About Us. Our History.

Hospitality Action (HA) has been supporting the UK hospitality industry since 1837. Over the past 180 years, we’ve helped hundreds of thousands of hospitality people who’ve found themselves in difficulty or crisis.

HA began life as the London Coffee and Eating House Keepers’ Association. In the 1830s, an estimated 1900 coffee shops and stalls traded across the capital. To support the people working in them – and inspired by the licensed trade, which had already created its own benevolent association for publicans – a group of coffee house keepers met at Eastey’s Hotel, in London’s Covent Garden, and started their own. 

Addressing its first members, the association’s inaugural president, John Humphreys, proclaimed its purpose to be “relieving aged and decayed members of the trade, their widows and orphans” who “from reverses of fortune (to which we are all liable) might be reduced from a state of comparative prosperity to the alternative of dragging out a miserable existence immured within the walls of a workhouse”. 

As the industry grew, so did the association’s remit. In the coming decades, it took hoteliers under its wing, as well as “dining house keepers, restaurateurs, ham and beef purveyors and similar refreshment house keepers”. And, in 1882, eligibility for pensions was extended to females working in hospitality.

Its geographical reach also grew: by 1926, there were outpost branches in Liverpool and Manchester.

For a long time, the association’s support took the shape of pensions for retired workers. A step change came in 1952 when, to mark The Queen’s Coronation, the association moved into property, with the purchase of a site in Wimbledon intended for “elderly members of the trade who are in straightened circumstances”. The house was fitted out using the proceeds from Mecca’s Miss World competition.

In 1972, donations of £100,000 each from Grand Metropolitan’s Maxwell Joseph and Trusthouse Forte’s Lord Forte enabled the association to purchase properties in Manchester, Newcastle and Birmingham.

Three years later, an organisation called the PM Club approached the charity for help. Since the 1940s, it had run a club and hostel for young hotel and catering staff arriving in London. But the property was dilapidated and needed investment. HA took control of the club’s finances and by the mid-80s its premises were refurbished and relaunched.

Through the Twentieth Century, our charity underwent many name-changes - the Catering Benevolent Association, the Hotel and Catering Trades Benevolent Association, The Hotel and Catering Benevolent Association - before settling on Hospitality Action in 1998.

Since then, HA has divested itself of almost all of its property assets and shifted its focus onto financial grants, and counselling and advisory support. This shift has allowed us to expand exponentially the number of people we can assist. 

In 2013, we introduced our Employee Assistance Programme, a comprehensive package of benefits that enables hospitality operators to increase their team’s well-being, morale and performance - all for an annual cost of just £5 per employee.

Hospitality Action celebrated its 180th anniversary in 2017.

The threat of the workhouse may no longer loom before our beneficiaries, but the straightened circumstances referred to in 1952 certainly do. Whether the problem is bereavement or bullying, physical or mental ill health, poverty or addiction, we’re here to help. 

Hospitality Action. We’ve got you.