Hospitality & Tourism

Published: August 23, 2020 | Updated: August 23, 2020

Catering company backs campaign highlighting mental health issues in the hospitality industry

Kris Hall, Founder, The Burnt Chef Project
By Andrew Diprose, editor

A family business which supplies every kind of catering need is backing a project to raise funds and awareness of mental health within Dorset’s hospitality trade.

Bournemouth-based Chinastack is donating £1 of each chef’s jacket sold direct to The Burnt Chef Project.

The project campaigns to eradicate the stigma around mental health within the hospitality industry.

Kris Hall, Founder of The Burnt Chef Project, said: “We’re a non-profit campaign operating within hospitality to challenge mental health stigma through online training, open conversations and sales of branded custom merchandise.

“We are committed to burning the stigma of mental health through information and education across the 3.2m people that work within hospitality in the UK.

“It’s our continued focus to work with hospitality businesses and staff to improve working conditions through education.

“Work will also be needed to review internal health and safety and stress reduction policies that will ultimately lead to a decreased risk of poor mental health.

“Getting support from reputable businesses, such as Chinastack, both locally and nationwide is invaluable to the project and allows us to both re-invest into our work and spreads our message further.

“It’s important for hospitality to know they have the support of producers and suppliers as well as their employers”

Chinastack has more than 25 years’ experience within the industry.

It imports and distributes products from more than 5,000 companies and can supply every kind of catering business need, from a cocktail stick to a fully fitted kitchen, including kitchen design.

The Burnt Chef Project was founded in May 2019 by Kris.

Local backers include Andy Lennox, pictured left, Owner and MD of Zim Braai and founder of The Wonky Table, a group connecting hospitality businesses across the BCP conurbation.

Kris has nine years experience within the industry through food photography and wholesale supply to more than 600 hotels, restaurants, gastro pubs, schools, hospitals, bars and caterers.

In a recent survey of 1,273 people, eight out of ten respondents said that they had experienced at least one period of poor mental health as a result of their role within hospitality.

And 86 per cent of respondents said they thought The Burnt Chef Project would make a noticeable impact in de-stigmatising mental health within hospitality.

Kris said: “I’ve seen first hand the struggles of mental health issues within the trade with both clients and friends.

​”Margins are slim and, with increased focus on saving money, both employers and employees feel the effect of this on their mental health.

“Long antisocial hours, tough environmental conditions and pressures to perform are just some of the issues that hospitality professionals are fighting against on a daily basis.

“Hospitality staff should be able to discuss the state of their mental health and gain support from their peers and employers.

“It’s important that although mental health can’t be seen, it is regularly discussed and policies reviewed.

“This should be the new definition of ‘badge of honour’.”

Kris, who has suffered from depression and ill mental health in the past, said that working in the hospitality industry he had seen the effect working conditions were having on the workforce.

He added: “Chef friends who were struggling with relationships, suffering from alcohol or drug abuse and an unfortunate number of suicides prompted me to stand up and give the trade a voice and to let people know that they are not alone.

“Using my photography skills I decided to start taking black and white photos to show, in a poignant way, that you never know what goes on behind the scenes.

“It quickly became apparent that more needed to be done to lift the lid on this Pandora’s box on a national level, so I made the move to start the Burnt Chef Project and give the hospitality industry a voice to challenge the long felt stigma of mental health and act as a beacon for those who feel that they are alone with one clear message: It’s OK not to be OK.”