If a colleague told you that Anton Edelmann was hooked up to a drip in hospital, that Anton Mosimann was in a wheelchair or that Antony Worrall Thompson had been seen sleeping rough, you would be forgiven for staring back at them in disbelief. But the chances are they've seen these images - in Hospitality Action's latest advertising campaign.
Hospitality Action is the industry's main charity and it's using images of high-profile figures suffering hardship to illustrate its key message - that it can happen to anyone.
The charity's director Penny Moore says: "We needed a strong campaign to raise awareness and prompt sponsors to understand who we are and what we're doing. It had to be hard-hitting, and I believe this is what we've achieved. Hospitality Action is here for everyone to help pick up the pieces. We're lucky to have the support of celebrity chefs to help drive this message home," she says, adding that marketing communications agency Mercieca Communications provided the creative input free of charge.
The charity, which has been around for an astonishing 168 years, exists to provide practical information, and perhaps more important, financial assistance to hospitality workers. Anyone who is currently employed, has worked at least one year in the last five years or seven continuous years of their working life in the hospitality industry can apply for assistance should life take a nasty turn.
Most people who have been helped by Hospitality Action have suffered a life-changing illness. The charity's latest figures show this accounted for 55% of people who received grants in 2004. However, grants have also been given on the basis of severe financial hardship, bereavement, a severe relationship breakdown or drug and alcohol addiction. Other beneficiaries have been victims of crime and domestic violence.
There are two grant categories - essential needs and crisis. The essential needs grant is a one-off sum of money given to the beneficiary to help pay for an essential item to improve their quality of life - such as medical equipment or heating. The crisis grant is given to people who have suffered a sudden loss of income because of bereavement, illness or injury. This provides help with living costs for a set period of time, up to one year.
However, money is tight and unfortunately for every four people it helps, Hospitality Action has to turn one person away because of lack of funds.
The charity relies on industry contributions to fund its grant schemes, which according to its latest figures paid out £327,000 in 2004. So convincing organisations that they should support it is vitally important. And it's not just about big cash donations. "Simple actions such as making us their charity of the year or holding fundraising events and a Christmas raffle all offer invaluable support," says Moore.
Some of the larger organisations which actively support the charity include 3663, Travelodge and Jarvis Hotels. However, smaller employers are also doing their bit, such as the Fat Duck restaurant in Berkshire, which states on its menu that it will make a small donation per diner to the charity.
But why should employers use their time and resources to help contribute to Hospitality Action? Moore says one big pull that has been attracting more involvement from the industry is that corporate social responsibility is now high on many organisations' agendas. "You can mention any contributions in your accounts and company literature to show you're doing your bit," she says.
Getting staff involved in fundraising activities can also be good for workforce morale and help hone team-building skills. And because the charity is for the benefit of hospitality workers it can help boost motivation among staff to get involved.
The charity also funds high-profile events to raise cash, which provides other sponsorship opportunities for organisations. "We're just planning our first corporate event at Wembley Stadium and we're also holding a Question of Sport evening at the end of April which is hoping to pull in about 700 paying guests," says Moore.
The continuing support of high-profile chefs also helps draw in the crowds at events. Mosimann, for example, lets the charity hold exclusive events at his club, providing food at cost price. "As you can imagine, they really do have the power to help raise our profile," says Moore.
Hospitality Action also supports the Ark Foundation, an organisation which aims to educate hospitality and catering students about the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse, and was set up in light of the increase in industry workers with dependency problems. One in 10 people working in hospitality has an alcohol or drug problem, according to the charity. This has a huge impact not only on the individuals with the dependency but also on their employers because of days lost through alcohol- and drugs-related absenteeism.
The idea for the foundation came from Michael Quinn, a chef at the top of his career as maître chef de cuisine at the Ritz hotel, London. He suffered from alcohol addiction, and during his recovery decided he wanted to help others who had turned to drugs because of pressures and unsocial hours.
The foundation therefore aims to educate industry workers before they fall victim to addictions by providing free seminars in universities and colleges across the UK. Seminars are designed to educate students on the effects alcohol and drugs have on the mind and body, while providing pointers to help identify behavioural traits so they can recognise if they have a problem. In addition, the foundation is developing business seminars aimed at hotel managers and HR departments. These aim to raise awareness of the legal, social and operational issues connected with alcohol and drug dependency in the workforce.
The foundation, which has chefs Jamie Oliver and Heston Blumenthal as honorary vice-chairmen, is trying to push the philosophy that being educated on the dangers of drug and alcohol dependency should form a vital part of training for all hospitality workers and is just as important as learning the skills for the job.
The importance of initiatives such as the Ark Foundation is something that Hospitality Action is trying to communicate to the industry. "With more employers behind us and the continued support of high-profile figures we really want to build on what we've already achieved," adds Moore.
Who benefits from Hospitality Action grants?
In 2004, £327,000 in grants was given out by Hospitality Action to people suffering the following conditions:
- 55% had life-changing illness.
- 26% had severe financial hardship.
- 5% had suffered a severe relationship breakdown.
- 5% had suffered bereavement.
- 4% had a drug or alcohol addiction.
- 3% had suffered domestic violence.
- 2% had been a victim of an accident or crime.
The highest number of beneficiaries were from the South of England. In the South-east, 103 people shared more than £64,000. In the South-west, 83 people shared almost £56,000, and in London 35 people shared £23,000. However, beneficiaries spanned all areas of the UK, including Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Midlands, East Anglia and the North of England.
How can you support Hospitality Action?
- Become an individual member of Hospitality Action by donating £25 a year.
- Nominate Hospitality Action as your company's chosen charity of the year.
- Sponsor an event or part of an event.
- Attend the charity's events and activities.
- Donate prizes for use at events.
- Buy Christmas or occasion cards in aid of the charity.
- Make a donation.
- Participate in national events in aid of the charity, such as a marathon.
- Implement a payroll giving programme for Hospitality Action.
Case study Samantha Radley had been a chef for almost all her working life when her daughter Tayla contracted a viral infection that resulted in her becoming a quadriplegic. She needed a ventilator to breathe and required 24-hour care, provided by Samantha and a team of six nurses.
In 2002, Samantha approached Hospitality Action for help. The charity initially assisted with a grant towards the substantial utility bills, which arose because of the special care Tayla needed. She is now assisted with a weekly grant. The charity has also paid for a sophisticated piece of equipment that helps Tayla, now eight, to operate a wide range of domestic appliances by remote control. The charity is hoping to provide continued support to help her develop further without causing her mother any more financial hardship.