In the very early days of covid, I had a conversation with Brandon Stephens from Tortilla in which he talked about wanting to gather together a coalition of operators to deliver meals to the teams working in hospitals. He knew these teams were working at full tilt and didn’t have access to fresh food during their shifts – they were literally grabbing hold of any food they could, and it certainly wasn’t fresh or nutritious. He wanted to move really quickly to sort out the situation. He had already set up Feed Our Frontline by the time we had our conversation and had an amazing group of people already working with him.
Eventually Feed Our Frontline became part of a bigger hospitality movement with Feed NHS, Leon, Meal Force and BaxterStorey, which all provided meals for front line workers in the NHS. By the end of the project, Feed Our Frontline had delivered more than 300,000 meals into 30 hospitals.
It was a staggering achievement. It had to work with operators with different product ranges (from fruit bowls to noodle bowls), with hospitals that all had different processes and needs, and with a delivery company (Deliveroo) that could work quickly and flexibly. Just collating the requests and matching them with supply was a mammoth task in itself.
The team had passion, commitment, and a sense of purpose it didn’t want to lose when the need for food deliveries into hospitals lessened a few weeks ago. It wanted to continue to make a difference. It had become clear during the crisis numerous brands were engaged in charitable activities before covid but only a small selection of these received the acknowledgment and credit they deserved.
The question was how could it expand the experience and learning into a bigger arena that could shine a light on these efforts? The team believed there was a need for an organisation that could highlight and amplify the positive community activities of individual operators as well as the industry as a whole. This felt like the time, more than ever before, hospitality could step up to help its local communities. Showcasing these good deeds was critical both to the re-engaging of customers and the lobbying of government for support.
So, Hospitality Feeds was launched. This is an initiative for hospitality operators across the sector to provide meals to those in need. It also serves as an industry-wide voice to showcase the good deeds the sector’s broad, and international, workforce does. The programme has four core aspects:
Meal pledge: Coalition members will pledge to provide a minimum number of meals to one or more charitable causes of their choice, currently proposed to be 100 meals per restaurant venue per year. Brands will choose a cause that suits them based on positioning, history and location. Hospitality Feeds is not intended to be cause-specific. A distributed approach is beneficial in ensuring coverage across causes and regions. Hospitality Feeds will also seek to recognise those making the biggest impact.
Meals-at-cost: Hospitality Feeds will establish relationships with charities to make at-cost meals available should those be requested by the charities.
Crisis assistance: Moving forward, if any major crises occur where prepared meals would be beneficial to those affected, the Hospitality Feeds steering committee will gather to reach out to coalition members to get meals to those who need them.
Awareness: Hospitality Feeds will collate data from all hospitality-led, food-based charitable initiatives and champion this work with key partners such as UKHospitality and Hospitality Action to highlight our businesses and employees as a force for good.
The target of Hospitality Feeds is to provide three million meals a year, which is equivalent to a meal for every hard-working employee in the hospitality sector.
In my humble opinion, this is a fantastic initiative that brings together the desire within the sector to help others less fortunate or more in need than themselves. It does not replace what is already happening. Indeed, the umbrella branding will help bring these initiatives more to the fore and give them additional publicity. Importantly though, it will help provide a framework and offer advice to those operators that want to do something but don’t necessarily know how to make it happen.
It’s how Brandon and the team started. They wanted to do something but didn’t know how. Through sheer persistence, determination, dedication and hard work they turned a vision into reality. There is much for us all to learn from their experience. It’s one of the hundreds of reasons why I love this sector. If you want to know more about Hospitality Feeds or have any questions then email Brandon Stephens on Brandon@tortilla.co.uk or Ed Standring on firstname.lastname@example.org