Hospitality – the true sense of the word

The Oxford English Dictionary defines Hospitality as ‘the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.’

That is what our sector is in the business of.

But historically that same ‘generous reception’ has not always been shown to people working in the industry.

Hospitality has had the highest portion of low-paid jobs in London, with 70.4 per cent of roles paying less than the real Living Wage in 2021[1]. Many are also working unsociable hours, including at night, and with insecure or unpredictable shift patterns. The real Living Wage is the amount people need to survive on. This is distinct from the National Living Wage set by Government, which is not calculated on the real cost of goods. While we welcome the National Living Wage increase from Government today (to £10.42), it doesn’t go far enough – and people earning less than the real Living Wage will still go hungry this winter.

But the hospitality sector is changing. This Living Wage Week we are excited to celebrate that among the small and medium restaurants and hotels of London we are finally seeing a shift – and more and more of them are recognising the important of paying the real Living Wage (£11.95 in London) to their teams.

We’re asking our members and friends to think about the restaurants, cafes and other hospitality businesses they’re eating and drinking at. Are they Living Wage employers? What else are they doing to support their employees during the cost-of-living crisis?

Since November 2021, we have seen a 60% increase in the number of accredited Living Wage Employers in the hospitality sector alone[2]. And the number of employees earning less than real Living Wage according to latest 2022 data has dropped to 48.5%[3]. I have been chairing the hospitality steering group of the project that aims to Make London a Living Wage City. And I am absolutely certain that this is the moment for our sector to do better.

This leadership in creating change isn’t coming from the big companies who have the larger profits to carry it (in the good times at least). The change is being led by the small and medium enterprises who see that their commitment to their community and their colleagues is just as important as (and in fact an enhancement of) their bottom line.

And the change isn’t just about money, it is also about building a community of genuine hospitality.

Take new Soho restaurant Miznon, where the lowest paid earn a basic minimum of £12 per hour (before service or tips), and they host a community breakfast for their employees and others from local businesses to come and eat. They also welcome their employees on their day off, to ensure everyone gets a decent meal despite the cost-of-living crisis.

Or Pophams, the small bakery chain who have accredited as Living Wage employers and support their team members whatever they are facing in their lives.

And The Ivy Collection, who whilst a household name, ensure they invest in opportunities for their employees to progress and get promoted.

All of these employers also host House of St Barnabas graduates in their teams; people who have experienced homelessness and are now working towards good work, a stable home and a supportive network. These employers provide not just a job, but a community (which our graduates pay back in passion and hard work).

Hospitality is one of the few careers where, with the right attitude and the right support, individuals can learn and progress from entry level to the very top without a degree or technical qualifications. Good hospitality businesses like those above can offer brilliant career options, where individuals can bring their own character and be celebrated for who they are. And the real Living Wage movement in London’s hospitality sector now has a fire under it.

This is an encouraging reminder that our hospitality sector doesn’t only need to be a place of generosity and welcome to our customers, but to our employees too.

This blog was inspired by a dinner at the House of St Barnabas, bringing hospitality sector colleagues together to explore the challenges facing our teams in the cost-of-living crisis. This is part of a series of dinners and blogs. Past blogs can be read here.

We were also joined by colleagues from the Living Wage Foundation. You can find out more about the Living Wage Foundation and how to become an accredited employer here:

Become a Living Wage Employer | Living Wage Foundation

Making London a Living Wage City – Citizens UK


[1] LivingWage_Employees_Below_The_LivingWage_2021.pdf, based on the government’s ASHE data

[2] Unpublished data from Living Wage Foundation

[3] Employee jobs below the real Living Wage 2022_1.pdf