Hospitality: a timely reminder why I love it!

Amidst all the doom and gloom, last week I was reminded what a fucking great industry we get to spend our lives in.  Yes, money is tight, stress levels are off the chart, staff have jumped ship, bills are through the roof and we’re all ageing quicker than a Tory Prime Minister but its great fun and its full of great people!

A couple of weeks ago, whilst grabbing some lunch in Leamington, I spotted one of our old kitchen porters in the park. It quickly became apparent that he was sleeping rough and suffering with a lot of the issues associated with being homeless. We spent an hour or so chatting with him and swapped numbers. I found this really hard to deal with; in the past this guy had been a really good employee, holding down a steady job with us for around 2 years during which time he had been reliable and worked hard. Several texts later and we had arranged for visits to the office where he could shower, get a hot drink & hot food. Whilst this was helping a little in the short term, it wasn’t enough…

I sat down with this gentleman and asked, theoretically, if we were to arrange employment and a home, would he be able to get himself sorted out – not going to go in to detail but I’m sure if I was sleeping on the street, I would do whatever was needed to get through each night. He told me he could and was desperate to try. Bear with me as up until this point, this sounds a little “pat on the back” and its not meant that way. The next stage is where I remembered why, in the middle of all this bullshit, I love this industry…

I reached out to our network, sending a brief email to a couple of thousand contacts, asking if they could offer employment and accommodation. I explained there would be zero fee, but this would be a project and involve risk, TLC and time.  I sent this out in desperation rather than expectation, but the response was incredible. I received upward of 100 emails, calls and texts offering support, options and advice. This was Wednesday last week.

One of the replies was from the owner of a gastropub near Leamington. He didn’t necessarily need a KP but had a few hours and didn’t want anyone sleeping rough. I reached out to my colleagues and by Thursday morning he had a suitcase full of new or nearly new clothes and an interview with this owner. I took him to the restaurant, and supported with introductions: he met with he owner and head chef, then looked at the accommodation. He started work and moved in at 1600 on Thursday. He is cleaning in the mornings, working in the kitchen in the afternoons and has a lovely ensuite bedroom for which he is only being charged £30 per week (meals & bills included!). I have spoken to him everyday since and he has been made to feel part of a family, is settling in well, very appreciative and all the indicators are that he could be a top employee. I hope this is the case: this employer deserves the benefits of good employees as he has gone hugely above and beyond to help a previous stranger in need.

Whilst improvements are being made quickly, the industry does not pay top salaries. I could have spent the last 17 years recruiting bankers and have a feeling I may have earned more money. However, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t now be part of a network that would jump to support one of our own in such an incredible fashion. During lockdown, I got asked on dozens of occasions, whether we would shift to recruit for other industries: this is a perfect example of why it was never an option. This stupid industry is full of inspirational people, where the lines between colleague and friend are constantly blurred. Thank you to all who reached out last week.

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