A year ago, when we were all isolated in our homes missing the big wide world and getting sick of our own cooking, where did you picture yourself? Perhaps a quiet corner of the pub, your usual seat in the local or basking in the sunshine whilst grabbing a coffee. I pictured myself on the terrace at my local pub ordering the most indulgent dessert on the menu; and on the 18th of September, that is exactly where I will be to celebrate National Hospitality Day.
Back in May, I started writing an article to celebrate the return of the hospitality industry. With May 17th fast approaching, it was a momentous occasion for us all. Some establishments were already partially open or providing adapted services, whilst others were yet to re-open their doors but nonetheless, this milestone was full of excitement and anticipation. I don’t wish to dwell on COVID-19, especially now it feels like we might finally be stepping forward, but for those businesses who sadly haven’t come out the other side of this pandemic or those who continue to face difficulty, we must recognise the extent of their struggle before we once again take sitting in the sun with a glass of something lovely for granted.
I have said it before but to me, hospitality is about being proud of something and wanting to share it. For me, the 17th of May was made even more special because I started my graduate position in the front of house team of a luxury country house hotel on a beautiful estate in Somerset. This means I have witnessed the journey the industry has been on since reopening in the Spring. These first few months have been joyful with an atmosphere of relief and gratitude amongst everyone visiting the hotel. I have never known such a sense of familiarity and openness between people and it seems we are connected in the delight we share at being able to enjoy these places and experiences once again. I have seen genuine emotion from people, especially those coming from cities to enjoy the countryside and my job has been more rewarding than ever thanks to this added meaning. This is a responsibility all of us committed to hospitality recognise. COVID-19 hasn’t just put a stopper on income, but also creativity, passion and development. We are PEOPLE people and it is so nice to be back doing what we all love once again; in spite of the challenges. The soaring popularity of British produce and landscapes means this is an incredibly exciting time to be a part of British hospitality and National Hospitality Day has come at the perfect time to celebrate this. If you ever needed an excuse to get out and make the most of what we have to offer, this is the day!
Throughout the pandemic, it is no secret that hospitality establishments have had a particularly rocky ride. Even since their tentative return, venues have been met with a completely mixed bag of celebration and hesitation not to mention the operational challenges COVID remains to present. During lockdown, this industry’s hope for recovery was driven by the enthusiasm we all showed at the thought of returning to our favourite places and being “back to normal”. But this is just it, we are not back to normal. Despite great efforts to keep up appearances, the industry, like many others, is facing unprecedented complications and challenges and rural businesses are especially vulnerable. It is not unknown that there is a national shortage in the workforce across many sectors but we as an industry do feel this issue sorely being so dependent on people. COVID has prevailed in causing chaos over the past couple of months remaining the cause of many staff absences leaving us to provide the same service with critically low staff. With isolation restrictions relaxed we have hopefully seen the back of such circumstances but with masks already becoming less commonplace it’s easy to forget that COVID is a concern businesses are still dealing with. We, as an industry, shoot ourselves in the foot here as forgetting about the pandemic is exactly what we want you to do during your time with us. We are here to provide that needed escapism, but it appears that appreciation and patience for the industry in the current circumstances is quickly faltering also. National Hospitality Day is also with the purpose of renewing our appreciation and support of this industry that is integral to us all. It is struggling and needs every ounce of support it can get. At the end of the day, we are an extremely passionate, resourceful and resilient bunch. We don’t get it right every time, who does? One thing we as customers must take away from this pandemic is to appreciate this industry and those who work in it. Without them, our lockdown birthdays would be the norm and we would all be far too confident of our abilities in the kitchen (nothing like a meal out to remind me where my ability ends)! As the official National Hospitality Day organisation so perfectly wrote:
“We play out our biggest life events in hospitality businesses, from first dates to wedding celebrations, and from baby showers to toasting the departed. They’re where the moments that make life worth living take place: the morning chat with your friendly barista, the pint after work with pals, a soak in a warm pool, Sunday roast with the family, a comfortable bed after a long journey …”
So my reflection of this fine industry ends with a “cheers” to all involved. Come the 18th of September, I hope we can all either enjoy our favourite venues, foods and drinks or simply take a moment to appreciate what we have available to us.
Regional Reporter - South West England
A motto I live by is “if it makes your heart happy, follow it and the right doors for you will open”. I grew up on the Somerset Levels and am currently studying my final year of Hospitality Management at the University of Plymouth. After specialising in the Cruise Industry and spending 7 months sailing around the world, I simply confirmed that the British countryside is where my heart lies. Like many, my love of the countryside runs deep. I spend as much of my free time possible riding, sailing, baking or exploring with my dog in tow and I love nothing more than a countryside picnic…except maybe a cosy pub dinner! To me, hospitality is about having something you’re proud of and wanting to share it; a purpose I see mirrored in the objectives of the Ladies Countryside Community and I’m excited to get stuck in! Take a look at my blog @thecountrysidecorner