Ask Arena - Keeping UP!

Breakfast Webinar - 8.30-9.30am, Tuesday 3 November 2020

The latest installment in the series of Ask Arena webinars was a valuable breakfast event - Keeping UP! - sharing an expert update on the industry and practical ideas for looking after mental wellness during these changing times. Kate Nicholls, the CEO of UKHospitality, opened with a live up-to-the-minute update on latest developments impacting the industry and how UKHopsitality is working with government as the voice of the sector. The event also focused on the all-important issue of mental health and wellbeing within the foodservice and hospitality industry and a panel of experts shared their knowledge and experience to help us look after our own wellbeing as well as that of our teams and colleagues. 

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“Protect jobs, save businesses…”

This is the key message that our industry is lobbying government with, Kate Nicholls, CEO of UK Hospitality shared in our latest Ask Arena webinar.

As we move into the second week of lockdown, long-term support from the government is crucial in enabling us to return to pre-pandemic revenue in 2022-2023, explained Kate.

Whilst it’s hoped that restrictions will indeed be lifted on 2 December, it is likely that we will move into a tiered system, based on regional infection rates.

Kate shared with us the key messages and tasks that UK Hospitality is currently taking to the government while the industry has a bit of breathing space, albeit with ‘temporary sticking plasters’ via furlough, grants and discretionary grants. 


Adequate support is needed for an extended period of time and rules and regulations need to be clear. It’s imperative that grant funding is sufficient; it’s vital to get cash to businesses now.


A science-backed approach to the rationale behind easing and lifting of restrictions must be implemented, to make sure we keep as much of the economy open as possible.  Any restrictions must be evidence-backed, the most obvious one being the 10pm curfew.


Clarity and certainty of message is needed, as is transparency on the science behind restrictions.  An understanding of triggers down the tiers and what the support packages are for the longer term are needed.


Stay focused on the economy to make sure we have an economy to come back to.  Jobs are temporarily safe but if we take our eye off the bigger picture, we’ll lose businesses. The business rate holiday and VAT cut needs to be extended to allow us to put the metrics into our P&Ls and support our supply chain.


Mass and rapid testing is needed to allow the wider reopening of our economy and our closed business segments; conferences, events nightclubs, music venues and international travel, tourism and business travel.

Finally, COMMUNICATION is key. Trust between the government and the business community has fractured.  Transparency, clarity and regular communication will rebuild trust; we can no longer find out about things through the media or via drip feed.

“We’ll go back to what we do best”

Kate explained that if the chancellor wants to pay down the debt levels, it’s in his interest to invest in hospitality.  We’re a safe bet for helping the country get through this. She reassured viewers that we’ll go back to what we did post 2010 recession; generating one in six net new jobs and growing at 5% year on year.

Following Kate’s summary and some questions from the audience, Anita Murray, CEO of William Murray PR & Marketing chaired a panel discussion on mental health and the impact of Covid.  Amanda Scott, Director of Talent, Compass Group UK & Ireland, Martin Williams, CEO of Gaucho and Founder and CEO of M Restaurants and Camilla Woods, Services Director at Hospitality Action all shared their views.

Camilla shared the latest statistics from the HA Hospitality Mental Health survey and the impact Covid is having:

  • Uncertainty caused by Covid is currently the top cause of stress
  • 60% of hospitality workers feel worried and demotivated
  • 36% are considering losing the industry

It’s clearly a very difficult time for many and Hospitality Action is seeing increased calls to its helplines, more visits to its online advice hub and a record number of people applying for grants.

However, despite all the worry and uncertainty, we’re seeing small green shoots of progress in relation to mental health awareness. Encouragingly, 75% felt that mental wellness is now a priority some or all of the time for their employer.

Martin and Amanda shared some of the support activities and campaigns that they’ve been using within their businesses and some of their key learnings.

The overriding message was “talk to your teams” and “listen to what they tell you” so that you can provide the right support to the right people.  There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to mental health.