Inside track: Look forward to the future, says Emma Underwood

11 January 2022 by

Find optimism in dark times, says Emma Underwood in her first article as a regular Inside Track columnist

The start of a new year is normally an exciting time for the hospitality industry. At this point, fuelled by the wave of adrenaline that a packed December has brought, we should be planning our next 12 months with optimism.

We find ourselves, once again, in a very different situation. The past two years have taught us sad lessons in the unreliability of the future and the futility of plans in a world that can quickly change.

This January we are faced with yet more uncertainty. The Christmas period was difficult for many of us as the new variant ripped its way through the country, carrying with it a raft of cancellations, diminished dining rooms and staff absences.

At the time of writing, it is estimated that businesses are to expect workforces reduced by up to 25%. For the hospitality industry that is already plagued by labour shortages, such a figure is surely crippling.

I spent Christmas and New Year unwell and in isolation, when I should have been taking care of guests in the restaurant I manage. As someone who has spent festive seasons in restaurants since I was a teenager, it was a really tough time, but I consider myself lucky. I am an employee, and I don't have the anxieties and pressures that so many hospitality business owners must be facing now. It is unimaginable.

Our industry is built on hard work and resilience, we are people who are used to challenges, but our resilience is once again being tested to a limit it never should have reached. It is vital that we focus on the reasons behind the love we all have for hospitality at this time, and find the ability to look ahead with excitement. We deserve to fill our lives with optimism, no matter how difficult it seems.

The pandemic may still have its grip on us, but we still have so much in which to take pride. Our kitchen doors will continue to be graced with incredible produce waiting to be transformed into the most creative expressions for our guests to marvel in. Cellars are teeming with bottles of wine ready to be poured by experts with tableside tales of the agricultural skill and generational knowledge that has led to their production.

Our dining rooms we have so carefully curated are set to host meals celebrating the most special of our diners' occasions. We are part of people's most precious memories, and for this we should feel honoured. Hospitality is in its essence the provision of care. We welcome guests into the spaces we have conscientiously created for them and share the products of our craft and passion. It is a privilege to be able to do this for a living, and it is with this in mind that we will be able to navigate this current period.

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