Initiative to address ‘toxic behaviour’ in hospitality

7th February, 2019 by Nicola Carruthers

Freelance food journalist Victoria Stewart and restaurant public relations (PR) officer Hannah Norris are set to launch a not-for-profit platform that aims to tackle harassment in the hospitality industry.

Hospitality Speaks is the brainchild of journalist Victoria Stewart and PR Hannah Norris

The initiative, called Hospitality Speaks, will launch at the end of March 2019 to address “toxic behaviour” in the hospitality industry.

Stewart, the former Evening Standard food editor, and Norris, founder of Nourish PR, have launched the platform to create a “safe online space” for hospitality workers to share their stories of bullying, harassment and discrimination, anonymously.

“The aim is to get conversation started and allow people to talk about their stories and alleviate stress,” Norris told The Spirits Business.

The platform’s website claims that “neither the hospitality industry nor the public are aware of the extent of toxic behaviour” and that “not enough action is being taken to prevent it or make it easy to report”.

Stewart wrote on the website: “Over a year ago, I became aware of specific examples of toxic behaviour in a number of establishments which prevented me from feeling I could continue covering them.

“Following a number of interviews, I discovered that the problems were not only widespread, but that people didn’t feel able to talk about them.”

The initiative also aims to raise awareness of “pioneering employers across the industry who have found innovative solutions for creating positive culture and retaining staff” and to give the public “an informed choice on where to eat and drink”.

Hospitality Speaks will seek to create a “hospitality industry standard for behaviour and ethics” and look to “shake up the media narrative on both sides”.

In addition, Hospitality Speaks will hold a series of events and discussions, and publish a page of contacts for professional help and legal counsel.

The platform comes after the tsunami of sexual misconduct allegations in various industries and the advance of the #MeToo movement that highlighted the ubiquity of sexual abuse.

Bartenders and bar owners have ramped up their efforts to make their venues safer and more inclusive. Safe Bars, a Washington DC-­based firm that launched in 2016, holds two-­hour bystander-intervention training for bar staff with the goal of creating a safer and more welcoming nightlife culture.

One Response to “Initiative to address ‘toxic behaviour’ in hospitality”

  1. Hello,

    Thank you for launching this platform. It is sorely needed by employers and employees alike. I am a former owner, and now a job seeker and use Glassdoor a lot to make an informed decision about employment for a particular company. While there are two sides to every story, so many comments I read from former and current employees reflect a toxic work environment, oftentimes created by management, but also many times in tangent with other employees. I was just there myself having briefly worked at Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant in San Francisco during this last holiday season.

    Before owning my own business, I worked for many others, and never in all those years had I experienced the soul crushing emotional abuse I did at FPWM. Constant correction, criticism, and belittlement, was the wine flavor of the day. I would’ve quit if I hadn’t needed the work, but I ended up getting fired for low sales, after the holidays, and the ubiquitous “You’re not the right fit.” Perhaps I wasn’t, but this is a company that in the last nine months had rehired half their staff and two new managers! I wasn’t even given a formal oral or written warning about my performance which in my experience is customary.

    Understanding your employee’s skills, building upon them with solid direction, and then reinforcing them with positive or if necessary negative feedback, is crucial to retaining talented help.

    Good luck on this venture and keep me in the loop.


    Karen Ulrich

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