'Once it is in parliament it is in their hands and we are relying on them to fight our corner'

The  Staff Canteen

Seat at the Table has grown rapidly, it is a campaign to get signatures for a petition for a Hospitality Minister which was started last year but failed to gain the momentum it needed until hotelier Robin Hutson decided it needed some help and assigned two of his trainees the task of promoting it across the industry.

In just six days Freya Morton and Lydia Rigby from The Limewood Group and the rest of the Seat at the Table team (Tean Bradford, Max Stennett, Bethany Chown, Luis Davila, Darryl Harris, Jamie Banner) hit their target of 100,000 signatures after being given a brief of a 30-day campaign by Robin, to make as much noise as possible about the petition and allow it to be debated in parliament.

“The whole thing has been a bit mad really,” explained Lydia. “We’re operators, we run the operation every day, so this task was completely out of our usual remit and comfort zone.

“We’ve been learning as we go and the brief to hit 100,000 felt at the limits of our capabilities. We didn’t foresee it being so successful – the support we have had from the industry has been absolutely phenomenal and it would have been completely impossible to achieve those signatures without it.”


Signatures are currently sitting at 190,000 and the pair are hoping to reach 250,000 ahead of the debate on Monday, where they will see their efforts come to fruition as the petition for a Hospitality Minister will be debated in Parliament at 4.30pm.

In the days leading up to that, Seat at the Table have been lobbying MPs and ask that others do the same using a prewritten letter which they can send, you can download a copy here.

Lydia said: “We’ve been lobbying MPs who we think are most likely to stick up for hospitality so those who have an interest or have sat on particular committees – we wanted to prime them for supporting us. Once it is in parliament it is in their hands and we are relying on them to fight our corner.”

The outcome of that is yet to be determined but one, loud and informed voice for the sector would be welcomed by the millions of people employed in the hospitality industry.

Lydia and Freya are keen to point out that it is not just the people in the industry and suppliers who they are grateful to for the support, it’s those people who have got behind it who love hospitality, love going out and love eating out.

The Seat at the Table team are aiming to be as ‘reactive as possible’ after the debate in terms of how they use the platform for the industry.

“I think there is enough noise being made now that people are not just going to go away if they are told no,” said Freya. “We’ve highlighted this issue and there is enough support behind it for us to say, ‘we need more and we will continue to make noise’.”

Lydia added: “The message from Boris was a bit daunting in terms of the length, there were implications that this lockdown would be until at least the end of February.

“Our message to the government is that this isn’t about a moment in time, the pandemic has raised an awful lot of very urgent needs for the hospitality industry, but we firmly believe that this appointment has been relevant in the past and is now more relevant than ever in terms of the rebuild.

“There’s lots of really relevant comments that the industry would like to make regarding VAT, taxation and the legislation surrounding that. It is going to be vital in the next six months to a year, to ensure the industry is able to grow, find its feet again and actually thrive and be well placed in the much longer term.

“While lockdown 3 is another blow it wasn’t unexpected – we’re all getting very used to this now and we are seeking through Seat at the Table to ensure that the industry is represented not only through this but moving forward from this.

“This lockdown raises the point of exactly why we feel a Hospitality Minister is necessary.”

The duo wants to continue Seat at the Table even after a Hospitality Minister is in place but they are honest in saying that they are not sure ‘in what capacity that will be’ and the response to the debate in parliament will be ‘a prompt’ in answering how they move forward. Like all of us in hospitality and those who rely on the industry, they will be watching the debate with their fingers crossed that a Minister for Hospitality is agreed – a positive start to what is already proving to be another difficult year.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 6th January 2021

'Once it is in parliament it is in their hands and we are relying on them to fight our corner'