If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant, bar, or pub, you won’t be surprised to hear reports of harassment and discrimination within the hospitality industry. Late shifts, easy access to booze, and lacking HR resources can allow for shitty work conditions. As the hospitality industry undergoes its “#MeToo moment,” with accusations arising against chefs including Mario Batali, Ken Friedman, and Dan Doherty, many will be sadly unsurprised at the revelations.
The movement, however, has far from exposed all of hospitality’s dark corners. Which is why food writer Victoria Stewart, alongside co-founder and restaurant PR, Hannah Norris, are launching an initiative to get hospitality workers talking more openly about abuse in the workplace. The aim is to hold the industry and those perpetrating this behaviour to account.
Hospitality Speaks will take the form of a testimonial platform, encouraging employees of bars, pubs, street food stalls, and restaurants to anonymously publicise their experiences of harassment, discrimination, or bullying. According to the Guardian, Stewart, who writes for the Evening Standard, launched the initiative after months of interviewing hospitality workers about their experiences.
As well as charting the negative, Hospitality Speaks will list restaurants and bars that cultivate safe workplaces. Stewart eventually hopes to create a certification that can be awarded to businesses who are committed to fighting toxic work culture.
“The main motivation was a realisation that there is an incredible amount of behaviour that goes on that is not talked about,” Stewart told MUNCHIES over the phone. “There is not a space to talk about that in a safe way and to see that there are other people who are experiencing it.”
Stewart explained that she also wanted to emphasise the connection between a good work environment and staff retention: “I didn't see that there was enough recognition between creating those kinds of positive work environments and keeping your staff.”
“Everyone is talking about staff shortages, and relating it to Brexit, and there are so many pressures on the industry with rising business rates,” she adds, “but in my view [there’s] not enough recognition between culture and retention.”
It was hearing stories from individuals working in hospitality that prompted Stewart to launch the website.
“I realised from doing those there's a much wider problem than I've necessarily realised,” she said.
“I've written for ten years on the consumer side of this industry—I just wasn't sure I was able to keep doing that, knowing what I knew.”