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Inside track: We're finally speaking with one voice says Wendy Bartlett

16 June 2020 by
Inside track: We're finally speaking with one voice says Wendy Bartlett

One effect of a crisis is to bring people together, a benefit that should continue after the pandemic is over, says Wendy Bartlett

On one hand I'm so bored with Covid-19; not being able to see people (my team especially), having no excuses to avoid sitting at my desk to do admin and, worst of all, not being able to enjoy great food.

On the other hand, I am also really excited by what I see coming. This period has generated lots of new ideas and creativity and formed a community. Changes that may have taken years have happened overnight. For example, it has taken us two weeks to introduce an app across our entire business. That's from initial discussion to rollout. We do change well.

So, while the sector is facing terrible news at the moment, I am also relishing the impact of how change is being received and how positive all are being about what can be done, should be done and needs to be done.

For years we have been complaining about not being heard and blaming everyone else for this situation – everybody except ourselves, the custodians of hospitality. Some could argue that an accidental benefit of this crisis is that it has taken us five years ahead of where we would have been without it. We've all had to adapt significantly already and will need to keep adapting further.

Some could argue that an accidental benefit of this crisis is that it has taken us five years ahead of where we would have been without it

UKHospitality, under the leadership of Kate Nicholls and her team, has really pushed our agenda and stressed the urgent needs for our sector. It has been heartening to see how information has been shared with the priority of looking out for the greater good. This has given UKHospitality a real picture of the impact this has had on the industry and, more importantly, its people.

Without this ‘coming together', UKHospitality wouldn't have had such strength to influence the government by being able to cite our needs as an industry. We wouldn't have been able to learn from one another, too.

I know that this just doesn't apply to contract catering as there has also been great collaboration across restaurants and hotels. Within UKHospitality, we have a foodservice forum and the interaction ebbs and flows like most gatherings, however, I must commend all the contract caterers involved. I'd particularly like to highlight the support of the large players who have helped in making sure we speak as one unified voice.

Collaborating and having the voice of all key stakeholders has been vital; we've shared information, best practice and put aside competitive jostling to put together one message. All of this insight has been gathered by speaking to our teams, as well as clients and consultants. This has been shared with competitors, then UKHospitality, then fed into government.

In government circles, our world is still sadly referred to as ‘canteens', which gives you an indication of the dated perception people have of what we do. Had we not been proactive very early on, we would have continued to be sent impractical advice as we saw at the start of the crisis. Our collective voice has made the government change their approach and take what we do seriously.

We've since seen sensible, practical and, above all, relevant, information being included in guidance for workplaces. This has solely been down to a collective effort.

UKHospitality has no power without our support. That's why its important for all of us to get behind campaigns like FAIR4Hospitality to make sure our industry is heard. The short-term future is going to be a challenge in ways that we can't imagine. But, together, we are louder and stronger.

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