A week after restaurants reopened following a month-long national lockdown and with just over three weeks of restricted trading until property eviction protections are set to expire, a group of high-profile chefs have redoubled efforts to campaign for ministerial representation for hospitality: an industry stricken by the multifarious effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Accompanying a petition set up by Chef and Restaurant Magazine editor Claire Bosi in the autumn, a new platform called Seat at the Table launched this week and says it will showcase 90 venues over the next 30 days, each putting out their own plea. The petition is aiming to receive 100,000 signatures; so far, at the time of writing, it has 48,389.
Yesterday, it was the turn of Murano’s Angela Hartnett who posted a video to Instagram in which she reiterated a case laid out in early October: that the hospitality industry employed millions of people and deserved ministerial representation from someone who “understands how [it] work[s].”
She said: “[Hospitality was the] third biggest employer in the U.K, representing over three million people. We, the hospitality industry, need someone in the seat of government to speak for us: From the local coffee shop, to your local pub, from the many hotels, the huge number of restaurants[...]
“We need someone who understands our business, understands how we work. So please, I urge you — sign the petition to get us a minister for hospitality.”
Michelin-starred pub owner and London restaurateur Tom Kerridge is among those to add their voice to the campaign. Last night, he said: “A Minister for Hospitality would be a vital step forward for our industry by ensuring we have one single respected voice at the highest possible level in government.
“We have seen during this pandemic that proper well-informed representation would be invaluable.”
Until this point, those lobbying and making the case for hospitality have been disparate: UK Hospitality, the official trade body, has led the way, but has sometimes been contradicted in its aims by pressure groups like Hospitality Union and action groups like Hospo Demo. That there has been no unified political messaging is partly explained by the various needs of a single “industry” that comprises small cafes, independent restaurants, chain pub groups, and even nightclubs. But also because, as the Seat at the Table initiative is now pointing out, there is no one area of government to whom the sector can direct its complaints or suggestions. The newest of the industry’s action groups wants that to change in order to have its needs met.