11 January 2001

Hospitality charity is fighting fit

Anyone reading the article about my decision to resign as chief executive of Hospitality Action (Caterer, 4 January, page 4) might be left thinking that the charity is going through a difficult period. I would like to set the record straight and state that this is definitely not the case.

The past 12 months have been Hospitality Action's most successful to date. The charity has enjoyed widespread support from across the industry and, as a result, we have been able to help more people than ever before.

Those who attended the Hospitality Ball in November will know that our team put together a wonderful event that raised nearly £100,000, beating all previous records.

Despite two members of staff leaving our fundraising team this autumn, we managed to top the previous year's fundraising total by one-third, something we also achieved in 1999 and 1998.

Last year also saw the launch of our Charity of the Year programme, which proved to be an enormous success, and we would like to thank all those companies which signed up for their hard work and commitment. We would like to say a particular thank you to Forte, which raised £250,000 for us in 2000.

Thistle Hotels and Universe Foods have now declared Hospitality Action their Charity of the Year for 2001, and our committed fundraising team is looking forward to working closely with them to ensure that the Charity of the Year programme continues to be an unqualified success.

There may have been a few personnel changes at our head office, but there remains a team of committed individuals at Hospitality Action, all of whom work extremely hard to ensure that, away from the headlines, anyone working within the hospitality industry has somewhere or someone they can turn to for help.

My resignation comes about because of personal reasons, but I shall continue to work for Hospitality Action on a consultancy basis until a new chief executive is recruited.

We have also decided to create a new post - a director of finance and administration - which will also help the charity to grow.

I hope that everyone who has so generously supported Hospitality Action in the past will continue to do so, and we look forward to welcoming new supporters in the forthcoming year.

Alison Rogers, Chief Executive, Hospitality Action, London.

Rogers' work has been invaluable to those in need

I read with some concern the news item concerning the resignation of Alison Rogers (Caterer, 4 January, page 4). The truth is that her resignation is for genuine and personal reasons, and that her service to Hospitality Action has been invaluable.

She was the unanimous choice for the job and inherited the Hotel & Catering Benevolent Association at a point of terminal decline.

Her energy and intelligence have helped to create a new organisation with a new image. She has rationalised the management structure and the property portfolio to the charity's financial advantage. She has reached out successfully to many major companies and corporations. The result has been a significant increase in contributions to Hospitality Action and, more importantly, in improved distribution of funds to those in need.

Garry Hawkes, Non-Executive Chairman, Aramark, Berkshire

Hospital standards are looking healthy

There has been much discussion about hospital catering standards, but there is some hope on the horizon.

Catering and allied services in hospitals lost out in the departmental turf wars that followed the formation of hospital trusts. Catering has, furthermore, been severely weakened in the interim years of organisational chaos in the NHS, and caterers have simply not stood their professional ground. There is now a backlog of monumental under-investment in services.

However, there is evidence to show that the shift to using contract caterers and total facilities management is having a great effect on improving standards.

Some contractors have provided large capital expenditure in return for long-term contracts, and the application of modern food technology has greatly enhanced food quality and other services. Meals have also changed in the past decade in tune with public taste, and fast-food outlets and food courts are now found in modern hospitals.

David Hutchins, Stourbridge, West Midlands.

Nuture young staff, or pay the consequences

With reference to "2001 Stargazing" (Caterer, 21 December, page 54), of all the predictions put forward, the one with which I agree most profoundly is that expressed by Idris Caldora.

He said: "People see poor pay, terrible hours, no rewards. We have fallen foul in the past and now we are paying the price. This all has to be changed by the industry. You have to create a normal life for chefs and employees generally."

Having spent some 20 years in the industry and a further 20 years in higher education, I am not surprised by students likening their industrial placement experiences to 19th century practices. Not until we learn to value the input of all personnel, especially the young, will the hospitality industry start to attract and retain the staff it deserves.

If the money is not available for higher wages, efforts could at least be made to improve conditions at work, provide a meaningful training environment, give positive, constructive feedback and explain where mistakes are made so that they need not recur. A happy worker is likely to be more productive, so it is in the employer's interest to encourage a friendly working environment.

It's time we all realised that those who do not move with the times remain in a vacuum, or get left behind.

Joachim Schafheitle, Senior Lecturer, Bournemouth University, Dorset.

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