HA’s 2018 in five defining moments …

It’s a year, now, since I moved from The Caterer to Hospitality Action. I thought I’d round off 2018 by capturing my thoughts on the past twelve months. Here’s my 2018 in five defining moments.

When the chips are down, sometimes only chips will help 

Back in January, as I was trying to get my head around the sheer breadth of services our charity offers, a colleague suggested I rifle through the “thank you” file. In it, I found a note, handwritten in pencil, from a little boy called Liam. Liam and his dad had enjoyed a family day out to the cinema on us and had written to thank us. Our Family Days Out scheme gives families that are under the cosh a little ‘us’ time, a chance to regroup in the face of ongoing difficulties.

Liam’s thank-you letter hit home: for the cost of a couple of cinema tickets, some pop, a bag of chips and a ride on the bus, we’d given Liam and his dad a memory to treasure.

Liam’s story demonstrates how support can come in many shapes and sizes.

As well as Family Days Out, we run our Golden Friends scheme to keep loneliness and isolation at bay for industry retirees. We offer an Employee Assistance Programme that helps employers keep their teams happy, healthy and work-ready. We award grants to people in financial difficulty. We facilitate a phone friends scheme that provides lifelines for the elderly. And we offer bespoke counselling for a wide range of issues.

As hotelier Sally Beck said in February, once you understand what we do, you fall in love with us!

Enter Mitchell … 

By his own admission, until his life hit a bump in the road, Mitchell Collier thought he was the last sort of person HA helps. Young, healthy, forging a career at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, he felt indestructible. It turned out he was exactly the kind of person HA helps.

In early 2017, Mitchell’s health and confidence took three body blows: his relationship broke down, he was overlooked for a promotion, and he received a cancer diagnosis. HA arranged for counselling to put Mitchell back on his feet. By Spring of this year, he was back on track, and he approached us to volunteer as a case study. The resulting video drew an enormous response on social media. An HA star was born.

Too often, the perception of HA is that we exist solely to help drunk or substance-addicted chefs. Of course, we do help chefs with addiction issues, and anybody else fir that matter, and we’re proud to do so. But that’s just a small part of what we do. We help people with all sorts of problems, from all types of business, in all spheres of hospitality.

Mitchell’s generosity of spirit and willingness to act as an ambassador for HA was a crucial development. He debunked the myth, once and for all, that HA is for other people.

A social whirl for a good cause …  

Principal patron, Jason Atherton had already been running Social Sunday for three years, when I joined HA. The summer fundraising initiative across his London restaurants was his way of supporting the charity, and had already raised many tens of thousands of pounds for us.

This year, Jason and I drew a line in the sand: from 2018 onwards, we agreed, Social Sunday would be opened up to the whole industry. Our vision was to establish a date in the hospitality calendar when the industry looks to itself, and looks after its own.

The response was heart-warming. From Leith to Land’s End, hospitality operators concocted their own ways to support Social Sunday. In the end, more than 50 businesses across the country took part, raising a huge amount of money in then process.

In 2019, Jason and I plan to go nuclear with Social Sunday. Watch this space.

The mental health imperative 

In May, we marked Mental Health Awareness Week  by hosting an event at the Royal Lancaster London, to shine a light on the issue of stress in the hospitality workplace. Research conducted before the event suggested that a worrying 80% of hospitality professionals regard their job as stressful sometimes or most of the time, while 51% – over half! – described their job as being stressful most or all of the time.

The event and its ripples across social media proved – as if proof were needed – that there’s a ticking mental health time bomb under UK hospitality.

On World Mental Health Day in October, two Michelin-starred chef Sat Bains blogged for us and set a lofty goal:

“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.”

Amen to that, Sat. This’ll be a clear goal for us next year.

The need for help never goes away … 

Like the magic porridge pot in the children’s tale, the HA in-tray never seems to get any emptier. This winter, the delays around universal credit payments and the continuing fear, uncertainty and doubt around Brexit have sparked a steep rise in requests for support from HA.

Into 2019, we’ll move Heaven and Earth to help as many people as we can – but we’ll need your support in this. I look forward to working with you next year, to make UK hospitality a happier, healthier and more nourishing place.

Meanwhile, Happy Christmas from the whole HA team.

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.

So what is an employee assistance programme, anyway – and why do you need one?

As well as its grants programme, Golden Friends scheme and range of other products, Hospitality Action runs an Employee Assistance Programme.

A what?

An employee assistance programme, or EAP for short. Not the snappiest title, but don’t let that fool you: our EAP is central to our commitment to helping people who work or have worked in hospitality and find themselves in difficulty or crisis.

HA’s EAP – I prefer to call it an employee care programme – 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.

Personal and health issues can have a major impact on the way people work, resulting in reduced performance, lack of focus and absence. These, in turn, can lead to lost productivity and significant cost to employers.

Our care programme offers a raft of benefits, including personal counselling, legal guidance, addiction support, debt advice and a financial well-being service, parenting helpline, elderly care helpline and a whistle-blowing service – all for an annual cost of just £5 per employee.

In short, it’s about keeping hospitality people happy, healthy and work-ready.

Uniquely among EAP providers, should financial help be required by any recipients of EAP support, we’re able to point them towards HA’s grant-giving team, for consideration for further support.

For employers, subscribing to our EAP:

  • demonstrates a commitment to their team’s physical and mental wellbeing;
  • provides a tool for driving morale and therefore retention;
  • ensures employees are work-ready and undistracted by issues that prevent them from focussing fully on their jobs;
  • and enables them to support the wider work of their industry charity.

Here’s a blog I wrote recently, in which Sally Beck of the Royal Lancaster Hotel, London, explained to me the reasons why she’s an EAP client. “Once you understand the EAP, you fall in love with it”, she told me.

In order to attract the people it requires to close its skills gap, UK hospitality needs to be able to offer jobseekers meaningful career opportunities, not just salaries. And that means operating against a professional landscape.

By providing a safety net to the market it serves, HA plays an intrinsic role in professionalising the hospitality industry – and our EAP is central to this.

Is the health and wellbeing of your team and the success of your business worth £5 per head per year? If so, give us a shout. We’d love to help you.

So you think you know what Hospitality Action does? Think again.

 

They used to run an advert for the Radio Times on the telly. If you remember it, you’re a fifty-something like me, or older. The pages of the magazine would flick before you, lingering on the week’s best content – “Petula Clark celebrates 50 years of the vote for women! Stewpot takes the Treasure Trail! Why you should never argue with a Sagittarian!” – before an awe-struck reader delivered the pay-off line: “I never knew there was so much in it.”

The Mad Men and Women of the advertising world could easily apply the same creative concept to Hospitality Action.

Ours is a complicated story to tell. We offer grants, counselling, family days out, a retiree befriending scheme, addiction awareness seminars and an employee assistance programme. We support people who are about to start work in the industry, people who currently work in the industry, people who have retired from the industry – and their partners and children.

No wonder people are often confused by exactly what Hospitality Action is and what it does.

Someone in the industry recently asked: “HA, that’s the charity for the homeless, right?” And another told me: “you’re the people who help drunk chefs.” Well, yes, yes – and no.

Yes, we help industry professionals unable to pay for a roof over their head. And yes, we support people with a range of addiction challenges. But we do much, much more besides.

Simply put, HA is a force for good. We offer lifelines to people who work or have worked in hospitality and find themselves in difficulty or crisis.

Behind their smiles and their game faces, hospitality professionals are as prone to life’s challenges as we all are – that’s where HA comes in.

We help people set their lives back on track. This might mean funding home adaptations for someone dealing with the onset of a life-changing medical condition. It could mean helping a victim of domestic abuse to start a new life. It could be laying on Golden Friends lunches or teas to keep loneliness at bay for industry retirees. Or it could take the shape of offering crisis support to teams dealing with traumatic events like the London Bridge or Manchester Arena attacks.

Whatever the challenges are that beset the human condition, HA can help overcome them.

See – I bet you never knew there was so much to us?

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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 mlewis@hospitalityaction.org.uk or call me on 07919 324978.

 

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.