Hospitality can hold its head up high knowing we were there for those in need, says Robin Hutson.
So, we appear to be inching forward to the day when we can – at least partly – reopen. If this roadmap proceeds as envisaged and this really is the final lockdown, then this will be my last column during the twilight zone of closed hospitality. So, it seems to me a pretty good time to reflect on what sort of industry and what sort of businesses we have operated during the past year.
What has struck me and given me pride in our sector are the many neighbourly and charitable gestures of support to others we have witnessed during these past 12 months. Hospitality has been one of the sectors most hard-hit, yet despite that, the industry has been front and centre showing kindness to others.
Hospitality has been one of the sectors most hard-hit, yet despite that, the sector has been front and centre showing kindness to others
I think this attitude clearly demonstrates that hospitality is not just a huge contributor to the exchequer, or another commercial industry employing millions, but also something perhaps less tangible, but equally important. Quite simply, we are so often the beating heart within our communities, the glue that binds us together and an important refuge for the vulnerable and the lonely.
Among the countless charitable initiatives, so many of our colleagues have give their time and skills. We have seen the likes of Angela Hartnett and her fellow London chef colleagues cooking 1,000 meals a day for ICU workers; the Stein family produced 250 meals a week for the shielding community of Padstow; while Mitch Tonks at Rockfish raised over £5,000 for the local food banks in Devon. Tom Kerridge's Meals from Marlow campaign raised over £180,000 to provide 100,000 meals for NHS workers and is now an ongoing charity.
For our part, at Lime Wood and the Pig hotels, our first objective was to support our team of 900-plus and their families; I am pleased to say they are all still with us. Additionally, we have been able to support some of those around us, providing local food banks and immediate neighbours with fresh vegetables and eggs from our kitchen gardens. We also gave away 190 bed-and-breakfast nights to nominated heroes in our local NHS and care services.
Amid the controversy of who should benefit from the sector's VAT reduction last year, we decided that we would donate £5 from every room booking during the 2020 VAT-reduced period to help our two chosen charities. We were delighted to present Action Against Hunger and Hospitality Action each with a cheque for £30,000 in January, especially welcome during a time when normal fundraising is difficult.
Conservation can all too easily be forgotten in such challenging times. We adopted the National Lobster Hatchery in Cornwall's ‘buy one set one free' campaign when we opened our Lobster Shed at the Pig at Harlyn Bay last year. With a £1 donation for every lobster sold, we managed to surprise the charity with a cheque for £30,000.
Finally, each year we are heavily involved in the Fine Wine and Art Auction Dinner for Action Against Hunger (AAH). The event is staunchly supported by many chefs, hoteliers and restaurateurs. Obviously, as a live event could not take place, we had to go virtual, and despite the physical restrictions, the event raised £260,000 for AAH on the evening.
All of this, of course, is but the tip of the iceberg – a mere sample of many such stories of the great work that has gone on by so many, in so many sectors during this past year. But one thing's for sure, hospitality can hold its head up, proud of the fact that we sit right in the heart of our communities and safe in the knowledge that we have certainly done our bit.
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