The big decision…..(hospitality, it’s been a pleasure)

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in food and I’ve always had this yearning to help others. Growing up, my earliest memories aren’t of childhood holidays, school or my best friends, but of the birthday cakes I had over the years, the recipes I used to write, the things I used to bake in school and with my grandparents. I’ve also always been extremely empathetic, thoughtful, selfless and caring; going out of my way to help others often when noone else would help, being hospitable when guests stayed, going out of my way to look after others and do good deeds and I remember the lengths I went to ensuring my mums German pen-pals enjoyed their stay in our back garden when I was a kid. Given all this it’s hardly surprising I’ve fallen into hospitality as a career.

It’s been a 12 year love affair. I can’t dismiss it completely; I’ve worked in some of the most gorgeous hotels with some incredible chefs and managers, eaten and drunk some amazing food, learnt a ridiculous amount, met some amazing people, grown in confidence and learnt a lot about myself. But, like a lot of love affairs, this too is ending with a bitter taste in the mouth. It’s often bad enough being in a one sided relationship and not getting anything back, and in the grand scheme of things a relationship is relatively easy to change in comparison to this. 12 long years I’ve given my heart and soul to this industry, an unfailing passion for looking after others, for food, drink and good service; but the industry hasn’t been kind and it hasn’t given anything back in return for my loyalty. Strong reliable honest and genuine people in this industry are hard to come by, particularly females dominated in a male orientated world and from today it will be lacking in one more.

12 years of long shifts, late nights, no breaks, no food, poor pay, misconceptions about bonuses and incentives, broken promises, lies, bullies, verbal abuse. I’ve missed birthdays, family occasions, Christmas’, New Years Eves, I’ve been reduced to tears on my own birthday by bridezillas, I left university to pursue this as a career (much to the dismay of my family who didn’t speak to me for quite some time), I’ve been made redundant, been accused of theft as an easy way to get rid of me as there was no other grounds to do so just so I could be replaced with a family member to the business, I’ve been taken advantage of in most ways you can think of, and most recently I’ve been sexually attacked. All for a job, putting plates of food in front of people.

On starting my new job in Manchester three weeks ago, I promised myself if this venue didn’t work out then I would call it a day and walk away from the hospitality industry; I just didn’t expect it to be so soon. With my health, the attack and other failed jobs my CV is in desperate need of stability (as am I for my own sanity). Just three weeks of working there was more than enough. It’s weird that on reflection I wasn’t as driven and motivated as I normally am when I start a new role; probably a sign my love for the industry has been tarnished by all my previous experiences. In all honesty, I’m impressed my optimism and passion lasted this long, testament to my resilience and determination to make this work. I was put onto a 60 hour contract without prior consent or consultation (a 48 hour contract with a signature to say you’re happy to work over that dependant on business needs is the norm) and I actually did not ever receive a contract to sign. Despite the 60 hour contract all 3 weeks of working at the venue I reached nearly 80 hours a week, with few breaks and even less food. On my 4th lock up shift in a row, finishing a 17 hour shift with no food or break I set to walk my 7 minutes home on my own at the ridiculous time of 4am. On my way home I was cornered by a group of 3 males who swiftly spread after I set off my rape alarm; I dread to think what would have happened had I not acted in such a way. After what had happened last november, I was inevitably shaken and couldn’t sleep. Once it hit 7am, wide awake, with my next shift due to start at 11am and sleep definitely not on the horizon I messaged the GM to tell him what had happened and I was in no fit state to work. What followed was not a response of concern, apology or care but of blackmail to bully me into going into work that night. Later that day handing my belongings back to the venue I was nearly blamed for the near attack and was told I should have got a taxi. (I’ve just put all of the last of my money on a flat 7 minutes walk away to eliminate the need for wasting money on taxis) In just three weeks of working there I’d lost weight, lost my boobs (the bee stings always go first!), lost my drive for hospitality, my care, and managed to get really poorly from the hours I was doing. It was then I knew what I had to do.

Right now I’m feeling extremes of two things. Immense relief and immense heartbreak. I’ve dedicated and sacrificed so much of my life to hospitality, but it hasn’t treated me kindly at all and much like a long term abusive relationship enough is enough. I have to walk away. Admitting that is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. But at the same time, I feel a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. Ironically, whilst working in hospitality I’ve struggled to attend food events and markets as they’re always on a weekend which I will now be able to attend. I’ll be able to have the work/life balance I’ve been craving; the ability to work and have an active social life not just sleep on my days off. I’ll be able to see my friends and family, go to gigs and festivals, go on holiday, go to supper clubs and special dining events; I’ll actually be able to explore my passions!! I’ve found in my last few roles, because I’ve been so aware for the need of stability and longevity on my cv and my personal life, I’ve become extremely paranoid about anything going wrong and as such I’ve been making silly mistakes through being over cautious; I’ve been on edge constantly and that’s not the way to be when you apparently love something.

Whilst I am bloody terrified about what the future holds and the prospect of potentially becoming a 9-5 computer monkey, I am excited for finally having full control over my life and not having the powers of a relentless and unforgiving industry control it for me. I am sad to be leaving it in this way, but I think it’s for the best. All things about the hospitality industry are probably the worst things a female of my age with depression and anxiety, who’s just been attacked should be doing. I’m not saying never again, just right now I need a bit of structure, stability and time to do my own thing. I’m hoping to extend my empathy and customer based qualities into a role working for a charity; it may not be as good money starting at the bottom again but to me job satisfaction, stability and work life balance are far more important

Hospitality, the pleasure’s been all mine. Here’s to the new chapter of my life.