Huw Gott: "It's right to support people to have access to food and drink when they most need it"

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Huw Gott: "It's right to support people to have access to food and drink when they most need it"

Related tags Hawksmoor Action Against Hunger Charity Restaurant Fine dining R200 Huw Gott

The Hawksmoor co-founder on his company's involvement with Action Against Hunger’s Love Food Give Food campaign.

Next month sees the return of charity Action Against Hunger’s Love Food Give Food campaign where UK restaurants add £1 to every bill to raise vital funds to help tackle hunger across the globe.

This year more than 200 restaurants have signed up to take part, including the likes of YO! Sushi, Hawksmoor, The Pig, Harts Group, and Super 8, which operates London restaurants including Kiln and Brat. Here Huw Gott, co-founder of long-term Action Against Hunger supported Hawksmoor, discusses his restaurant’s involvement with the charity. 

How did you become involved with Action Against Hunger?

We had just set up the first Hawksmoor [in Spitalfieds in 2006] and everything was going wrong. Our head chef had gone AWOL and we were encountering new restaurant disasters every day. I received an email from Action Against Hunger (AAH) inviting me to a drinks reception and I thought it would be a good way to escape the horrors of the new restaurant - the prospect of some drinks also helped. I went along and I was pretty quickly slapped round the face with a big wallop of perspective about how lucky we were to be panicking about a missing chef and the day to day fire fighting issues, and to be surrounded by food and drink. It felt right to try to support people to have access to food and drink when they most need it.

How does Love Food Give Food work?

A voluntary donation of £1 is added to every bill during September with proceeds going to AAH. We have tent cards on the table and a note on the menu telling our customers about it and we discuss the campaign with our staff at the briefings. AAH also offer a webinar to tell stories of the campaign, so that’s how it works on a practical level.

Do you make a big thing of it in your venues?

Staff gauge the table. Some people will want to hear more about it and others won’t. We want it to be slick so that when the bill comes we can ensure everyone in the restaurant is able to talk about it really well with customers who want to engage with it, but we don’t raise it with every individual customer.

How do your customers respond?

It’s not our place to tell people how they should give money to different causes and we were worried that there might be some sort of reluctance to it, but we haven’t had anyone ask for it to be removed from the bull. In fact, we have had hundreds of people over the years who have offered to donate more money, so instead of £1 it might be £10. People will hear about Love Food Give Food from eating with us and then maybe they might later run a marathon and choose to raise money for AAH. During last year’s Love Food Give Food campaign Hawksmoor raised £17,641. The response from customers has been great.

And what’s the reaction like from your teams?

It’s been the most unexpected positive thing from a purely Hawksmoor point of view; people love the fact that it’s happening. When we have new starters at Hawksmoor one of the things I’m keen to point out is when you see those awful news reports and you feel helpless know that you are doing something about it – it’s not me and [co-founder] Will doing it but everyone working in the restaurants doing what they do and making people happy and want to come back. It is easy to get lost in a busy service so I try to get people to step back and listen to that happy hum of a busy Hawksmoor and recognise there is something great about making people happy, whether they are in the kitchen or working the floor. With that we are able to raise significant funds for AAH and other charities.

Describe Hawksmoor’s approach to charity

We support a range of different charities but try and focus it on food and drink and child malnutrition. We also support Magic Breakfast [which provides healthy school breakfasts to children at risk of hunger in disadvantaged areas of the UK] and we are opening a restaurant in Liverpool later this year and so are helping local charities Feeding Liverpool and Wood Street Mission. In Manchester where we also have a restaurant we support Not Just Soup and we also support the One Foundation which is about providing access to clean water. We are also helping to set up the first community kitchen inside a prison for young men in south east London and providing food for one of the social supermarkets AAH supports. The prison initiative one is related to the up swell in desire to help during the lockdowns by restaurants across the country. At Hawksmoor we cooked more than 50,000 meals for various community projects and millions were produced in total by the industry, but once restaurants reopened that inevitably came to a halt. It will enable people in hospitality to visit prisons and provide some training and continue that good will sentiment that was apparent during the lockdowns.

You also have an annual charity dinner in support of AAH...

Yes. Every year we do one at our Guildhall restaurant. This year’s one is being held on 10 September with Tomos Parry of Brat and Florence Knight of Sessions Arts Club cooking together with Hawksmoor executive chef Matt Brown. To date, the dinner has raised £800,000 in aid of AAH and this year’s aim is to reach £1m.

To learn more about Love Food Give Food and to get involved visit here.

Tickets for the Hawksmoor dinner are priced at £200 per person and can be purchased here.

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