The PM Café, run in partnership with the PM Trust and Hospitality Action, is open three days a week at the college’s Victoria Centre, and provides a space to network, get advice and share ideas over a tea or coffee and a pastry or slice of cake.
The opening of the PM Café comes at just the right time for the hospitality sector. The Government’s furlough scheme ended on 30 September, but consumer spending on hospitality and the number of people employed in the sector are still below pre-pandemic levels.
Visitors to the café will have access to information on mental health and wellbeing and can arrange to meet trained mediators from the charity Hospitality Action to get further help and support.
Celebrity chef Brian Turner CBE, who is a Trustee of the PM Trust, said: “By opening this café today we’re recognising the needs of the hospitality industry and providing them with somewhere to go, find friendship and someone to talk to when the going gets tough.
“The mental health problem is much bigger than we ever thought it was. Now is the time to get rid of these problems that have particularly affected young people, but not solely, and provide as much help as we can. It’s a brilliant idea, which we hope will catch on and we’ll be able to open more of these places around London and the rest of the UK.”
WestKing is one of the UK’s leading colleges for Hospitality and Culinary Arts and already features two award-winning training restaurants The Brasserie and The Escoffier Room, known jointly as The Vincent Rooms.
The college’s Hospitality and Culinary Arts students will be overseeing the running of the café and making drinks, pastries and cakes as well as serving customers. Pastries will be available in the morning and cakes in the afternoon with larger bites available from the Brasserie menu during kitchen opening times.
Deputy Executive Principal Gary Hunter said: “The PM Café will create a place of sanctuary where hospitality workers can talk and seek guidance or support over a cup of tea or coffee served by our students.
“The café will also be a fantastic opportunity for our students to get real experience of working in front of house roles and perfecting their culinary skills in creating a selection of pastries and cakes for customers visiting the café to enjoy.”
The PM Trust provides financial support for young people aged 16-24 looking to work in the hospitality sector, to help support their training and development. It was formed in 1949 after the closure of the PM Club, a meeting place for young hotel and restaurant workers in the crypt at St Martin-in-the-Fields on the north-east side of Trafalgar Square.
Hospitality Action has been supporting the UK hospitality industry since 1837. The charity helps workers across the industry with physical or mental health problems and also prepares them for the next phase in their lives if they are no longer able to work.
Gary, who is also a Trustee at the PM Trust, said: “In my role with the PM Trust I have been involved in supporting young hospitality workers in London with advice and financial support, and during the pandemic it became very apparent how many hospitality workers needed more support than ever.”
Tim Jones, Trustee at both PM Trust and Hospitality Action, said: “I am delighted to have played a part in helping to create the new PM Café. In the last century the PM Club operated as a place for young hotel and restaurant workers to meet and relax during the afternoons between shifts. When the club was disbanded the PM Trust was formed to assist young people entering the sector.
“During recent times, it has become apparent that a social wellness hub is needed for those working in the industry, and one of Hospitality Action’s prime roles is to provide support to improve mental health. I am sure the café will be extremely beneficial to many and help the sector to be seen as an attractive career path as it bounces back from the pandemic.”
The PM Café is open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9.30am to 9pm. No proof of employment in the hospitality sector is required.