Hospitality Speaks is a new initiative hoping to become a catalyst for positive change within the hospitality industry. With the help from an array of volunteers, the project is aimed at driving conversations around industry culture amongst all its members, and one which also celebrates those bar and restaurant employers who place value in supporting staff wellbeing, safety, and training. By drawing public attention to existing issues at hand and offering tangible solutions, Hospitality Speaks aims to positively change the narrative of hospitality, enabling among other things a possible turning point within the industry. It will also work with new and existing operators to create better codes of ethics for their teams.
Hospitality Speaks believes everyone deserves to feel safe, respected and valued at work. The hospitality industry is the UK’s third largest employer, with nearly 3 million people, and contributes £130bn to the economy. But venues including bars, restaurants and hotels are not always hospitable places to work; according to on-the-ground testimonials, examples of bullying, harassment and discrimination can be found across the network.
Founder and journalist Victoria Stewart says: “I’ve spent over 10 years writing about many wonderful people within the restaurant and food industry. But in early 2018, I started looking further into the stories of bullying and harassment that people were telling me. I realised that not only were they unable to speak freely about their experiences but that my own work was being compromised by the knowledge I had of the behaviour taking place in certain establishments; simply not writing about them didn’t encourage them to change. It was also frustrating that their behaviour was giving the amazing places in the industry a bad name. Hospitality Speaks was never a naming and shaming exercise, but one that I hope will enable people to have difficult conversations and find solutions to existing problems.” Victoria Stewart, Hospitality Speaks creator.
The website will exist in three sections: Anonymous Stories of toxic behaviours to demonstrate the varying range of experiences; interviews with People Pioneers about how they create collaborative and supportive working cultures; a Support page listing organisations, networks, and helplines that people can access for advice.
The platform will ask its readers to get involved in three ways: by reading and sharing the content, extracted from interviews; by sharing stories and images of great bosses and staff working in hospitality; by partnering with Hospitality Speaks to run topical discussions and events; by donating to the initiative; by working with Hospitality Speaks to create a bespoke code of ethics.
Stewart goes on to say: “It’s really important that people understand the range of these troubling experiences (and that the stories are validated, through being heard and shared), but the real beauty of this initiative is in the powerful and positive stories of progress, of an urgent desire to shake up an age-old industry that has got stuck in its ways. Hospitality Speaks has been made possible with the help of over 100 people who want to drive change – journalists, food writers, restaurant owners, PRs, chefs, bartenders, cooks, hoteliers, consultants, trainers, suppliers, and more, as well as a wealth of people from other industries across construction, mental health, tech, the arts, and academia.”