The heartfelt reasons behind our supporters’ generosity


There are many reasons why someone might support Hospitality Action. Some individuals may want to get fit and will cycle many miles in our honour to do so whilst others may want to boost staff morale and indulge in a delicious cake sale.

Yet the overwhelming majority of our supporters raise funds for more heartfelt reasons. They may know someone we assisted or they may have been affected by one of the many challenges we guide people through every day.

Zan Kaufman, founder of London burger chain Bleecker, is fundraising for us for this very reason, in memory of her brother Mark who passed away last year. Zan says: “My brother Mark worked his entire life in hospitality. From being a room service runner to managing restaurants, it was what he liked to do and where he fitted in. He spent a summer at Bleecker too. Mark was charming and funny and had a talent for commanding the attention of a room. He loved his maître d’ role, where he was especially popular with the older ladies of Miami Beach.

Mark suffered from mental illness and addiction. Last April, he overdosed and passed away at 35 years of age. Hospitality accepted Mark when other fields wouldn’t. It allowed him to stay himself whist still struggling with this disease. For this I am grateful. Mark’s birthday is March 1st. On this day, Bleecker will donate all of its profits to Hospitality Action to help support and build awareness around mental health and addiction.”

We are indebted to Zan and everyone at Bleecker for supporting us in this way. March 1st won’t be an easy day for Zan and her team but this generous method of fundraising will ensure we can support many more just like Mark. If you’re in London on March 1st and close to Victoria, Spitalfields or Bloomberg please consider treating yourself to a meal at Bleecker in Mark’s honour.

Alternatively if you’d like to raise funds for a reason close to your own heart please give me a ring on: 020 3004 5504 or phone Liam at Bleecker to learn how to set up a similar scheme in your own place of work: 07751217612

A supporter’s perspective: why helping HA makes sustainable sense for suppliers

When I launched this blog last month, I wrote that we’d created it to enable us to bring to life the many and varied ways in which Hospitality Action helps people who work or have worked in the British hospitality industry; and to tell the stories of the thousands of individuals and companies who give up precious time to fundraise for us.

Here’s the story of one of our staunchest supply-side supporters, Olleco.

Olleco are in the business of supplying premium quality cooking oils to the foodservice industry, collecting used oil and food waste and recycling it or converting it into renewable energy. It’s what they call ‘total resource recovery’, and it’s all about ensuring that nothing is ever wasted by foodservice businesses.

Since 2012, supporting HA has been central to Olleco’s values. Tellingly, we are listed on the ‘About Us’ drop-down menu on their homepage.

Olleco understand that supporting HA creates a virtuous circle: 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.

I spoke to Kate Mortimer, Olleco’s Group Marketing and Communications Manager, about their support of HA, last week.

How did Olleco decide to support Hospitality Action?

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.

What exactly do you do to support HA? 

Every time we sell cooking oil and collect used oil from our customers we make a donation. To date, we have raised over £85,000. We also regularly attend some of the fantastic fundraising events the charity organises and employees from across Olleco regularly volunteer to coordinate its vitally important regional Golden Friend Lunches for retirees from the industry.

Do you benefit from supporting HA in promotional terms? 

Each time we reach a fundraising milestone, Hospitality Action will use their PR connections to promote our achievement, which we appreciate. Olleco has 50,000 customers who we regularly communicate with and also a selection of blue-chip major accounts. Our support of Hospitality Action is always a part of our communications with our customers.

And what do you do on social media? 

We use various social media platforms to promote our support and with a high presence on our website.

What are the benefits in terms of team morale and engagement? 

Our values drive our business. All employees are aware of our support of Hospitality Action and consider it to be an important part of our community programme to give something back. HA is ingrained in the human ethos of our business.

Here’s Kate talking about Olleco’s support of HA, early last year. Thanks Kate and the whole team at Olleco; many hospitality lives have been transformed due to your generosity.

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


Life after domestic abuse: how Hospitality Action helps get damaged lives back on track 

Back in 2015, Hospitality Action ran an awareness campaign that featured celebrity chefs made up and posed to look as if they were experiencing some the challenges our recipients face in real life.

Tom Kerridge, oxygen line to his nostrils, embodied critical illness. A haunted Jason Atherton represented addiction. And Angela Hartnett wore the cuts and bruises of domestic violence.

I remember when the campaign premiered at the Cateys, that July. There were gasps of shock around the Great Room at the Grosvenor House Hotel as the gruelling images flashed up on the big screen to the soundtrack of a thudding heartbeat.

At the end of the photo shoot for her advert, Angela was able to wash off her make-up and head back behind the stove. Samantha Thompson, a catering assistant from the Midlands, didn’t have that luxury.

Samantha knows all about domestic abuse. She lived with an abusive partner for long enough for distress to spiral into depression. In time, her partner moved out, but by then Samantha, normally a bubbly and vivacious personality, felt unable to return to work.

With no income, Samantha’s money quickly ran low. Worse, her ex-partner had taken with him many of the household items they had accumulated, leaving Samantha with a broken cooker, no bedding and no curtains in her bedroom.

HA exists to help people in crisis, people like Samantha. Our grant put a working cooker back in her kitchen and curtains in her window. It also helped with general living costs. More importantly, it gave her back her privacy and her dignity, and allowed her to make a fresh start.

Samantha go in touch with us, a while later.

“Your help meant everything to me”, she told us. “Without your support I would have had a home but nothing inside. I had no money to buy these things and nowhere else to turn. Thank you.”

Crisis can hit any of us, at any time; that’s an unalterable fact that HA can’t change. But with your support, we can help people like Samantha negotiate moments of crisis in their lives.

HA Embraces Digital Technology

Imagine a world where there is no internet, email, websites, social media, mobile apps or smartphones! Could you survive?!

Well this is how HA worked in 1999 when I first joined! However this didn’t stop HA being a successful charity and helping raise money to help our people in the hospitality industry.

Technology has revolutionised our lives over the last few years but it has also played an important part in how charities function in the 21st century. Here are a few examples:

Before email, we communicated with our supporters and beneficiaries by telephone and post. Now we can communicate instantly to them wherever they are, whether they are using a laptop, smartphone or tablet! This allows people with problems to contact us confidentially, when, where and how they want to.

We can now help our beneficiaries much quicker as we can receive and transfer money instantly using online banking. This has especially helped those who need our emergency help.

When we run events we now use portable payment machines so we no longer have to rely solely on cash or cheque donations. This means our supporters have more flexible ways of making donations and we receive the money more quickly so it can go to those in need much faster. Contactless payment is great it makes it easy for people to give.

We use our website to advertise our services and events while our beneficiaries use it to complete grant application forms (rather than relying on ‘snail mail’ back in the day!). We also receive donations via our website which is a very simple and quick process.

Social media allows us to communicate quickly and directly with our supporters to raise awareness about key events and HA news.

The use of fundraising web sites such as Virgin Money Giving and Just Giving has helped people raise money individually for us. As these sites also do Gift Aid this reduces the administrative overhead for charities.

Our successful EAP (Employee Assistance Programme) scheme uses the latest cloud technology platform to provide a range of vital services to hospitality industry employees.

Technology has made a massive difference to our daily lives, but it has also changed the way charities operate for the better! HA embraces digital technology. Our new blogs are a great example of our latest foray into tech!

“Once you understand the EAP, you fall in love with it” – Sally Beck on caring for your team

Sally Beck is the general manager of the Royal Lancaster hotel, London, and a staunch supporter of Hospitality Action. Her hotel has carried HA’s Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) for the past three years. Earlier this week, I spoke to Sally about why she values the programme and what benefits it delivers to her and her team. Here’s what she told me:

“Once you understand the strength of the EAP care programme, you fall in love with it as an employer, because it’s entirely meaningful. It’s a safety net, something that Joe Public doesn’t have. It gives you the ability to call upon tangible help for your team when you can’t help them any further as a business.

We’re a caring employer. For me to pay £5 per employee to access your EAP demonstrates to our team a level of trust that when we say we always care, we genuinely do. We’re investing in the team: our team members feel they’re part of a family.

We’ve been in the Sunday Times Best 100 Companies for the last three years. I would say that being able to demonstrate that we genuinely care about the team and have put something in place to help them as an insurance is part of that. We list it in all our benefits and everyone’s got the leaflets, and we try to reiterate the EAP regularly. It builds trust, and if you haven’t got trust around your team, as a business it’s really hard to ask them to do things.

When I put the EAP in the budget, I put it in as a legitimate business expense for the future, not to be taken out if we have struggles on budgets, because I just don’t think you can give and then take away.

The EAP is part of our wider culture. I’ve got very low turnover here, and high levels of retention and engagement, and the programme is part of that story. I try not to have a blame culture, and I try to develop people as much as possible. People don’t start a job here, they start a career. The EAP is part of the joined-up thinking of being a good employer.

I’ve just recruited 161 people in six months. Were our benefits important in this process? Yes. Was our culture important? Yes. Millennials want to be sure they choose an employer that cares about the working culture and environment.

The EAP has given me a place to go when I know I’ve got team members who are struggling. I can say ‘here, have you tried this?’ If they’ve got debt issues, addiction issues, housing issues or anything else, they’ve got somewhere to go. My team all know about the EAP, but it only comes to the forefront of their minds when they’re in schtuck. That’s when we get out the EAP manual and say ‘take this, have a read. This is here for you, we pay for this for you’.

As a business leader, the EAP has helped me have meaningful conversations about people reducing their work or ending their work positively, rather than ending their career on a capability issue. We’ve started capability workshops, within the wider context of our commitment that we always care about our team’s futures. When you’re having hard discussions about an employee’s capability to work, due to cancer, mental health, disability or whatever, being able to offer flexible working plus EAP support makes that conversation easier. I don’t want to sack someone because they can’t do their job anymore. I want to look at everything I can to help them work as long as they can and as safely as they can, with the right support. The EAP allows us to work in partnership.

Knowing that HA’s care programme is there for team members when I can’t be, is invaluable. It gives me another option. Without it, at times I’d quietly have to say, ‘not my problem, I can’t do any more, as much as I care for you’. That leaves somebody vulnerable – and that doesn’t sit well with me.

And it can help with anything, that’s the joy of it.

It can be debt. We had a young apprentice chef who split up with her boyfriend, got kicked out of her accommodation, and was going to be homeless. The EAP helped her. We had another girl whose mum died and who had to take on the care of her younger siblings because she was the only bread-winner. I put her in touch with HA and again the EAP stepped in. I had a lady who, aged 30, lost her sight for three months. What did she do? She called the EAP.

A young chef recently left us for a job elsewhere, and they ran him into the ground. He wanted to return to the Royal Lancaster, and arrived back here suicidal. I rang HA and said ‘he’s not quite on our books again, yet’. They said, ‘pass him back to us, he’s one of ours’. They picked him up and helped him. He’s still alive today and I’m not sure he would’ve been without HA’s support.

You’ll have all sorts of issues on your team. We are all going to experience some of this stuff, that’s life. Even if you haven’t identified any mental health problems on your team, for example, believe me, they are there.

The EAP goes with my values. It means that I can show that we care and ensures team members get the wraparound support we can’t always provide as an employer.”

We intend to establish our EAP as an industry-standard care programme for UK hospitality. Email me at if you’d like to find out how to access the benefits Sally describes.

My first jumbo cheque – and all the good it will help us to do

On Sunday night, I joined the great and good of Lancashire society at the final night of Northcote’s Obsession season. that’s me behind the big cheque, between Craig Jackson, Nigel Haworth, Craig Bancroft and Lisa Goodwin-Allen.

Obsession is an annual series of guest chef events that’s been attracting eminent chefs from around the world cook at the hotel since 2001. It’s the brainchild of Craig Bancroft and Nigel Haworth, the two men behind Northcote’s success.

This year’s Obsession line-up drew 21 chefs boasting a combined total of 16 Michelin stars to the hotel, among them HA patron and trustee Jason Atherton, Tom Kitchin, Gravetye Manor’s George Blogg and northwest sensation Gary Usher.

Northcote has long been committed to supporting the work of Hospitality Action. For the past few years, Craig and Nigel have run auctions across the Obsession season in aid of HA. Their support, along with the willingness on the part of their industry friends to offer up auction prizes and the generosity of their guests, has yielded some big donations.

Last weekend, though, things went nuclear. At 11pm on Sunday, you could hear the proverbial pin drop, as Craig prepared to announce the grand total. The amount? £65,000.


That was a suitably big number for my first big cheque.

Let me put that in a grants context – at HA, we’re all about resolution, about making problems go away.

With their donation, we can award 650 winter fuel grants, ensuring recipients are warm, well and work-ready. Alternatively, we can pay for walk-in shower installations for 50 people needing home adaptations due to disability. For just £500, we can lay on a respite holiday for the carer of a sick or disabled relative, meaning that Northcote’s generosity could underwrite 130 such trips. Then again, it could pay for 100 victims of domestic abuse to be resettled somewhere safe from harm.

You get the point.

The fantastic amount that Craig, Nigel, Craig, Lisa and the whole Northcote team have raised for us over the past three weeks will have a direct, transformative impact on the lives of numerous hospitality professionals who find themselves in crisis.

Fundraising doesn’t have to be about big numbers. All support is equally welcome and every pound helps. Would you like to help your industry colleagues? If so, please contact me on 07919 324978 or at

Proof positive: a flourishing team makes a flourishing business.

Two chance conversations this month have driven home to me the value our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) offers hospitality operators looking to keep employees healthy, happy and work-ready, and improve productivity.

Attending a recent industry event, I introduced myself as the manager of HA’s EAP to the gentleman sitting next to me. It turned out that he was a Head Chef from one of our subscribing companies and was full of praise for the way that the EAP had helped members of his kitchen brigade dealing with mental health and addiction issues. Ultimately ensuring these valued members of his team remained in employment.

A couple of days later a potential client called me, asking him how he’d heard about the EAP he explained that a new team member had been supported by the EAP at his previous establishment receiving counselling and a grant and had therefore recommended that his new employer should sign up to the programme asap!

Both of these conversations really brought home to me the true value of the support and advice provided by the programme to individual employees who may be struggling with a wide variety of pressures at home or work. Pressures that do impact mental health and in turn, the way people do their jobs resulting in reduced performance, lack of focus and absence. These, in turn, can lead to lost productivity and significant cost to employers.

As the recent independent Stevenson-Farmer review into mental health at work reported around 15 out of every 100 people at work have an existing mental health condition and over 300,000 people with a long-term mental health condition lose their job. This is a much higher rate than for people with a physical health condition. When you consider this alongside the current recruitment challenges faced by the hospitality industry, it seems to me that supporting employee’s mental health and wellbeing should be a top priority for every employer.

Since launching the EAP just over four years ago, HA has built up a wealth of knowledge about the challenges facing those who work in our industry and whether it’s an issue with drugs, alcohol, gambling, depression, anxiety, stress, illness, lack of work/life balance or financial pressure, we can help.

We offer a raft of services including a 24/7 helpline, access to personal counselling, legal guidance, addiction support, debt advice, parenting helpline, and whistleblowing – all for an annual cost of just £5 + vat per employee. This spring, we’ll be augmenting our EAP with the addition of an online employee benefits platform and access to a range of health cash plans. Uniquely among EAP providers, should a hardship grant be required by any recipients of EAP support, we’re also able to point them towards HA’s grant-giving team, for consideration for further support.

So why not find out more about how your team can benefit from the support the EAP already offers to almost 200 companies and over 110,000 hospitality people?

Why supporting Hospitality Action needn’t be about putting your hand in your pocket …

Seven years ago, I didn’t know Dora Somerville. Now I count her as a good friend. We’ve never met (Dora lives in Wales, I live in London), but we speak regularly on the phone. You see, Dora is my HA phone friend.

Dora is very proud of her children and grandchildren, and keeps me posted on what they’re up to. Sometimes she reminisces about her life in the WAAF during the Second World War, or about her career in catering in Manchester. She often talks about her husband Hughie, whom she lost a few years ago.

Despite her fading eyesight and mobility challenges, Dora is always stoical and upbeat. She’s wise and she’s proud. And she makes me laugh.

In return, I tell Dora about my wife, Susie, and my family. And I update her on all the people I meet, and the restaurants and hotels I experience, within the hospitality industry. Dora likes to hear about Susie’s horse riding lessons, and about our holidays in Cornwall and overseas. Sometimes she even laughs at my jokes.

Dora has the odd ‘off’ day – don’t we all – and I’ll cheer her up. Other times, she’ll offer me counsel on some issue I’m grappling with. Last year, she was sympathetic and supportive as I dealt with the loss of my mother and father.

It’s important to say that Dora is anything but lonely. Her family dotes on her and is supportive and attentive. I think our phone friendship just offers her another perspective, another point of focus. Another friend.

Growing old is hard. Family and friends pass away, the ways of life you’ve known change beyond recognition, and it’s easy to think the world has forgotten about you. Reaching out to someone elderly is a great way of reassuring them that’s not the case, that their views, memories and lives still matter.

Befriending Dora has enriched my life over the past seven years, and I’d like to think she’d say the same about befriending me.

Let’s end sexual harassment in the hospitality workplace

Last week’s President’s Club Charity Dinner at the Dorchester Hotel will be the club’s last.

An undercover investigative report by the Financial Times revealed grisly stories of sexual harassment of hostesses by the more Neanderthal element of the male-only guest list at the gala auction event, which has raised funds for a range of charities for the past thirty three years.

As a result of the report, the club has been closed and its dinner discontinued.

Accounts emerged of hostesses being “groped, harassed and sexually propositioned” and subjected to “lewd comments and repeated requests to join diners in bedrooms elsewhere in the Dorchester”.

No account was given of whether front of house staff at the hotel were also subjected to sexual harassment; but it’s easy to imagine how intimidating and degrading the locker-room atmosphere must have been for them.

The FT’s exposé came on the back of recent high-profile cases of sexual harassment in Hollywood and beyond, which have galvanised men and women across the world to disclose their own hidden, unspoken and buried memories of experiences of sexual harassment.

The prevalence of sexual harassment in our culture today is shocking. A recent ComRes survey for the BBC revealed that 40% of women and 18% of men have experienced harassment in the workplace.

The survey highlighted that flexible workers are more likely to have experienced unwanted behaviour, meaning that the problem is likely to be more acute in the hospitality industry. The presence of alcohol, and the perception among some guests that hotels, restaurants and bars are places where they can pocket their moral compass and release their inner chauvinist, only exacerbate the problem.

The 2010 Equalities Act defines sexual harassment as “unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of violating someone’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.”

There are no circumstances where sexual harassment of any nature is acceptable. And no one should expect to be subject to any such conduct at their place of work.

If you have experienced sexual harassment at work, a good first step is to share your experiences with someone you can trust and speak to in confidence. This does not have to be someone in your organisation if the harassment has occurred at work. Speaking about sexual harassment helps explore what your options are for action. Doing this in secret or isolation is much harder and support can be very useful during this time.

As with so many other issues that affect hospitality professionals, Hospitality Action can help. It’s important to us that all employees feel safe, comfortable and uncompromised in their place of work. That’s why we offer a sexual harassment factsheet and a confidential helpline, which can help you deal with your experiences.

If your employer is a member of our EAP scheme, you can contact us to discuss your situation in confidence on 0808 802 2111 (24/7) or mail

Alternatively, non-EAP subscribers can contact our Assistance Line in confidence on 0808 802 0282 (24/7).

Don’t tolerate sexual harassment in your place of work. And don’t suffer alone.

Egg-chasers and extraordinary food – how southwest hoteliers are helping HA

In just over two months Hospitality Action will host its first Rugby Legends Dinner sponsored by Sharp’s Brewery at the beautiful Deer Park Country House Hotel in Devon. Last week I was fortunate enough to visit Deer Park for a final planning meeting. There was so much passion to support HA in the meeting, that I thought I’d convey some of it in this post.

Since June 2009 our South West fundraising board have worked tirelessly to raise funds on our behalf. From our annual Polo Day to our growing Cotswold Cycle Challenge our board members have always gone to great lengths to show their support. Richard Ball of Calcot Hotels has cycled thousands of miles and Philip Newman Hall, formally of Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, took to the sky only to jump 10,000 feet back down again, all in the name of charity.

The Rugby Legends Dinner is the brainchild of Andrew Foulkes, 2017 Cateys Manager of the Year, and Tom Ross, Operations Director, at The Pig. Both avid rugby fans and prominent South West hoteliers they have called in every favour to ensure the event is a whopping success. On the night over 200 lucky guests will enjoy a fabulous drinks reception and four course meal prepared by seven award-wining chefs including two Michelin star holder Nathan Outlaw (Restaurant Nathan Outlaw) and one Michelin star holders Paul Ainsworth (Paul Ainsworth at Number 6) and Josh Eggleton (The Pony & Trap).  Each diner will also be entertained by our guest speaker, former England player and renowned TV pundit, David “Flats” Flatman alongside a host of rugby stars including Phil Vickery MBE DL and Jeremy Guscott.

The evening will also see our legends answering questions from the crowd. The Six Nations will have just finished at the time of the event making this the perfect chance to speak to our legends about the championship. Although this is our first Rugby Legends Dinner there is already talk of a second, perhaps at a rugby stadium, in 2020!

Last year alone we spent £121,023 supporting hospitality employees in crisis in the South West, the most we spent in any region across the UK. It is only thanks to the enthusiasm, dedication and passion of Andrew Foulkes, Stuart Mathieson, Mark Godfrey, Tom Ross and Philip Newman Hall that the event is taking place and for this we are truly grateful.

Tickets to this unmissable evening are limited and I would advise you booking as soon as possible in order to secure your place! If you’d like to get further involved in our work, just like our South West Board, please don’t hesitate to give me a ring: 020 3004 5504