Across the hospitality sector there has been a palpable sense of relief as lockdown restrictions continue to unwind and the industry takes its first steps back to normality, writes Fleet Street Communications Account Executive, Sofia Leadbetter.
However, it has also brought the wider staffing crisis facing the industry into sharp focus. As venues reopen and service resumes, growing numbers of operators are finding workers increasingly hard to come by with the pandemic and Brexit being cited as fuelling the problem.
Over the past year, the work of industry charity Only A Pavement Away (OAPA) has shown it may hold some of the solutions to plugging the skills gap currently affecting the sector. Founded in late 2018 by industry stalwart Greg Mangham, it is the only charity in the UK to support those struggling to get into work and find careers within hospitality. Working alongside a growing number of employers and 71 charity partners, OAPA has so far placed 96 people into hospitality jobs and contributed an additional £3.5 million to the UK economy through the money it has helped the government to save on supporting the homeless and prisoners. Through its firm belief that hospitality is an exciting industry built on people, the charity has shown how the sector can help to reduce the strain on government funding and deliver meaningful careers.
Over the pandemic, we have seen OAPA spring into action to support the sector. With an exciting new range of initiatives under its belt, the charity has successfully targeted both businesses and consumers to raise further awareness of its vital work and also help to drum up fresh support for the industry after a gruelling year.
Following on from its partnership with Michelin-starred chef Tom Aikens last year, the charity recently revealed plans for the ‘Tom Aikens Charity Cookbook’ with all proceeds from book sales used to support existing OAPA members into work and provide additional training and short-term financial support where needed.
Securing over 200 online participants and raising a total of £5,000, the challenge was instrumental in amplifying the charity’s work to a wider audience and enabling OAPA to bridge the 20% pay gap its members were experiencing during furlough.
The challenge also coincided with the Hospitality Against Homelessness campaign – an initiative set up at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic to provide essential food and supplies for the fast-growing numbers of individuals across London who were falling into destitution. In collaboration with foodservice suppliers and operators such as Thomas Franks, Yummy Pub Co., Strand Palace Hotel, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, Brakes and Vestey Foods, the charity distributed donations worth over £1.4 million to homeless individuals, including food, clothes and toiletries.
In more recent months, the charity has signed up a number of TV personalities as ambassadors, including Love Island contestant Luke Mabbott, actress Emma Osman and Hollyoaks actor Kieron Richardson. The charity also has the Prisons Service in its sights and over the coming months will be launching a new ‘Sponsor a Kitchen’ campaign into six UK prisons. Working closely with inmates who are due for imminent release, OAPA will look to sign-up these individuals to its hospitality jobs board and provide professional training and advice ahead of their release.
Cook & Dine
Furthermore, OAPA has announced the return of its successful industry lunch Cook & Dine. Taking place this September in Freemasons Hall in London, the unique fundraising lunch will welcome over 260 guests and celebrate the UK’s hospitality industry – showcasing all that makes it great. The event is running in conjunction with Tom Aikens and is currently seeking sponsorship from interested individuals and businesses to help realise its goal of supporting a further 250 people into sector jobs over the next year.
For further information on sponsorship packages available at Cook & Dine, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about the vital work carried out by the charity, visit www.onlyapavementaway.co.uk