With the global hospitality industry facing unprecedented challenges due to the coronavirus crisis, certain individuals have emerged as heroes by helping those in greatest need navigate their way through the pandemic.
It has been heart-warming to see so many people within the drinks and hospitality industry step up and help out through an array of innovative initiatives, and we felt the following 11 deserved singling out in our shortlist.
The winner of our Hospitality Hero award will be announced at The Drinks Business Awards 2020 next month, which we will bring you details of soon. Below are profiles of the 11 hospitality heroes on our shortlist.
For the last decade, Asturias-born, US-based chef José Andrés has been a food first responder, helping to feed those blighted by natural disasters around the world through his World Central Kitchen initiative. His response to the Covid-19 crisis was no different. Since the start of the pandemic, Andres has provided over 25 million fresh meals in over 400 cities across the US to communities in need of support, including elderly citizens shielding from the virus.
His #ChefsForAmerica food relief scheme gives back to the struggling on-trade by purchasing over 7 million meals from local restaurants in need of revenue during the crisis to feed those most in need. The initiative has injected over US$90 million into the US on-trade since March, helping to keep hospitality workers employed and restaurants open.
“From NY to Little Rock, Oakland to Navajo Nation, we’ve been fighting hunger from the frontlines. In the process, we have kept hundreds of restaurants from going out of business and thousands of Americans employed to cook for their communities. But it is not enough. We cannot solve the hunger crisis with philanthropy alone,” Andres says in an open letter on the WCK website.
Having been named the World’s Best Restaurant in 2017, in early April chef Daniel Humm turned the three Michelin star Eleven Madison Park into a commissary kitchen to help feed frontline workers during the Covid-19 crisis. Teaming up with Rethink Food NYC on the venture, which has partly been funded by American Express, since its inception Humm has produced over 3,000 meals a day for New Yorkers in need.
By the end of May he and his team had prepared over 90,000 meals through the project, which he plans on extending beyond New York. The crisis seems to have brought about a shift in perspective for Humm, who is keen to continue his charitable work beyond the Covid-19 crisis to provide meals for those facing extreme poverty. “I need to help New York City – it’s given so much to me. The city needs food to help those in need, and if we can do just a little something, these dark days can be a bit brighter,” Humm wrote on his Instagram feed when he launched the initiative.
Having been appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer on 13 February, Rishi Sunak has shown the hospitality industry unprecedented levels of support during these unprecedented times. In July he cut VAT for hospitality businesses from 20% to 5%. His Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which launched on 3 August and runs until the end of the month, has proved a successful way of getting cautious diners back into restaurants.
The scheme offers diners a 50% discount when they eat in at restaurants registered with the initiative, up to a maximum of £10 discount per diner. Running on Mondays to Wednesdays, so far 64 million meals have been discounted through the scheme, which has no minimum spend and no maximum group size. The 84,000 venues signed up to the scheme are reimbursed by the government for the diner discounts.
“This scheme has reminded us how much we love to dine out, and in doing so, how this is helping to protect the jobs of nearly two million people who work in hospitality,” Sunak said. Eat Out to Help Out has proved so popular, a number of London restaurants, including Aqua Shard, M Victoria, Kricket and Benares, will continue to offer diner discounts after it ends.
Berkmann Wine Cellars
Berkmann Wine Cellars was one of the first UK wine suppliers to take action after the coronavirus crisis hit, launching an online wine platform called Help 4 Hospitality, which donated a proportion of revenues from direct to consumer wine orders to two charities supporting the hospitality industry during the crisis – The Drinks Trust and Hospitality Action. Pivoting from trade to consumer wine sales during lockdown, the online wine shop gave consumers access to an exclusive range of wines normally reserved for the trade. Hospitality outlets that joined the scheme were given a voucher code to share with their mailing list.
“The hospitality industry is suffering immeasurably during this shutdown. At the same time, we are hearing of consumers struggling to obtain the wines they want because of the pressure on retailers. We have great wine, and we have the infrastructure to deliver it, while being able to generate some much-needed support for our partners in the trade,” Rupert Berkmann, CEO of Berkmann Wine Cellars said at the time of the launch. The scheme, which ended in mid-August, raised £75,000 for the hospitality industry, with Minuty rosé proving a best-seller.
In April, Celebrity chef Tom Kerridge helped raise £100,000 to fund free meals for frontline NHS workers during the Covid-19 pandemic through the Meals From Marlow initiative. The campaign, backed by Kerridge, raised £100,000 in 48 hours and included a £25,000 donation from local charity the Shanly Foundation. The funds paid for 600 meals a day for NHS staff and vulnerable citizens in Buckinghamshire and Berkshire.
Kerridge has provided kitchen facilities to bring the project to life and has enlisted the help of fellow chefs in the Marlow area to cook the meals. “I know the people of Marlow are a very generous group, but I’m astonished by the speed and the level of kindness. People realise that as well as looking after our own neighbours, the front line is in the big hospitals where NHS teams are doing astonishing work. Thank you Marlow, I’m proud of you,” Kerridge said at the time.
Prior to the headline-grabbing news of Aviation Gin’s sale to Diageo this month, actor Ryan Reynolds got busy showing the US and UK bartending community some much-needed love during the pandemic. In April Reynolds announced that he would be donating 30% of the proceeds from online sales of Aviation Gin to the American the United States Bartenders Guild in an initiative that ran until the end of May with the help of partner retailers ReserveBar, Drizly, Wine.com, TotalWine, MiniBar, and Caskers. Reynolds’ act of kindness came on top of the $15,000 donation Aviation has already made to the USBG.
In April the actor extended his #TipYourBartenders initiative to the UK, donating 30% of the profits from UK sales of Aviation Gin to industry charity The Drinks Trust in a scheme that ran until the end of May through retail partners Proof Drinks and The Whisky Exchange. “The UK is not only home to the world’s most discerning gin drinkers, but also the ‘gintenders’ themselves. In an effort to support the bartenders we know and love, we will be donating a tip for every bottle purchased online to support the invaluable work The Drinks Trust continues to do,” Reynolds said.
M and Gaucho
During the height of the crisis, London steakhouses Gaucho and M delivered a thousand meals a week to NHS frontline staff across the UK capital at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in southeast London and The Nightingale Hospital at ExCel in east London. The restaurants partnered with the Hildon Foundation and Deliveroo to deliver the meals twice a day along with bottles of Hildon water.
Among the dishes being delivered to frontline workers were the M burger with cheese, bacon jam and pickles; sticky pork bao buns with kimchi mayo; crab sandos with yuzu mayo; and Argentine fillet steak with triple cooked chips. M is also hosting an NHS appreciation dinner on 28 September at M Threadneedle St for 200 NHS frontline doctors and nurses and their partners.
“I am delighted that we are able to show our massive appreciation for the NHS in our own small way by both providing meals for frontline workers and creating a special dinner of appreciation once the lockdown rules have relaxed,” said Martin Williams, CEO of Gaucho and M Restaurants.
Having withstood two world wars, one of London’s oldest and best-loved hotels, Claridge’s, went beyond the call of duty during the height of the coronavirus crisis while its doors were closed to paying guests, by opening up its rooms to 40 NHS workers from St Mary’s Hospital Paddington, offering them a safe place to lay their heads after long shifts on the front line.
The Mayfair landmark also donated thousands of toothbrushes, bars of soap and bottles of shampoo and hand wash to frontline workers, while the kitchens hotel’s provided breakfast and dinner for the doctors and nurses, and made daily packed meals for over 500 NHS workers and community support teams across London.
“Claridge’s has a duty to step up and support the people of London. Teams from all our hotels have volunteered, and we are honoured to help and support the dedicated NHS workers at this critical time, we are forever in their debt,” said Paddy McKillen, co-owner of Maybourne Hotel Group.
Devon and Cornwall’s top chefs, including Michael Caines, Paul Ainsworth and Nathan Outlaw, created a cookbook called ‘Comfort’ during the coronavirus crisis, asking people to donate what they could for the digital tome via JustGiving to raise funds for Hospitality Action. Full of comfort food recipes designed to bring joy during the dark days of the crisis, all of the chefs involved offered their services free of charge.
The recipes are intentionally easy for families to prepare at home using local, seasonal produce. Each features a local drinks pairing. The book also includes advice on growing food at home, foraging and using store cupboard ingredients.
The book is the brainchild of Cornwall-based food and drink PR, Lucy Studley. “Business owners who faced losing everything repeatedly said to me, ‘if this saves one life it will be worth it.’ I wanted to do something to help – to create a positive story at this dark time and to financially support hospitality workers who face hardship,” she said.
Hallgarten & Novum Wines
To help keep the momentum generated by the Eat Out To Help Out going, Hallgarten & Novum Wines will be dishing out over 100,000 free glasses of wine to diners at the restaurants it supplies throughout the month of September, donating a retail value of £700,000 to its on-trade accounts.
Hoping the scheme will incentivise people to dine out, the funding is being offered on a first-come, first-served basis through the Hallgarten website until 28 August. “The Eat Out to Help Out scheme has provided a great boost to the hospitality sector, so our plans focused on helping customers to drive footfall in the second half of September.
“Wine plays an important role in the meal experience and often makes up a large proportion of restaurant bills,” said Andrew Bewes, managing director at Hallgarten Wines. “While not a panacea to the challenges facing the industry, we hope that this initiative will make a difference and, in some small way, help to revitalise wine sales in restaurants, hotels and pubs,” he added.
While many of the world’s leading drinks companies have helped the hospitality industry during the crisis, Diageo has been particularly benevolent. At the start of the crisis it donated two million litres of Grain Neutral Spirit – a 96% strength ethyl alcohol used primarily in production of vodka and gin, to hand sanitiser producers around the world free of charge to go towards the production of 8 million 250ml bottles of hand sanitizer for frontline workers tackling the crisis.
In June Diageo launched a US$100m on-trade recovery fund through its ‘Raising the Bar’ initiative, to help pubs and bars around the world get back on their feet after lockdown. The two-year programme began in July to support the recovery of hospitality centres, including New York, London, Edinburgh, Dublin, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Delhi and Sydney.
In the UK, Diageo provided funding for hygiene kits, including sanitiser dispense units, medical grade hand sanitiser and a range of personal protection equipment, such as masks and gloves. During lockdown the firm offered hospitality workers the chance to take its online Diageo Bar Academy training course free of charge, to improve their skill set, while allowing more flexibility to its smaller on-trade accounts to help them access products more easily and manage their cash flow.