You smell like an orchard … have you been drinking?

Pressed lemon flavoured beer!

Pressed lemon flavoured beer!

There is a London restaurant that is offering a three-course, 500-calorie meal for slimmers. Is this in response to the eternal cry of those seeking to lose a few pounds … “I can’t go to any restaurant because everything on the menu doesn’t fit into my diet?” Or is it a ploy to lure publicans from all over the country to dine in London because the CEO of the British Institute of Innkeeping has said that results of the recent survey should “… act as a wake-up call to the industry …?”

This report describes many landlords as “chublicans” because their lifestyles have made them obese. Some would argue that Tim Hulme’s words come too late because for years and years insurance underwriters have regarded workers in the Industry as high risk and slapped a loading onto any premiums – not only because of their exposure to alcohol but also because of the “unhealthy lifestyle” and diet. Well, at the Balcon, you will get beautifully presented dishes with hardly any calorific count that will satisfy most dieter’s needs. So on the strength of the research survey, don’t be surprised if you happen to see your local publican dining there on his day off in order to heed “the wake-up call” (they don’t happen to mention the cost of these low-cal dishes, though).

Stocktakers will have to add another column to their spreadsheets if the latest “must have” item is embraced by publicans whose customers have a sweet tooth. This might prove to be especially popular with the designated driver as they can have-their-beer-and-eat-it and walk out stone cold sober, too. The Germans have come up with beer-flavoured jelly beans. And pretty popular they are too by all accounts. These non-alcoholic sweets come in a variety of flavours and more are also being contemplated. Just bear a thought for the coppers on the roadblock breathalyzing everyone on whom they can smell booze. The designated driver might have scoffed a whole plateful, smell like a brewery and be as sober as a judge.

At the other end of the scale, popularity of a beer that is flavoured like fruit is also gaining momentum. The cops at the roadblock will REALLY be confused now. Chaps can smell like an orchard but might not be capable of putting their hand in their pocket! They say this is what technology is doing to improve the choices of customers.

Technology has also evolved to such a point that chaps like Jon Rutter and his team do know how to differentiate between everything that’s going on in the market place and what’s really necessary in order to keep their customers profitable and supplied with the correct choices and items. They have it all on their laptops and tablets, available at a moments notice for editing, scrutiny or consultation. No more bulky briefcases filled with reams of paper to be lugged from car to office and back.

But, there are times when “old-fashioned” paper still has its place – when tablets and technology is useless as illustrated in the short video, “Paper is not dead.”

Champions have routines … don’t knock it

Boring? the routine of figures and procedures?

Boring? the routine of figures and procedures?

Go into any well-run business and look behind the scenes. You will find procedures and routines that MUST be followed or heads roll. From the small things like making sure that the last one out turns off the lights to putting the shop keys in the office, on the same hook each time, so that they can always be found. There are also more significant routines too, like making sure that every item is checked off the manifest when a delivery arrives instead of just taking the van driver’s word that it’s all there.

Some might argue that these routines are mundane repetitions that take the fun and spontaneity out of life and make work “boring” … but others rigorously defend them saying that they help the business, or the individual to function at their best. Take the chef who needs to have all the pan handles facing the same way, with the pans of varying sizes in a particular order so that without thinking he will reach up, select what he wants and then slam it down on the counter in just the right position for him to add whatever ingredient he needs before moving it onto the stove burner and the dish can be cooked. No mess, no fuss, job done. Now imagine some free spirit in the kitchen deciding to make chef’s life more “fun” by storing the pans in an assortment of sizes with some handles facing the wall, some handles facing the range and others upside down. They are likely to find themselves with a “fun” bump on the head from where chef has chucked the 9 inch pan at them when he wanted the 14 inch one but it wasn’t where it should have been.

So the routines that Jon Rutter and his team of professionals employ are designed to make their client’s businesses work at maximum efficiency – there is a specific sequence that they need to follow to achieve the end result, making their clients the best they can be. Some might scoff and suggest that one or other process is a bit OTT, but “over the top” routines work for champions. They help to keep them focussed on the task at hand and on track to achieving their goal. Another champion that uses routine has been criticised recently – Rafael Nadal. His penchant for lining up his drink bottles with labels facing the right way and the sequence he uses as he touches himself in various places before serving has irritated many watchers. It has even been suggested that he has OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Well, if he does, so do hundreds of other successful athletes, among them Sharapova and Andy Murray. Which begs the question, are children learning tennis taught to bounce the ball a few times before serving? Why do players do it?

Rafa probably does have fun in his life when he’s not working at tennis. As does Maria and Andy. But for them to achieve the right result in their trade, they need the focus that their routine provides. No restaurant, club or pub is any different – as any stocktaker will tell you, the “same-old, same-old” boring stuff needs to be done to keep the business moving forward to make them champions in their own field.

Perhaps we’ll see Chef juggling pans for fun on Britain’s Got Talent, but not in his kitchen!

Innovate … or go backwards!



Richard Branson has expressed the view that “if you aren’t innovating, you’re going backwards.”

Now that all the fuss about the “new-year-resolutions” has died down and everyone is back to normal, creative stocktakers all over the country are planning strategies to continue to help their customers stay in profit in spite of indications from some that people have less money to spend on going out to pubs and restaurants. So people like Jon Rutter and his team are determined not to let their 2013 efforts be “good enough” for their clients. Results show that regular stocktaking provides the accuracy and experience needed that helps improve a venue’s profitability, minimises waste, and enables the owner to concentrate on the key role of running the establishment. But using a stocktaker like Rutters doesn’t absolve the owner from the need to come with their own ideas to innovate.

We’ve all seen the videos that have gone viral on social media about men proposing to their sweethearts, or the flashmob announcements etc. Recently there have also been couples using these means to announce to their family the arrival of a child. The most recent is the couple in Toledo, Ohio who have produced a horror film type trailer announcing the “Bun-in-the-Oven … Coming June 2014.” Instead of just posting a message to their family saying, “Relax, we’re pregnant” this was a clever way of turning the announcement into something unusual and memorable. The video has had over 135 000 views and people are sharing it all over social media.

An innovative landlord, restrauteur, club or guest-house owner might consider making their own unusual and innovative video clip to announce something. And the wonderful thing about the way social media works is that even if something is not produced by Pinewood Studios or a professional videographer, if it’s clever and a quirky enough to get someone’s attention, it will be “liked” and “shared” and “advertised” with little or no effort made by the originator of the video. Today, using mobile phones and some basic free-editing software, anyone can make and publish a video. All it needs is for someone to think a little bit differently to the way they have been and then to have the “oomph” to try something different. So, landlords, don’t be surprised if your stocktaker comes to you with an idea about producing a short video clip of your chef making his special, or of the local choir singing in the grounds of your garden to advertise your community involvement – they’re just thinking “out the box” for you for 2014!

One wrong way of “thinking-out-of-the-box” was when Michael Gearty supplied a Dreambox decoder to a Nottingham pub. The set top box allowed Sky Sports coverage to be shown via an internet connection. The problem was, there was no Commercial Viewing Agreement with Sky Business and Mr Gearty is now watching TV from a prison cell. It has been reported that over 1500 licencees have been convicted for showing Sky Sports without a commercial agreement.

There’s innovation and there’s incarceration – the difference is stark!

(PS: There’s no license needed if you produce, publish and broadcast your own video!)

WARNING: this restaurant has flash photography

2014 has started off with some interesting things happening, if you can call floods, icy roads, delayed flights and crumbling Cornwall landmarks “interesting!” But apart from these events, there have been other matters relating that which makes us “go” – namely food.  There is another valiant attempt to encourage the British consumer to buy local fresh, seasonal produce. It’s much better for our health and also for the health of the farmers and purveyors of home-grown veggies. The challenge will be not so much persuading the big-boy supermarkets to fall in line (we all know that’s a non starter), but to persuade the consumer to forego the convenience of getting everything from under one roof and rather to shop around and buy from the local, small suppliers.

The argument in favour of the local produce goes that it really is much more economical and healthier to buy the bunches of carrots, potatoes and other things from the corner shop (if it’s still in existence), farmer’s markets  or to order the “box of produce” than it is to get the uniform, tasteless, plastic-wrapped, but beautifully presented, veggies at the large supermarkets. Of course the supermarket giants will roll out their marketing team, sorry, their “nutritionists” and expound on the virtues of buying the out of season asparagus or fruit that has been sitting in chillers for ages. They will tell the consumers that it is cheaper and more beneficial and more convenient etc etc. The choice the consumer has to make is whether convenience is trumped by quality. Sadly, up till now, convenience seems to be the order of the day, to the detriment of the farmers and small producers. Wise stocktakers like Rutters Ltd will always direct their clients to local producers where they can – giving a greater profit margin for the restrauteur and better quality food for the customer, while the local farmer is also benefitted – a win-win situation for all. But wouldn’t it be nice to get quality food at home too, not just down at the pub?

Restaurant snap: Prego roll

Restaurant snap: Prego roll

2013 was also the year for an increased tendency for diners to take photos of their food. It seems to be a trend that’s on the increase too – as the food arrives there is a flurry of camera phones and shutter clicks (WARNING: this restaurant has flash photography) as patrons upload their latest nosh-experience to their Facebook or Twitter page! This has some advantages. For the restaurant, if the food is good, there is a whole lot of free marketing that is instantly projected online to thousands of people. All they have to do is present a good-value meal, nicely presented in a pleasant environment. The negative side of this, though is if the happy-snaps diners are sitting next to grumpy traffic officer Tony Wallace, or people like him who take great exception to members of the public taking photos. It’s ok to take pictures of anything on public land (a pity no one told Sgt Wallace that) so it might be prudent to get the restaurant’s “OK” to snap away at the entrée or main. A word of advice though, take a photo of the food, and avoid including the couple at the next table in your shot – they may be related to Sgt Wallace and might also threaten to “knock you out” like he did.

The other trend that seems to have gotten worse in shops is the “temptation alley” that runs from the shop floor to the tills, that corridor that runs past the sweets and delicacies you so carefully avoided in the main aisles. They  are now in your face as you shuffle through the trolley-width, snake-like maze to that place where the electronic voice will tell you to go to till number 7. Supermarkets were yesterday accused of going even further in this regard by displaying booze next to sweets and school clothes. Supposedly there is some marketing guru advising them as to why this is a good strategy to follow. Concerned parents must surely take comfort then in Sainsbury’s remark that, “… we take the sale of age restricted products extremely seriously and will take any comments about the merchandising of our products on board.”  Some campaigners would translate that as “… we’ll wait till the fuss dies down and then do it the way we want to …

And with the Chancellor announcing economic growth and a positive outlook for the coming year, businesses across the UK could take heart that this will indicate some positive business for them in 2014 (some folk in the south might just have to wait for the floodwaters to subside a bit though before they can venture out to the local pub or restaurant). George Osborne has said that the economy has grown at its fastest since 2007 while France’s economy has slipped – it might be a good time to cancel the ticket to Paris and start buying some local cheese to go with the British veggies!