I am missing the heartbeat of hospitality. I am missing the joy of meeting up and sharing food and drink with industry friends who have the same passion and excitement about the sector as I do. I miss the buzz, the laughter, the chatter, and the hearing of wonderful stories about investment, growth, openings, and innovation. It’s the people I miss the most – the lovely, wonderful, kind, creative, generous, collaborative people who make my working life so brilliant.
Rosy glow and memories? Absolutely not. For every dull meeting or presentation I have attended during my career, there have been hundreds of great ones that have made my heart sing and filled my head with a shed load of opportunities and ideas. I know sometimes (much of the time probably) working with me is a complete pain – often on to the next idea without really finishing the one we were all working on. I know that. I can only apologise but after being in the sector for so long, I don’t know how else to be. It’s one of the reasons I love working in such a dynamic and joyful industry.
The thing is there is an incredibly amount of inspiration to be taken from talking to everyone in this sector. I work with such a wide range of companies along the supply chain – growers, bottlers, manufacturers, distributors, contract caterers, pubs, restaurateurs, technology firms – that it’s so easy to build on ideas, be creative and consider alternatives. I find most people are collaborative and willing and happy to work with others, as long as their competitive advantage is not undermined, or their commercial arrangements compromised.
Newcomers are welcomed, entrepreneurs applauded, innovators saluted – and the bad eggs are weeded out very quickly. Operators share information on great suppliers and suppliers share information on great operators. No one wants to see outstanding companies or individuals fail. It’s one reason why this crisis is so difficult. Not only are chief executives likely to see their own businesses suffer, they may also see their friends going through very difficult times and that’s often just as hard to take on board. When times are bad then this industry pulls together. Competitors email one another to wish others luck or to say they are there for them. I see this happening time and time again when I’m asked for the contact details of someone doing well – just so others can WhatsApp them to say: “Well done.”
I have seen incredible acts of generosity and thoughtfulness in these grey, but not quite dark, times. Many technology companies have waved fees and given their software for free. Food and drink suppliers have donated food to the numerous wonderful “feed the NHS” initiatives. Distributors have been on hand to deliver without charge. Operators have set up shops, click-and-collect and delivery from scratch in no time at all in order to help their customers get the food they need. It’s been the right thing, but not always the most profitable, thing to do.
There has been incredible selflessness at the heart of these initiatives driven by the desire to put others first. Many people in this sector are working harder than they thought possible – harder than they have worked before. Many have given so much without being asked. What a wonderful sector.
I will continue to miss the buzz of having a beer with friends. I miss the sociability of a girl’s night in the pub, of a family Sunday lunch in a local restaurant and a pizza before the cinema. I miss the joy of discovering a brilliant new restaurant or finding an old restaurant being just as good as I remember it. While Hello Fresh is proving a great alternative to my very average/non-existent cooking, it can never beat the joy of eating wonderful food cooked and served by talented and caring teams.
I will continue to miss the anticipation of sometimes feeling so excited about a new place that I can hardly wait to get there or looking through a new menu and wanting to choose it all or finding hospitality so charming and relaxing I just want to stay and keep drinking and eating.
I can’t wait for it all to start again, whenever that is. In the meantime I relish the joy of being part of something bigger, more joyful and more together than I thought possible in a crisis like this. Thank you.