'It's family and it was taken away' - how pandemic hit hospitality staff

Chef Jeff Taylor, who runs the Dough at Deer pizza brand at the Reindeer, is launching the Heads Up

Chef Jeff Taylor, who runs the Dough at Deer pizza brand at the Reindeer, is launching the Heads Up Hospo event to support hospitality workers. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

A Norwich chef and familiar face in Norfolk's hospitality world is aiming to raise awareness of the strain placed on those in the industry through a new event.

Jeff Taylor says the last year has put enormous pressure on those working in hospitality, both financially and mentally.

The sector has arguably been the worst-hit by the pandemic, with hundreds of thousands of jobs lost nationally as venues struggled to cope with lockdowns, regularly changing rules and significant drops in trade.

He hopes to launch Heads Up Hospo as a hub to connect workers, and signpost them towards career opportunities, advice and mental health support.

While it would not take place until restrictions have eased, the goal is to launch it with a football tournament and food festival.

Chef Jeff Taylor, who runs the Dough at Deer pizza brand at the Reindeer, is launching the Heads Up

Chef Jeff Taylor, who runs the Dough at Deer pizza brand at the Reindeer, is launching the Heads Up Hospo event to support hospitality workers. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

Mr Taylor, who most recently set up Dough at Deer at The Reindeer in Norwich, which serves pizzas and po' boy sandwiches, said: "When [lockdown] was first announced in March last year you could just sense the sheer panic. It was so unknown. No-one had precedent and no-one knew how to deal with it."

He said he'd spent years telling students doing their training that if they worked hard they would have a hospitality job for life, which could take them all over the globe, advice which had suddenly become redundant.

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"There was the financial side, but when you think about it a little bit deeper it's also the camaraderie," he said. "You work so many long shifts and hours you become family. When you are working in a restaurant 8am to 10pm and 50pc of your life is there, when that's taken away it's hard, you can imagine the panic and loneliness.

"We are in the battle every day together, and it was taken away."

Mr Taylor, who worked with the team at Norwich's Fupburger, ran Pandora's Kitchen and worked at Gonzo's, said he wanted the event to include charities which could offer support, employment agencies to connect people with work and mental health causes.

He said if successful it could be expanded to take in other industries in future.

For more information on Heads Up Hospo, visit its Instagram page @headsuphospo

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