Hospitality Speaks: Great hospitality begins and ends with people

AUTHOR: Victoria Stewart, Hospitality SpeaKS


You don’t need me to tell you that great hospitality begins and ends with people, and that this industry is chockablock with great people.

Yet if you were to ask your friends outside the industry to name companies with great workplace cultures, they might mention Google, or Innocent Smoothies. Do they ever name a UK hospitality organisation?

Hospitality Speaks is a catalyst for positive change. It’s a platform set up to create conversations around culture in the industry.

Why now?

Well, in part, because there is a recruitment crisis. People cite the fact they can’t find good staff, whereas others say there are plenty of staff but they simply don’t stick around. Either way, we believe that the long term sustainability of this industry is under threat because people are either not choosing this industry, or are leaving it.

There are a huge number of reasons for this. From our point of view, one of the most important aspects is the fact that for a long time, behaviour such as bullying and sexual harassment has been allowed to exist. And not only has it become deeply ingrained in the industry, but also in the way outsiders view the industry.

So why do we think we can change that now?

First of all, it’s nigh-on impossible to solve problems that no one wants to speak about, unless someone speaks about them. So, we’re addressing some of these, and making them easier to speak about, by sharing anonymous stories from people who’ve experienced toxic behaviour. This way we can identify the range of issues, without putting anyone at risk.

To create real positive change, we also want to show what is working; who those operators are that are trying to do things differently. We want to celebrate people who champion their people – who make good food and drink and who are doing their best to look after themselves and their staff (and don’t always shout about it). So, our second section is all about our People Pioneers, including restaurants like Hawksmoor, Ikoyi, Sambal Shiok, and Dishoom. These 15 employers from bars and restaurants (we are planning to interview hotels, pubs and caterers in due course) treat their staff with respect, actively aiming to create supportive, collaborative working environments.

They’d be the first to tell you they’re not perfect, but they do understand the importance of empowering their staff to call out disrespectful behaviour, and having conversations about it; of offering support; of celebrating people with different personalities, cultures, backgrounds and beliefs; of offering training; and of trying to be as flexible as possible with rotas.

We have a lot to do, and we’d love you to get involved.

First, do have a read through the stories and the interviews with the People Pioneers, and share them with someone else. Second, sit down and have a conversation about culture in your part of the industry, and then tell us about it. How did it go? What did you learn? What do you need to change?

We are currently running a pilot with a new brasserie called Sam’s Riverside. Together we’re building a code of ethics – looking at what things and values need to be considered between team members to ensure they collectively foster the kind of environment they’d like to work in. We’re about to start working with a major restaurant group to do the same thing. After that, we need to replicate this at scale. If you’d like to work with us on that, host an event with us about how to create change, or support us in any way, please get in touch. We like speaking.

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