History lesson: how Hospitality Action’s been helping its industry for 180 years and counting

If you’ve ever been assisted by Hospitality Action (HA), you’re in very good company. Hospitality’s benevolent charity has been supporting the industry since 1837. Over the past 180 years, we’ve helped hundreds of thousands of hospitality people who’ve found themselves in difficulty or crisis.

HA began life as the London Coffee and Eating House Keepers’ Association. Snappy, no? In the 1830s, there were an estimated 1900 coffee shops and stalls across the capital. To support the people working in them – and inspired by the licensed trade, which had already created its own benevolent association for publicans – a gang of coffee house keepers met at Eastey’s Hotel (pictured), below Covent Garden on Southampton Street, and started their own. Fittingly, a restaurant, the Ivy Market Grill, sits on or beside the site, today.

Addressing the gathered throng, inaugural president John Humphreys proclaimed: “The coffee house keepers possess within themselves every material for forming one of the most extensive charitable institutions of which this Metropolis could boast” … [saving beneficiaries from] … “the alternative of dragging out a miserable existence immured within the walls of a workhouse”.

In these early years, the charity helped only the coffee house keepers, not their teams. (Only in 1923 did it broaden its remit to include employees.) This help took the shape of pensions for retired workers.

In the coming decades, the coffee house keepers  extended their remit to include hoteliers, as well as “Dining House Keepers, Restaurateurs, Ham and Beef Purveyors and similar Refreshment House Keepers”.

The association was slow to look beyond London; but by 1926, there were outpost branches in Liverpool and Manchester.

A step change came in 1952 when, to mark the Queen’s Coronation, the association moved into property, with the purchase of a site in Wimbledon intended, according to the spokesperson of the day, for “elderly members of the trade who are in straightened circumstances”. The house was fitted out using the proceeds from Mecca’s Miss World competition.

By 1968, hospitality movers and shakers felt the association needed stronger representation from the industry it served. A Grand Council (very Game of Thrones) was created, enabling the great and good to gather regularly and steer the organisation.

Further industry support came in 1972, when donations of £100,000 each from Grand Metropolitan’s Maxwell Joseph and Trusthouse Forte’s Lord Forte steadied the association’s wobbly finances. With this cash injection, it was able to add properties in Manchester, Newcastle and Birmingham to its estate.

Our potted history is nearing the present day. In 1975, an organisation called the PM Club approached the charity for help. Since the 1940s, it had run a club and hostel for young hotel and catering staff arriving in London. But the property was dilapidated and needed investment. HA took control of the club’s finances and by the mid-80s its premises were refurbished and relaunched.

Today, HA has long since divested itself of its property assets. Our focus, now, is on grants and advisory support. (My colleague Laura Clyne’s recent post has more on this.) This shift in our remit has allowed us to expand exponentially the number of people we can assist.

The threat of the workhouse may no longer loom before our beneficiaries, but the straightened circumstances referred to back in 1952 certainly do.

Whether the problem is bereavement or bullying, physical or mental ill health, marital issues or addiction, HA is here to help. And long may that continue.

(With thanks to Derek Taylor, whose 1987 Caterer & Hotelkeeper supplement celebrating 150 years of what was then the Hotel & Catering Benevolent Association I plundered.)


Work does not protect families from falling into crisis

New analysis on foodbank use, in conjunction with the Trussell Trust, has highlighted how being in work does not guarantee that you will have enough to get by. Applications for Hospitality Action’s grants are up 6% on this time last year and we are seeing increasing requests from people in work in crisis.

Our Winter Fuel Grant scheme for working people on low incomes helps ensure that people don’t have to choose between food and fuel. With the recent bad weather many people may have been worried about turning on the heat due to the cost. The grants are for £100 and applicants just need to demonstrate that they are on a limited income, have little or no savings and have a fuel bill to pay. If you or anyone you know will struggle with your winter fuel then the short WFG application form can be found here. We can accept applications until the end of March and so don’t delay. After this date help can be offered through our main grants programme.

Through our Essential Needs Grants we help with a huge variety of needs. Last week we helped Ms W who needed to equip a new home after fleeing an abusive partner, she and her children were without a working washing machine and fridge-freezer which we were apply to provide along with some furniture for the children’s bedrooms to make their house feel more like a home.

For many in our industry company sick pay is not part of their benefits package. The drop in income caused by only receiving Statutory Sick Pay of £89.35/week should they need time off due to ill health puts people in the impossible position of choosing which essential bill to pay; rent, fuel, food. This week we helped Mr & Mrs T; Mrs T is recovering from cancer and is back at work early as she could no longer afford to be off. We helped with some essential bills and they also received our Winter Fuel Grant.

To find out more about our grants programmes and to access our application form, please visit our website or call our grants team on 020 3004 5500.

Sunday service: how you can help transform hospitality lives on 1 July

This summer, Hospitality Action (HA) is calling on chefs, restaurateurs and hoteliers across the country to come together and raise funds in support of people who work or have worked in hospitality and find themselves in crisis.

The industry charity aims to unite the UK’s hospitality community on Social Sunday – and help transform the lives of those working in the hospitality industry.

Social Sunday was the brainchild of Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton. For three years, Jason, a patron and trustee 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, HA is taking the concept nationwide and asking operators up and down the country to support Social Sunday by taking part in the biggest lunch service ever.

Jason Atherton explains: “This is the fourth year of Social Sunday, and the industry has never operated in a tougher climate than the one we’re currently experiencing. When times are hard, it’s important that we look after our own – and that’s what Social Sunday is all about.

“This year, HA’s Chief Executive Mark Lewis and I are asking operators across the nation to help in any way they can. Every offer of support, no matter how small, will help build a wave of generosity towards industry professionals who need HA’s help most.”

Social Sunday is a chance for businesses to engage their local customer base and raise money for a good cause.

This year, we aim to build on the strong foundations laid by Jason and establish Social Sunday as one of the stand-out dates in the hospitality calendar. If the industry comes together, I know we can achieve something remarkable.

Jason’s restaurants welcome guest chefs to create bespoke tasting menus, with profits going to HA. But the charity has created a range of fundraising ideas for the event, meaning restaurants and hotels can commit at whatever level suits them. Even if you can’t open up on Social Sunday itself, there are plenty of ways to get involved in the weeks around it.

Ways of getting involved include:

  • Hosting a cookery demo for local customers pre-service and donating proceeds.
  • Inviting a local celebrity to speak and create an “audience with” lunch.
  • Holding an auction or raffle during the week of Social Sunday, donating proceeds.
  • Inviting your suppliers to gift you produce for Social Sunday and donating your savings.
  • Applying a discretionary extra charge to bills for the week of Social Sunday.
  • Donating a percentage of profits for the day after covering costs.

Would you like to be a part of Social Sunday? You’d be helping people like Liam … and Samantha.

To join the movement, email me at mlewis@hospitalityaction.org.uk or call me on 07919 324978.

Far from quiet on the Southwestern front … how regional boards are helping Hospitality Action

Yesterday morning I visited Lucknam Park to attend the HA Southwest board meeting. That’s me in the middle, surrounded by a crack team of fundraising supporters from the southwest region.

From left to right, they are: Lucknam Park chairman Harry Murray, Whatley Manor GM Sue Williams, executive chairman of Calcot Hotels Richard Ball, Pride of Britain chief executive Peter Hancock, Cotswold House Hotel GM Craig Webb, Deer Park MD Mark Godfrey, Creed Foodservice MD Philip de Ternant, ML, Cornwall educator Stuart Mathieson, AA Hotel Services MD Simon Numphud, hotel consultant and former Le Manoir director/GM Philip Newman-Hall, and educator Bridget Halford.

Not too a shabby a line up, I think you’ll agree. And there are other members not present yesterday.

We’re lucky to have their support. HA relies on fundraising to be able to offer support to people who work or have worked in hospitality and find themselves in crisis. All of these board members give up their precious time to volunteer to support our work.

We currently have three regional boards, covering the North, the Southwest and London. I can’t stress enough how invaluable their work is. Together, they raised almost £500,000 for Hospitality Action in 2017. The Southwest board alone raised £130,000.

This year, the Southwest board will host a Rugby Legends Dinner at Deer Park, a tour of Highclere with lunch at tea at the Vineyard, the Cotswold Cycle Challenge and September’s charity polo day.

Just as importantly, board members will act as ambassadors for HA, evangelising about its services and encouraging industry peers to match their support.

This year, we plan to extend our network of regional boards. Are you based in Scotland, Wales, the Midlands or East Anglia? And would you like too contribute to HA’s work?

If the answer’s ‘yes’, I’d love to hear from you at mlewis@hospitalityaction.org.uk or on 07919 324978.

Meanwhile, thank you to every one of our regional board members. Together, you are helping strengthen HA, your industry’s safety net.


London to Paris in memory of Paul

When Denise contacted the Hospitality Action fundraising team to let us know she was cycling London to Paris on our behalf we felt we had to share her story. In just under six months Denise will undertake this gruelling challenge and will need to summon all her strength and determination to ensure she crosses the finish line over 300 miles away.

Denise says: “My husband Paul became a chef at 15 and felt like he had found his calling. He became one of the youngest Master Chefs at 23 and worked in some of Scotland’s best hotels. He was a fun and fantastic mentor, a calm and fair boss and was well liked and respected by all who met him. Despite regularly working 60-90 hours a week Paul loved his industry and talked food 24/7. Tragically the pressures of the job got too much and Paul passed away last September.

When eating out or perhaps staying in a lovely hotel we do not give much thought to those behind the scenes who provide us with comfort and luxury, however they often work long hours and in stressful conditions foregoing on the normal family life and interests the rest of us take for granted. In memory of Paul, and to give myself a focus, I am taking part in this epic challenge and hope to raise both funds and awareness for Hospitality Action.”

Needless to say we are so very grateful to Denise for committing to this all encompassing challenge. She faces countless hours of training and an unforgiving fitness regime in order to take part. The cycle will be especially emotional for Denise as it will also mark the one year anniversary of Paul’s passing but we know she can do it and will be there every step of the way to support her. If you’d also like to show Denise your support please take a moment to visit her Just Giving page to donate what you can: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/denise-purves

Alternatively if you’d like to take part in your own challenge event, for any reason, please give me a ring on: 020 3004 5504 to talk over the many options available.

A shout-out for the women behind Hospitality Action’s work

Today is International Women’s Day, which makes it an opportune moment to say thank you to some of the women who help or have helped Hospitality Action (HA) remain a force for good in UK hospitality, 180 years after its inception.

In the spirit of an Oscars acceptance speech, I hope you’ll forgive me if I’ve forgotten anyone …

Let’s start with Penny Moore. Penny was Chief Executive of HA for thirteen years. When she joined the charity, it supported some 500 beneficiaries a year, and its turnover was around £750k. By the time of her departure last December, Penny had grown these numbers to 2000 and £1.7m, respectively.

A further 100,000 current and former hospitality industry employees now receive help through the employee assistance care programme (EAP) Penny established. The confidential service offers advice and support on a range of issues including health and wellbeing, working life and financial matters through telephone and online services, and face-to-face counselling.

Penny’s other legacy was the fantastic team at HA’s HQ in Farringdon. Take a bow, Astrid, Giuliana and Maria on the fundraising desk; Laura, Tonia, Lucy and Jenny on the grants desk; Camilla and Ellie, our EAP team; and Cathie and Neslihan, who together ensure the HA engine keeps purring. Let’s not forget Dawn Holding, our eyes and ears on the ground in the Northwest. And of course, no list of influential team members would be complete without reference – and deference – to Lesley Gardner, who served HA for approaching 40 years and received a well-deserved MBE for her efforts.

Let’s raise a toast to trustees and committee members past and present. Sue Harrison, no longer a trustee but still a staunch supporter; Unilever Food Solution’s tremendously supportive Hazel Detsiny; Amanda Afiya, the doyenne of UK hospitality trade media and now chairing a fundraising committee that’s supported by the AA’s Giovanna Grossi, Bronwyn Groves from the Sky Hotel team, Nicky Hancock of Sauce Communications and ACT Clean’s Gillian Thomson.

I’ll doff my hat to just two volunteers, on behalf of the thousands of women who’ve given up precious time for HA. Thank you Liz Smith-Mills, an HA guardian member and tireless volunteer, and Denise Haugh, subject of a recent blog and a living HA legend.

Finally, huge thanks to just a few of our industry champions:

  • Angela Hartnett, who wore the cuts and bruises of domestic violence for our hard-hitting awareness campaign
  • Northcote’s Lisa Goodwin-Allen, instrumental in the hotel’s raising funds of £65k, this year
  • Kate Levin at The Capital Hotel, who hosts Golden Friends lunches and champions our EAP
  • Country Range Foods‘ Coral Rose, now nearing the £25k fundraising target she set herself last year
  • Dukes Hotel‘s wonderful Deborah Dhugga, who always supports us via the London 10k Run and has even jumped out of a plane for us
  • The Georgian House Hotel‘s Serena von der Heyde, who last year ran 100 miles around the run round the Lake District for us
  • Sally Beck at London’s Royal Lancaster Hotel, a huge HA advocate
  • Lorraine Wood for years of support at Arena lunches and dinners
  • Kate Mortimer of Olleco, corporate supporters of HA to the tune of £90k and counting
  • and Sue Williams from Whatley Manor, an amazing and active supporter.

Heartfelt thanks to you all!

Beyond the call: how giving up a little time can be gold dust to Hospitality Action


Supporting Hospitality Action can take many forms. Sometimes support is financial, sometimes it takes the shape of a time commitment. When it comes to giving up precious time, no HA supporter can ever have been more generous than Denise Haugh. That’s Denise in the photograph, beside me.

Denise worked in hospitality for more than 40 years, and in many capacities. She was a receptionist at the Queens Hotel, Cheltenham, in the 1950s; staff canteen manager at the Science Museum in the 1970s; had a spell with Trust House Forte; and ended her career as senior catering officer at the Metropolitan Police, where she headed up operational catering for officers policing major incidents and events.

After such a long and varied career, Denise could have been forgiven for putting her feet up and enjoying her retirement. But that’s not her style. Since retiring, she has thrown herself headlong into supporting HA in a variety of ways.

It’d be easier to list what Denise hasn’t done for our charity, than what she has. She has visited grant applicants to offer support with their applications. She has hosted lunches and teas for our Golden Friends (retired industry members who find themselves isolated or lonely). She has been a volunteer visitor since the scheme started in 2006, and has made a huge impact on the wellbeing of the Golden Friend she supports.

Despite all this, in 2013, Denise decided that she could still do more to support HA, so she offered to volunteer at our office in Farringdon. She quickly became an invaluable member of the team, and now spends a day a week with us, supporting HA’s Golden Friends scheme.

Every year, Denise writes around 2,000 birthday and Christmas cards to our Golden Friends (sadly, for some, these are the only cards they receive). And, every two months, she stuffs, labels and franks 1500 Golden Friends newsletter mailings.

If you asked Denise why she does all that she does for HA, she’d probably say it’s a way to pay back an industry that gave her a career and a livelihood. In truth, though, it’s the hospitality industry that’s indebted to her for her generosity of time and spirit.

Last month, the HA team contacted the charity, Room to Reward, to nominate Denise for their Hidden Hero scheme. Room to Reward works on a fantastic premise: it asks hoteliers to give up unused room stock to allow it to award well-earned breaks to volunteers for charities across the UK. It’s a way for charities to say ‘thank you’ to their staunchest supporters.

We were all delighted when we learned that our application had been successful. Later this year, Denise will be staying at Balmer Lawn Hotel & Spa, a place she fondly remembers visiting as a child.

Through her work for HA, Denise has made a huge impact on many people’s lives. We’re immensely grateful to her for her hard work and dedication.

We don’t expect every HA supporter to show Denise’s level of commitment. But if you can spare any time at all to raise funds, I’d love to hear from you at mlewis@hospitalityaction.org.uk or on 07919 324978.

Happy holiday, Denise, and thank you.