Boiling Point: London’s hospitality sector is finally facing up to harassment and bullying in bars and restaurants — and doing something about it. By Victoria Stewart (Illustration by Michelle Thompson)
During a restaurant shift when she was younger, chef Merly Kammerling asked a manager if she could go to the toilet.
‘He stopped me with his body and said he wouldn’t let me go unless I took him in with me. I went home and I cried that night,’ she says. ‘I don’t think he was being serious [or] knew how intimidating that was to me.’ As well as working in kitchens, Kammerling now also runs Me, Myself in Mind, offering stress-reduction and mental health awareness classes to restaurant employees.
Meira Harrow* recalls her first job as a waitress in a pub: ‘At the time I hadn’t had sex, but the chefs were constantly asking me what my favourite style was, and there was this underlying, constant sexualisation of the workplace.’ She has since left the industry.
Such stories are not unusual in the food and drink world. A survey last year by Code Hospitality revealed that nine out of 10 staff had ‘experienced or witnessed abuse in their careers’, and 60 per cent doubted that managers would address sexual harassment complaints. Now the #MeToo movement, which has sent shock waves through the worlds of entertainment, sport and politics, is shining a light into this dark corner of the hospitality industry.
This article appeared in full in ES Magazine in April 2019. Read it in full here.