite a character.

This year we also offered a visit to the Egyptian Exhibition, which highlighted the 5th Earl of Carnarvon’s role in discovering the Tomb of the Egyptian Boy Pharaoh, Tutankhamun, in 1922 with his colleague, Howard Carter. We all learned something new that day and those of us who love history, came away a little bit curious.

In the words of one of our guests: “We had a wonderful day at Highclere Castle and the food and the service at The Vineyard were outstanding, we will definitely come back! Today we were introduced to Hospitality Action and feel privileged to have attended this fundraiser and to have contributed to such a great cause, we will make sure we support your charity in the future!”

The raffle and live auction raised £13,000 and we are hugely grateful to Greenclose Hotels Limited, The Marylebone, Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane, Tyddyn Llan, The House near Bath, Firmdale Hotels, CH&Co and Sidoli who donated prizes.

We are extremely grateful to The Vineyard for hosting the event, to Taittinger Champagne for providing the bubbles for the drinks reception and to Hatch Mansfield for pairing up wines with the menu. We thank all of our sponsors for continuing to support our fundraising efforts and contributing with such special care and attention to ensure our event offer experiences to remember.

The funds raised will be used directly to support our charity work, to provide a much needed support, often a lifeline, to current and former hospitality industry workers who find themselves in difficult times, both at work and in their personal lives.

The reality is that hospitality is everywhere in our lives and we believe that the hard working people offering hospitality should not remain faceless or suffer in silence. After all how can you deliver great service with a smile if you don’t feel like smiling?

If you would like to be informed about our work and attend future events, please sign up to our newsletter here.

If you would like to get involved, donate a prize, nominate us as your charity or have an idea, we would love to hear from you fundraising@hospitalityaction.org.uk

Rugby Legends and Super Chefs Raise £40,000 for HA!

On Monday evening we hosted our inaugural Rugby Legends Dinner at Deer Park Country House Hotel. It was a tremendous occasion which raised a whopping £40,000!

Our 200 guests enjoyed delicious food prepared by a brigade of some of the UK’s pre-eminent chefs, all from or with links to the west country; Dominic Chapman of The Beehive, White Waltham, Jude Kereama of Kota, Nathan Outlaw of Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen, Josh Eggleton of The Pony & Trap, Guy Owen of The Idle Rocks, Paul Ainsworth of Paul Ainsworth at Number 6 and Michael Wignall formerly of Gidleigh Park. Thanks also goes to Hadleigh Barrett, Executive Chef at Deer Park for opening his kitchen to us!

Stuffed courgette flower with burrata, artichokes, beetroot & sultanas, pine nut vinaigrette by Dominic Chapman, The Beehive

Our lucky guests also enjoyed the company of a host of rugby union superstars who entertained us all with tales from on and off the pitch. We are extremely grateful to them all for giving up their time free of charge; David Flatman, Phil Vickery MBE DL, Jeremy Guscott, Alex Brown, Phil Dollman, David Flatman, Andy Hazell, Kai Horstmann, Lee Mears, Matt Powell, Nigel Redman Andy Reed, Gareth Steenson, and Nolli Waterman alongside football legend Paul Tisdale.

L-R: Nathan Outlaw, Phil Vickery MBE DL, Guy Owen, Josh Eggleton and David Flatman

We are of course also indebted to our headline sponsor Sharp’s Brewery for their tremendous support, without them the event would not have been possible. Special mention also goes to Chase Distillery, Enotria&Coe, Exposure Photo Agency, Oliver Harvey, The Pig, Salt Media, Total Produce, Udale Speciality Foods and Wing of St Mawes for being so generous.

Events like these are only made possible thanks to the dedicated supporters who give up their time to help us on a voluntary basis, people like Andrew Foulkes MI who masterminded the event and Mark Godfrey FIH MI who gave us free rein of Deer Park Hotel. Needless to say we are always in need of ambassadors just like Andrew and Mark, from right across the UK, to lend their support. If you’d like to get involved in the charity, in any way, shape or form, please give me a ring on 020 3004 5504. It would be great to hear from you.