There seems to be some ‘good’ that has come out of the horse-meat saga – the fact that punters of all Wetherspoon pubs can rest assured that everything they consume is as advertised. Also good is that high street butcheries are getting an upsurge of custom as people are doing with less ready-meals and opting for what the local producers have been trying to get them to do for ages.
But this begs these questions: Why do so many ready-meals get sold anyway? Is it for the convenience factor? Is it because they’re quick to buy, sling in the microwave and then eat? Many really struggle with the notion that they’re ‘just as tasty and nutritious’ as the ‘real thing.’ Good marketing will have the public believing anything. And the ready-meal firms and supermarket chains have some really good marketing campaigns.
There are restaurants, pubs and eating establishments across the country who are taking the opportunity to push home to the public the fact that careful selection of menu items can be a lot more wholesome and enjoyable than buying most of what is on offer in the ‘ready-meal’ genre.
Take any of the Capital Pub Company establishments, for example. Their variety and choice in the menus make it easy to enjoy good food at reasonable prices. Of course some would argue that a selection of three dishes from a tapas menu (to be shared at the table to add variety) is much more expensive than the eight quid you might spend on a combination of similar dishes at Sainsbury’s. Possibly cheaper … but you get what you pay for. And the ready-meal option doesn’t take into account any cost in getting to and from the supermarket, the business of making box-food presentable on a plate and then serving it. What it also doesn’t take into account is what this column has been going on about for quite a long time – it’s not just about the food. It’s about the enjoyment of company. The experience and enjoyment of the atmosphere. The occasion!
Establishments and chains who use stocktaking firms like Rutters have got a day’s march on those who are playing catch up with the programme of attracting custom away from the supermarket-diners to their own restaurants. With careful and sustained planning, structure and foresight, Jon Rutter and his team of professionals have been doing what they can to ensure their clients are ahead of the wave in the hospitality industry. So when a situation erupts over food standards or labelling, there are well established businesses able to ensure the public have no concerns if they choose to visit and enjoy their hospitality.
And the debate over pricing will continue – that ready-meals are cheaper. Chefs, gastronomes, food bloggers etc will also continue to argue that with a bit of effort, the same ingredients can be purchased and prepared for cheaper and in a more wholesome way than the box-meal. And supermarket dieticians and health experts will take issue with that statement. So be it.
The general raison d’etre is that people are ‘too busy’ or ‘don’t possess enough skills’ to prepare their own food. No one even dare mention the word lazy!
The good people of the UK are moaning about the closures in the high street, the supermarket invasions, the ‘plastic food’ and all that stuff. This is the perfect opportunity for those good folk to actively support the local producers, to avoid all the convenience meals, to enjoy what their local pubs have available. All it takes is an adjustment of habits and a change of mindset.
Is there enough resolve in the good people of Britain to achieve this? Or even, is there enough resolve among the people surrounding your locale to instigate a shift to local business that’s not run by a conglomerate whose only concern is the bottom line profit and doesn’t even take the customer seriously?
As long as the label is clear on what the contents are, will it be back to lasagne-in-a-foil-box when this all blows over? Bon appétit!