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The Whole Hog - November 2021

Red Wine in a Vineyard

Hospitality is not just for Christmas...

I don’t know about you, but having spent a lot of time in London the past few weeks as well as trying to book venues for client events, I keep asking myself the same question……. “who let the effing dogs out!!”.

In short, it’s crazy busy out there!

I don’t have any research or academic evidence to back my supposition up, but every time I call a restaurant to book the private dining room………forget it. Each time I try to book rooms at a hotel… chance. Duke’s Hotel is apparently sold out of bedrooms until January.

Private members clubs are the same, indeed, pretty much any decent venue for a dinner or wine tasting is booked.

I guess we should all be delighted. This is excellent news for the hospitality sector which has struggled very publicly over the past 18 months. Increased revenue for these establishments and gainful employment for their staff, things are looking up.

Or are they?

If we take the macro view, reports from esteemed firms including PwC and Deloitte point towards a steady recovery, especially in the hotel sector, where forecasts for 2022 have improved significantly over the past few months. Whilst it will be Q4 2022 at the earliest before occupancy rates are back to pre-pandemic levels, it is, thankfully, heading in the right direction.

For restaurants, bars, clubs et al, at least on the face of it, here too things seem to be improving. Bookings are clearly up (to my chagrin!) and, certainly in London, restaurants are super busy. Yes, this could well be a seasonal thing (after all, Christmas is only 37 days away) so it will be interesting to see how High Streets look in January.

So, busy venues, full restaurants, hotel occupancy rates high, lots of customers out and about – all of this points towards a steady recovery and an optimistic 2022 for the sector.

But, having taken a peek at the micro level, I am not so sure that all is rosy.

And I am not just talking about the many hospitality sector businesses that have disappeared, never to return, some 20% of the total industry. Distressing as that is, that’s still the macro level. That’s still part of the bigger picture.

To see and appreciate the micro level, you have to understand what’s going on, I am talking about getting into the weeds.

According to a recent survey by CV Library, 41% of staff in the UK hospitality sector have left the sector. The Caterer had even worse news, claiming that only 27% of hospitality sector staff have returned to work. There are numerous reports and all paint a similar picture.

It’s hard to know which number is most accurate, so let’s go with 50% of hospitality staff having not returned. If we then consider that 20% of businesses in the hospitality sector have not reopened, meaning 80% have reopened, and allowing for the fact that not all businesses employ the same number of staff, it doesn’t take a genius to realise that the sector has a huge under-staffing issue.

In simple terms, we have 50% of the staff left to service 80% of the previous business. That’s a big problem.

And when you then consider my earlier point, that many, many businesses are super busy, with private dining rooms fully booked, restaurants rammed and no room at the inn, it begs the question…… who is doing all the work?

Or could it be that the work isn’t being actually done, at least not all of it, and we, the consumer, are in for a long period of poor service levels, delays and a sub-standard experience?

If somebody wants to make a booking, it’s hard to say, politely, No. Especially given the hardship the industry has been through for 18 months.

But, if everywhere is full and we have half the staff we had before, something has to give. Something is going to break. And it’s going to get ugly.

I have spoken with many staff in the hospitality sector over the past 4-6 weeks. This wasn’t me conducting research, this was staff coming to me and sharing their concerns of their own volition. And I am not talking about 1 or 2 instances, I am talking about having had numerous conversations with staff from restaurants, bars, private member clubs and hotels.

The message I got loud and clear from all of them was remarkably simple. They are being worked to the bone and because, for the most part, they are loyal and diligent, they put up with it. Double shifts are the norm now, returning home at 03.30 is commonplace.

Six or even seven-day weeks are standard. Pay hasn’t changed yet and because the businesses cannot say No, they are relying on an ever stretched and mentally exhausted workforce to deliver the high standards of service we have come to expect.

And from what I can understand, the problem is that the restaurants, bars, clubs and hotels are struggling to recruit.

Over 40% of Eastern European workers have gone home, never to return. Others have re-skilled and changed industry or found better paid jobs.

In short, we have a massive surge in consumer demand and an industry that is trying its hardest to get back on its feet, to make money and give us the wonderful experiences we remember pre-Covid, whilst having one arm tied behind their back.

I can see three steps that might help. Firstly, all businesses in the hospitality have to consider either saying No or not opening as frequently as they do. If this means they have to increase prices, so be it, we, the consumer, have to accept that. The alternative is to work the current workforce to the bone and genuinely risk irreparably damaging the industry as we know it.

Secondly, the Government has to step back in with considerable, long-term support for this industry and the people who work in it. Until establishments can get their workforces back to 100%, the Government has to provide the equivalent financial support to allow these establishments to ‘take a breath’ so they can support the physical and mental wellbeing of those we rely on most, the staff.

And finally, we, the consumer, can play our part.

When we next dine at a restaurant, enjoy a drink at a bar, meet friends or clients at our members club or stay at a hotel (if you can get a room), please just take a little extra time to talk to the staff. Show that you empathise with and support them. Be a little more patient, be a little more selfless. Yes, a generous tip will help, but what really helps is for them to know that we have their backs.

After all, can we really imagine a future without the thriving hospitality that we all adore so much?

This entire situation reminds me of a scene from the 1976 film Network, where the news anchorman Howard Beale, played superbly by Peter Finch, has just about had all he can take with the world, so he has a rant, live on-air. His words ring so true right now when I consider all our friends in the hospitality sector…….

…….You’ve got to say, “I’m a human being goddam it, my life has value.” So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up outta your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it and stick your head out and yell “I’M AS MAD AS HELL AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”

Thanks for all your support.



Wines of the Month

Every month we will bring you some fantastic wine deals – wines we have selected for their quality and variety.

These wines are discounted for our Wine Club members – we guarantee that you will not be able to buy these wines anywhere else without having to go deeper in your pocket. (Any price comparisons are correct at time of writing).

Here are two beauties for your consideration….

White Wines

Louis Jadot Bouzeron 2018

This special Aligoté is well structured, with hints of peaches – delightful.

£93/case of six vs. Vinum: £103.20

Red Wines

Jose Zuccardi Malbec 2015

Made by Sebastian Zuccardi in honour of his Father Jose, this is a delicious Malbec (with 5% Cab Sav) that delivers great red fruit.

£168/case of six vs. Vinum: £192


Monthly Member Offers

Bespoke Case Curation

Wine Selection Box

How brave are you?

For £180, including delivery, allow our Founder, David Alexander, to curate an incredibly special 12 bottle case for you, including six reds and six whites. Oh, we will also throw in some cheese.

But, this is a surprise case, you will only find out what you have once you receive it……

We guarantee that you will not find these wines cheaper anywhere (if you do, we will send you a free half-bottle of Chablis) and this selection will be eclectic, tasty and great value for money.

So, all you have to do is send David an email at to request a special curated case!!


Wines Around the World

Decanter reports that the demand for NZ wine shows no sign of slowing.

Global demand for New Zealand wine saw exports rise by 9% to NZ$599m (£315m) in the first quarter of the new export year, to the end of September 2021, according to the latest data from New Zealand Winegrowers (NZW).

'The ongoing demand for New Zealand wine has proven that the distinctive flavours, quality and sustainability of our wines increasingly resonate with consumers around the world' said Philip Gregan, CEO of NZW.

Read more at Decanter

"A meal without wine is like a day without sunshine" Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.

November Members Survey

Every month we conduct a survey to help us better understand our Members’ likes and dislikes, so we can better serve you.

It takes less than 60 seconds to complete and there’s a prize draw every month, take part and you’re in the draw to win a delicious half-bottle of Louis Jadot Chablis.



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