Updated: Jul 19, 2020
Here at What Can We Do? we strive to promote a better and fairer world through civic engagement, and that is why we are launching the Voices of Change guest blog series.
We want to amplify the voices of a variety of different charities, community groups and individuals. While highlighting how COVID-19 has impacted them, how kindness plays a role in what they do, how people can get involved to support them and what the ideal future looks like.
To kick us off, we have Jeremy Gibson from Hospitality Action discussing the effects of the pandemic on the hospitality industry and how you can help.
COVID-19 and its impact on the hospitality industry
Before the COVID-19 outbreak the hospitality industry was one of the UK’s largest employers with around 3 million people working in restaurants, bars, cafés, hotels, hospitals, schools and all sorts of outlets across the country. In the wake of the lockdown the vast majority of businesses were suddenly forced to close with no idea when they may reopen or what help was available. Overnight tens of thousands of people were plunged into crisis.
Ours is a hands-on industry in which people work incredibly hard as a team to deliver a top-notch experience for their guests. Many of us are defined by our jobs and will have worked our whole careers to develop our skills or grow our businesses. For many in the hospitality industry this crisis is both financial and psychological.
Hospitality Action is the industry’s benevolent charity
The organisation I represent, Hospitality Action, is the industry’s benevolent charity. For 183 years we’ve helped industry people in times of crisis. We provide grants to help people get back on their feet and with psychological support to overcome life’s challenges. We’re a small team, and we knew that it would be impossible to help everybody impacted by the crisis, but we had to try. So we launched an emergency appeal in the hope of raising whatever we could to help. Nothing could have prepared us for what happened next.
A wave of support. A deluge of demand.
Without us realising it, hospitality plays an intrinsic part in all of our daily lives, and we miss it. From the morning coffee on the way to work, to the quick bite to eat on the way home, hospitality is at the heart of all of life’s moments from the everyday to our most momentous. First dates, weddings, family celebrations, business meetings – even a toast raised to the dearly departed all tend to happen in hospitality venues, and the UK public quickly realised this.
Messages of support and donations rolled in from youngsters donating what they’d saved for Mother’s Day lunch to high rollers who donated large sums in recognition of the business deals they’d celebrated in posh restaurants. Demand too was off the scale, with over 20,000 emails asking for help on the day we launched our appeal.
So far, we’ve raised over £500,000 and helped over 2,000 people with a grant of £250 to help keep food on the table while government help arrived. As the crisis unfolds, we’ll continue to fundraise to provide financial and psychological support to as many of those who need our help as we possibly can.
The significance of mental wellbeing
The other part of our work has been to try to protect the mental wellbeing of those in our industry. The sudden loss of confidence and sense of self has been debilitating for some who have gone from working in a hectic fast-paced team environment to being home, either alone or with family members they may not have recently spent much time with. The sudden change in circumstances alongside the financial pressure has led to an increase in calls for help. Including those dealing with a mental health concern, addiction, relationship problems and self-harm.
To mitigate this, we’ve launched a series of resources to give practical advice. Including a film featuring industry figures sharing their own experiences, issues and tips for coping with the current situation. All freely available on our website.
It’s brought out the best in people too.
All of this may sound bleak, but it’s also been a chance for people to shine. Kindness comes in many forms and we’ve experienced loads of it. Just a few days ago a grant beneficiary got in touch to tell us he’d managed to secure a new job. So, he paid back his grant to make sure somebody else gets the support he was shown.
As part of our outreach work contacting vulnerable and elderly beneficiaries, we spoke with a gentleman who had just £9.01 in his bank account. With no credit on his electric meter he rationed his gas so that he only used 10p's worth a day. To make his money stretch, he would buy just one potato, one tomato or one onion at a time for soup. Our grant meant he could have heat, light and ‘proper food’. We’re staying in regular contact and connecting him with other sources of help to prevent this situation ever happening again.
What can you do?
This weekend, the industry takes its first tentative steps from lockdown as some pubs and restaurants open. However, the problems are far from over for hospitality people. We have already seen hundreds of closures and thousands of redundancies, and we fear this is just the beginning – hospitality as we know it will take years to recover.
As soon as you feel safe to do so, please (respecting social distancing) support your favourite café, bar or restaurant. They’ll be delighted to welcome you – and be kind to them, they’ll probably be a bit nervous too!
For every place that opens there’ll sadly be others that won’t make it. The invisible thousands of livelihoods which relied on those venues will be in jeopardy. And for those who are lucky enough to have jobs will be working hard to make you feel safe and welcome, possibly on reduced hours or wages. Soon Hospitality Action will be launching a national fundraising campaign calling upon the public to ‘chip in’ and make a small donation to help the thousands of families living in extreme poverty owing to the pandemic.
In the meantime, enjoy rediscovering your favourite hospitality venue, and if you can spare the price of a drink and please donate at www.hospitalityaction.org.uk now.
Marketing director for Hospitality Action
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Each week we publish more ideas on how you can get involved. If you know of any initiatives in your community that you think we should promote get in touch.
Are you an organisation, charity, writer, or simply have something to say? Do you want to be our next guest blogger for our Voices of Change blog series? Then please get in touch.
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