This is an unprecedented time for our industry, and while nearly every business has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, hospitality, in particular, has been upended.
With no guests in hotels and restaurants being forced to closed, it can be hard to see past the negatives of this crisis, however, there is actually a lot of positive actions taking place too and we’re seeing hotels and other sectors step up and respond by lending their resources for the greater good.
Hotels, which are currently empty in the wake of social distancing and self-isolation guidelines, are opening their doors to those in need, such as medical workers and healthcare professionals. Best Western has offered 15,000 rooms and more than 1,000 meeting rooms for the NHS and local authorities. Football club Chelsea has offered NHS workers free accommodation for the next 2 months at the Millennium Hotel. And last week, Gary Neville opened up the 2 hotels he owns to NHS staff free of charge.
Airbnb have said that they are receiving countless requests from registered home-owners offering their support, and last week they announced they are offering 100,000 NHS or medical professionals helping to fight COVID-19, either free or heavily discounted accommodation to give them a safe place to stay in close proximity to their hospitals and health centres.
As well as helping our crucial workers, Hotels and other establishments are offering those sleeping rough a bed and amenities to keep them safe and off the street. Local authorities have promised that by this weekend, all rough sleepers in England will be placed somewhere secure, and this call of action has shown such an amazing amount of support with numerous Hotels working with the Government to ensure this happens. The London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, is currently working with Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) to block-book rooms at a discounted rate for the next 12 weeks to help those who need a roof over their head, as well as many other hotels and housing spaces offering similar support.
Another positive we have seen come through this current crisis is our communities uniting to offer support to those in need. Hospitality Action is a charity that offers vital assistance to all who work or have worked within hospitality in the UK. Last week they launched a COVID-19 grant scheme to help hospitality workers who find themselves struggling as a result of this pandemic. Tom Brown has partnered with Hospitality Action to raise as much money as possible and people are being encouraged to consider donating the money, they would usually spend dining out to the charity so they can give back to those who need it most. This grant scheme has proved extremely popular, with thousands of people applying over the first couple of days.
Individuals and communities are also running crowdfunding campaigns to help provide free food to vulnerable Londoners and key medical workers. There are numerous campaigns taking place with hundreds of thousands of pounds being raised for individuals who have lost their jobs, restaurant/hotel owners who have been forced to close and independent venues that are at risk of permanent closure.
Another way we have proven to be a united industry is how Chefs have all come together to share recipes, tips and advice for cooking during isolation. Jamie Oliver is currently hosting a TV show called ‘Keep Cooking and Carry On!’ where he shares with audiences ways to make simple, healthy dishes using panty staples. Many Chefs are also taking to various social media channels to connect with audiences and offer tips, advice and support during isolation.
These are some great examples of how our industry is doing their bit, but what can we do to help? We may not be able to eat at our favourite restaurants right now, but we can still support them by buying their cookbooks or purchasing gift vouchers. Many restaurants, bars and hotels (such as Dishoom, Caravan, Rosa’s Thai Café & The Ritz) have great cookbooks, which are a great way to keep busy during isolation, as well as giving these businesses some income during this time.
There will be a time soon when we will get to return to some of our favourite foodie spots, and lots of restaurants are offering discounts and bonuses for customers buying vouchers that can be redeemed when they re-open. Corrigan’s are offering an extra 25% on top of any gift vouchers purchased, and Patty & Bun are offering a lifetime discount of 10% when purchasing vouchers to use in the future. Buying vouchers is also a great idea to give us all something to look forward to when everything begins to re-open!
These are just some of the examples that prove how the hospitality industry has come together to unite during these tough times. Yes, things may seem bad now, but we must use this time wisely and focus on staying positive. Although we are isolation, we can still be there for one another, feed our minds and be creative. Try not to focus on the negatives and remember that this will pass and we will come out on the other side stronger than ever!
Enrico Sorbello - Operations Manager