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Lorraine Copes on Ben’s Original’s Seat at the Table Fund with Be Inclusive Hospitality and Leiths

Lorraine Copes is the founder of Be Inclusive Hospitality, which, together with Leiths Food and Wine, is working with Ben’s Original™ on a new scholarship fund Seat At The Table. Lorraine was recently awarded the Veuve Clicquot Innovator award at the GQ Food & Drink Awards and was named among Code Hospitality’s 100 Most Influential Women in Hospitality.

For those unfamiliar with you or your work, may we ask you to introduce yourself?

“I have worked within the hospitality sector as an executive leader for the past 20 years. My background is actually procurement and supply chain. Be Inclusive Hospitality was founded off the back of my lived experience.”

Can you tell us about the work you do at Be Inclusive Hospitality?

“Be Inclusive Hospitality is a social enterprise with a mission to accelerate race equity within the hospitality industry. We have three key pillars to the business. The first is supporting professional development and well-being for underrepresented groups. The second is acting as an educational resource and hub for organisations within the hospitality industry, doing workshops and consultancy. The third is partnering with brands and businesses who are keen to advance change. A really important thing to note is that underpinning all three of those pillars is research and insight. Since our inception two years ago, we’ve produced two reports and had a third report commissioned on our behalf which allows us to better understand the current status quo within the hospitality industry so that we can apply the appropriate solution.”

Have you seen results?

“The barriers and problems that we’re trying to overcome [are the result of] hundreds of years of inequality in the UK so it’s not necessarily about short term gain but what I could say is through some of the initiatives that we’ve delivered such as mentorship, a large proportion of our cohort have gone on to access promotions and new jobs. The majority of our work is definitely focused on the long-term transformation of the industry.”

Can you tell us about the education programme you are working on in partnership with Ben’s Original and Leiths?

“Thinking about pillar number three, where I mentioned that we work with brands to help them to design and deliver equitable initiatives. In this particular initiative called Seat at the Table we’re working as a key delivery partner with Ben’s Original™, part of the Mars group, to deliver a scholarship programme that supports black chefs to springboard their careers within the food and hospitality industry. The scholarship includes access to professional qualifications via Leiths. We will manage the entire programme on behalf of Ben’s Original™. Leiths were brought on board as a key partner (a) because of the reputation of Leiths as a phenomenal cookery school but also (b) because when you look at Leiths’ alumni, we’re really confident that people who are super talented can go on to reach great heights in their careers. It felt like the right fit of an education provider. We will provide scholarships for fifteen black chefs up and down the UK to embark on this Seat at the Table scholarship.”

“We use data and insights to inform all of our projects and have found time and time again that black chefs and operational workers in particular tended to have the worst outcomes, whether that was support from their employers or whether they were more likely to be in lower paid jobs. Because our mantra is using insights to inform action, we felt it was really important to use that data and implement a scholarship that specifically talked to that problem.”

What is next for Be Inclusive Hospitality?

“A lot more of the same. We have the ambition to support 10,000 employees and 2,000 business owners within the hospitality industry by 2026 so we intend to deliver a lot more initiatives such as this one that help to accelerate change and access whether that is through funding or whether that is through education. In October, we will launch our first awards ceremony because I think sometimes the importance of being seen and being recognised when you’re delivering brilliant things within the industry is undervalued. We are really shining a spotlight on exceptional individuals and businesses from black, Asian, or ethnic minority backgrounds.

What ambitions do you have for Be Inclusive Hospitality?

“My ultimate dream is for there to be no reason for us to exist because it’s an equitable sector and everyone has the opportunity that they should have.”



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