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.