No short-cuts!

In some circles the phrases “time savers” or “kitchen assistant” are regarded as dirty words. And when any suggestion of using an electrical or mechanical appliance is proposed – shock and horror! Surely modern catering kitchens have an array of gadgets and devices that can help the staff produce what needs to be served to the customers? However, there is still a school of purists who would kick against “modernisation” in the culinary field.

Granted, some of the more delicate and refined dishes do need special and individual attention that no machine can replicate. Like making pastry. Pop behind the scenes of any large pie maker and there are machines that mix, blend, add, roll out and do whatever they have to do to produce the pastry for the millions of pies they send off to the supermarkets in pretty boxes. And how much easier is it to pick up a roll of ready-made from the supermarket freezer to make your own “homemade” pie for the weekend? That’s fine for the home-cook, but any true pastry chef would be horrified!

Image: Karen Barefoot

Image: Karen Barefoot

Forget the pastry – what about preparing other ingredients? The poor contestants on Masterchef have to peel and cut and julienne and shred and mix everything from scratch, by hand. But in the real world, one wonders how many kitchens have the mixers, the choppers, the dicers for all this to be done mechanically? Or do the celebrity chefs only use mixers and processors on their TV shows because a producer is shouting in the background about getting a move on?

Doyens of the industry like the Roux family will no doubt espouse the need to do things from scratch in order to achieve the ultimate goal of culinary nirvana with the same logic that should be applied to the use of a calculator – you have to understand how the process works before you can use the short cut!

Jon Rutter and his team of stocktakers are constantly engaged in finding ways to keep their customers up to date with what’s happening in the industry and in each client’s premises in order to ensure they run cost-effectively. Meetings take place all over the UK on a regular basis. Owners, investors, publicans, chefs, restrauteurs, planners, stocktakers – all the main players in the running of any business to keep people fed and watered! The meetings vary according to the type of establishment, but the common factor is the planning aspect. Planning to show profit in the best way possible without sacrificing quality of produce nor customer satisfaction and to ensure the efficient operation of the venture.

One thing a stocktaker could suggest to streamline an operation would be the new do-it-all-in-one gadget to save time that Anne Shooter recently tested. But I suspect that it wasn’t designed for the Roux or Blumenthal style kitchens.

In the same way as the humble “pasty crimper” wasn’t designed for use in the serious kitchens (it is probably also a dirty word with the Cornish Pasty Association). And you can bet your life that the winning pasty at the Brittany Food Festival in Lorient wasn’t a gadget-crimp one either!

The Trevithick Bakery from Cornwall who produced the ‘revelation of the festival‘ probably don’t even know that a pie-crimping gadget exists. But a Cornish bakery has taught the French a thing or two – vive la pasty!

Gadgets rule? OK for some …

It would be disconcerting to a speaker, while in mid-flow of his oration, to see various members of the audience get up to move around – or to even walk around the auditorium and then return to their seats. Or for a busy restaurant owner suddenly to see the odd patron get up and walk outside for a few minutes then return to the table. They could be forgiven for thinking, “What’s going on here?”

The next wave of techno-gadgets has arrived, and for the observer, these odd displays of activity could be the result of the actions the gizmo tells the new users to perform. Sceptics may refer to this as self-enforced “tagging” but the blurb on it tells that this programmable device can monitor the wearer’s habits and actions and remind them of when they need to be more active – like getting up to have a walk around in order to burn off some calories! The Chancellor was spotted wearing one the other day, a black one. But apparently they come in a variety of other colours. They can be “synched” with a mobile device, like a smartphone or tablet. These wristbands are marketed under the name “Jawbone UP.”

But I can’t imagine any of Jon Rutter’s stocktaking team having theirs turned on when they’re getting down to the serious business of giving feedback and reports of profit margins, security and pricing to their customers. They concentrate on the tasks at hand and don’t need interruptions!

But with the advent of this new type of device, “new challenges arise as to acceptable usage practice” (don’t you just love modern expressions?) in public places. In other words, when should you use it, or turn the thing off? Much like turning mobiles off when sitting down to eat and giving your dining companions your full attention. Or not answering the phone when you’re already in a meeting/conversation with other people. Or checking your Facebook alerts when you’re in the in the middle of a sales transaction. I suppose Mr Osborne had his turned off when he was in front of the Finance Committee the other day. Imagine his embarrassment if the thing had started vibrating to remind him to burn off some more calories right in the middle of a conversation about “quantitative easing.”

Other concerns about the increased use of technology and gadgets could spill over to other areas. One would have to be sure they were deactivated before walking through airport security. Probably also have them off while flying – hard to imagine the chaos if half the passengers had to get up at the same time to “move around” let alone what effect it would have on the avionics. And I don’t know whether they have an “Airplane Mode” or not. They’d probably be useless for chefs because they taste things all day and the “calorie intake” function may need constant rebooting. Waiters and other front of house staff would make a mockery of the “burn off calories” feature as they seem to be moving about all the time. The other day someone remarked that the reason we have an “energy crisis” is because all the electronic devices need charging every day and they didn’t plan for that 10 years ago!

One couple who will not be using one of these Jawbone UP’s is the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – their own, personalised, portable device arrived safely on the 22nd and will remind them at regular intervals when they need to be active and move around! It’s so new, it hasn’t even been named yet. (24 July UPDATE: Portable device has now been identified as “GAL” short for George Alexander Louis)

The customer is always right!

Whether you run a pub, a fine dining restaurant, a tea room or a small ‘chippy’ on the corner you have a lot in common with each other. There are suppliers, bills, licenses, staff – and there are customers. The other common denominator is the need to plan successfully in order to be successful and in that process is the need to try to cater for every eventuality that may occur.

It would seem obvious that the publican would plan differently to the chap with the tea room but planning, none the less is involved. The stocktaker dealing with the tea room will have different formulae and items in his system than when he visits the hotel or the club who are also his customers. Jon Rutter will give you lots of examples of the things he has to consider for his clients that form part of his comprehensive feedback.

But it is unlikely that even Jon would have seen the ‘little black book’ that some establishments are reported to have tucked away that contain the list of rude customers. The implication in Francesca Infante’s recent piece is that the more upmarket type establishments might have such a list that they consult when a table is requested and they can then “regretfully” tell the client that there are no bookings available. The owner of a chippy will generally tell a rude customer “take a hike” rather than waste time consulting a list.

Image: Guenter M Kirchweger www.redfloor.at

Image: Guenter M Kirchweger http://www.redfloor.at

However, one wonders what one has to do in order to “get on the list.” Do you have to generally behave badly and chuck food around? Drink red wine with your halibut? Or merely point out to the waiter that you’d like your steak done a little less rare. Whatever the reasons they seem to be pretty subjective as to what “rude” is. It seems that it’s up to the waiter’s and the maitre-d’s whim as to whether or not to write the name down.

At least being refused a table would seem preferable to having the police called in when you start to have words with the receptionist (a word of warning here – if you plan to have a birthday celebration, make sure in advance that you ARE permitted to sing a few bars to the birthday boy or girl). You don’t want to end up like Mr Doherty who, after coughing up over 300 quid for his child’s outing had the police roll up and query “what’s going on here, then?” because he hadn’t paid for the “party option.”

And if you’re over twelve, don’t ask for fish fingers (even if you like them) – the Cummings family might be branded as rude for asking for this, but the Regional Manager of the hotel in question has apologised “for any inconvenience” after they left.

Any host will tell you that this hospitality business can be a minefield of service, preferences, customers, planning and so on. They’ll point out that there are always two sides to a story but that they cannot accommodate every request. They would be right – it’s just a pity that sometimes PR doesn’t come into play, especially in the heat of the moment.

There is a sign on the wall of one kitchen I know – in full view of every waiter coming in and out as they serve – “The customer is ALWAYS right … even when they’re wrong!

Here come The Ashes – who’re you tipping?

The subject of ‘tipping’ is always controversial. There is the school that advocates tipping when appropriate and the amount is governed by the level of service provided. Another crowd say that it shouldn’t be entertained at all because the waiters/servers are paid salaries (and at this point there rises up a hoard of waiters who scream that their “salary” is pitiful and they need the tips to make up their income to that of a living wage).

What no one will argue against is that the culture of ‘tipping’ varies from country to country – some folk are far more generous than others. Put any group from different countries together and get them to expound on their view of tipping, and you’ll get as many variations as there are people sitting around the table sipping espressos!

Image: europeupclose.com

Image: europeupclose.com

There are those who have almost made tipping a science, to the extent that they base their tips on star-ratings they allocate for food, for service and for atmosphere – all very subjective. But then isn’t any evaluation of anything subjective? It’s all in the eye of the beholder in the same way some regard Picasso as an artistic genius, others say his art is rubbish.

What is NOT subjective, is the planning and ordering taking place almost as we speak, that stocktakers like Rutters are having to undertake in the build-up to the coming Ashes Series. And we won’t even mention the planning that has already been in place for the two weeks of Wimbledon. Jon’s teams don’t take a time-out like us mere mortals. They’re working behind the scenes to ensure that their clients are properly prepared in order to ensure their patron’s enjoyment.

But there are some very nervous waiters around the country, wondering which group of supporters are going to use their turf as the chosen venue to watch the Series. And they are even more upset now that Mickey Arthur has been given the boot by the Aussies. Because Mickey is South African, and he might have had an influence on the Aussie team leaving tips wherever they went. But the new incumbent, Darren Lehman is a true-blue Aussie and everyone knows, especially the waiters around the world, that Aussies are notoriously bad tippers. It’s not in their culture. They might leave a few odd coins lying about (they don’t want to weigh down their knapsack) or may even mention, “keep the change, mate.” but as tippers per se … no.

The waiters around the country are hoping for hoardes of England supporters, with lots of their American and South African friends in tow, to flood into their pubs and restaurants. Those groups have, over the years, been prone to reward waiters with from 10 to even as much as 20% of the bill in tips. While the Aussies have left bird seed type scraps for the staff.

Someone even suggested that if you happen to venture into a local watering-hole with a predominance of green-and-gold-clad patrons, mention what country you come from to your waiter from the get-go – it might cheer them up in anticipation of your adding a tip at the end of the day.

So you want a tip? England to win The Ashes – two games to one!

Politics? I’d rather run a pub, thanks!

Nowadays it’s unusual to see any public figure (other than sportsmen) actively promote products or services. The rationale being that it may be taken as showing favouritism, or endorsing, or (perish the thought) advertising. Of course the press will happily inform their readers that the Duchess of Cambridge has “… chosen to wear a dress from Alexander McQueen with footwear from LK Bennett …” but you don’t see Kate turning to the cameras, pointing to the shoes and mouthing “LK Bennett” do you?

So it must have been a huge encouragement to the Shepherd Neame campaign this past week to have their product being given so much prominence on national networks when Nigel Farage openly endorsed his favourite ale, Spitfire. The much talked about politician who caused such an upset in the local elections was given a lot more coverage than even he anticipated. Certainly the likes of “Call me Dave,” “Ed” and “Cleggy” were probably rueing the fact that they hadn’t been quite so open and frank about their beverage of choice in the past – or maybe the cameras just weren’t on them much. In any case, the scrambling that Shepherd Neame had been doing to boost their sales since March was certainly given a shot in the arm that even comedians Armstrong & Miller couldn’t predict.

Spitfire

After all that happened last week it may seem to some that politics is a bit like running a pub. You have locals (the electorate) who you want in your pub (the party) and get them to spend their money (votes). You do all types of things to entice them in to your place – specials, 2-4-1’s, theme dinners etc. And even though you might have a pretty full place at times, they don’t all buy what you have on offer. And, like politics, to know what to stock and how to make your place profitable, you need the help of professional specialists in the field. Rutters specialize in making their clients the best they can be with strategies, advice and feedback. Successful establishments, like any of the Greene King or the Golden Lion Groups use the services of professionals, like Jon Rutter and his team, to ensure their continued success.

If any of the leaders of the “main” parties popped in to any successful pub and had a quiet word with the landlord, they’d probably be told how the landlord stays on top of things and how he works with his professional advisers. But of course getting the advice and acting on it are two different things. You can take a horse to water … well, you know the rest.

It wouldn’t be at all surprising for publicans to notice an upswing in the orders of “I’ll have a Spitfire, please …” as the new councillors pop down to their local to celebrate their positions on local boards (you’d also probably find that many of them had already had a quiet word with the landlord before the elections, but they seem to have actually followed his advice).

The clue is in the phrase … “Customer Service”

Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart had said, “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.

Giving the customer what they want is something virtually all landlords will agree on in principle, but in practice, does it happen? Different customers want different things. Tastes vary and to satisfy everyone is impossible.  Trying to find that “happy medium” is as difficult. Consultants will advise that one has first to define one’s target customer and then cater for them and accept that there will be a range of people who will fall outside that specific target market.

Take the patrons at the College Arms in Birmingham, for example, whose new host is 75-year old Bridget Ware. She has established a rapport with her customers that ensures they know and understand what she can offer them and she knows and understands what they need. It’s the classic win-win scenario, but Tony Jennings points out that this doesn’t seem to be a strategy followed by many in the pub trade. He hints at the question those in the industry might ask, “what does someone who’s 75 years old know?” And answers it by pointing out that her successes with 55 years in the industry reveal that she does know a lot!

I wonder if Bridget Ware had read what Robert Craven wrote on how to keep customers happy? Points one and two in his article are: Understand what people want and Engage your customers! Stocktaking teams, like those operating out of Rutters, will confirm that by following the same principles their many satisfied customers get what they want: comprehensive reporting, specialist service, fast and effective problem solving. They have their needs met.

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Pub landlords, restaurant owners, club managers, tea house proprietors are all targeted with information about new trends, products, advice, hints, recipes and strategies. While all this information is important and also relevant, the ultimate “target,” the customer and information about their needs are generally relegated to the back-burner. You can have the best venue, the fanciest menu, the largest range of real ale and the most attentive staff, but if the customer’s needs aren’t being satisfied and if they’re trekking down to the greasy spoon on the corner, the question is that what the “spoon” has got that you haven’t? Possibly it’s a better rapport? Maybe the customer feels more welcome there? Who knows – but it’s becoming more evident that a successful establishment is that way because of whom, not what, takes first place.

And those who have lasted in the hospitality industry will also testify to the fact that success today doesn’t guarantee success tomorrow. If something is all the rage this year, it might be old news and out of fashion in the next. Who would have thought that WiFi would be so important to offer customers at some venues, like busy city centres. But at others, like in country garden settings, its availability is frowned on because it keeps people from conversation and enjoying the surroundings?

In one of 99 Legendary Customer Service Quotes, Robert Half sums up when he indicates, “When the customer comes first, the customer will last.

Chemistry … down at your local!

Ever wondered how to really annoy a chef? One sure-fire way is to start adding salt before you’ve even tasted it! Any chef worth his salt, as they say, will have tasted and seasoned his dish so that it is just the way it should be by the time it is presented to you. And if, after tasting, you felt the need to add a sprinkling of salt, no offence would be taken.

The science of how salt works on food has to do with how it acts on the set of five primary tastes the tongue can detect (salt, sweet, bitter, sour and umami). Salt has also been shown to suppress the bitter taste – which probably explains why salt is used when taking tequila shots! But if you’re running a restaurant in Mexico City the faith you have in how well your chef seasons the food is now critical because from April 4th the over 200 000 pubs and restaurants will no longer provide salt shakers on the tables. If this move was applied in the UK, Jon Rutter and his team of stocktakers would have one less item to have to factor in to their planning and logistics as they help clients operate efficiently. It would be a tragedy to have a pub with no beer, but a pub with no salt shakers? Or brown sauce bottles? Mind you, the chefs would be ecstatic.

The Mexicans have introduced the no-salt-shaker zone in the interests of health. Apparently the amigos have been overdoing things when it comes to salt intake and has nothing to do with appeasing the ire of the chef community. The recommended daily intake of salt is 5mg per day (according to the World Health Organisation) and the Mexicans have been spooning in a whopping 12mg on average. The leading cardiologist at the Siglo III Medical Centre believes that by just removing the shakers from the table it will reduce the daily salt intake by 50%. I suppose he is basing his premise on what has become a habit at meal times – if it’s there, use it.

The good news for anyone holidaying there soon is that the restaurants will be allowed to offer salt to their patrons, it just won’t be standard issue on the table.

De Dorf Krug skol

Those who enjoy having a bit of a shake at the table will tell you that it adds to the enjoyment of their food. And isn’t that why people go out to eat – to have an enjoyable and pleasant time? This whole issue on taste and its effects also brought some more interesting news in regard to beer. Scientists (the blokes who told us about the dangers of too much salt) have said that beer cheers us up. They tell us that the taste releases dopamine that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centres. So even without the effect of the alcohol, just the taste of beer (even the non-alcoholic variety) will give a pleasurable feeling.

I wonder if Heston is working on a beer-flavoured-low-salt potato chip? It could be a hit.

Let them eat cake!

Everybody’s got to eat, right? So it would be safe to assume that this would be an industry that would be growing (because there are more and more mouths to feed) and that it’s an industry that guarantees customers everyday! So why don’t more people get involved in order to find something to do?

Probably because it’s jolly hard work. Watch any episode of Masterchef and see what has to be done to develop from scratch, and then present something people will pay for. And watch how hectic it gets in the professional kitchens with demanding chefs and even more demanding customers. Then think about doing all that six or seven days a week, at nights and on holidays and then wonder about your social and family life.

Confectionery Collage

But many will argue that not all the hospitality industry is like Masterchef, or The Great British Menu. They would be correct – but even the small tavern down the road that serves up some lovely pies and fish-n-chips still has that degree of being on duty when everyone else is watching the Boat Race, or heading off to Cornwall for the weekend, or popping off to Paris to experience a walking tour of Versailles. Jon Rutter and his team of stocktakers meet regularly with their customers who can testify to the feeling of staying behind while others skip off to enjoy themselves in Europe. Jon’s group helps their restaurant and pub customers plan and prepare with careful and sustained strategies to keep them the sort of establishment that makes others want to skip over to them instead to enjoy themselves. They are part of this competitive and demanding industry called “hospitality.”

However, if you were to examine the rise in popularity of shows like The Great British Bake Off and the inspiration that the show has been to some people, the “food and hospitality” arena has taken on another dimension. There is a resurgence in homebakes, cupcakes and confectionery. The Office of National Statistics has indicated that independent bakeries in the UK grew by more than 5% last year (and that’s only talking about those that reached the VAT threshold). Cup cakes, for example, are becoming more popular at weddings than the traditional 3-tier cake. The wonderful thing about baking is that it can be done at home and delivered virtually when it’s convenient for the baker. They can still catch Eurostar to Paris if they plan correctly. And Gordon won’t be shouting at them about getting the 75 “cupcakes on the pass, right ******* now!”

One of the problems with baking is the “health brigade.” That group of doctors and dieticians who go on about sugar, flour and carbohydrates and how they are contributing to the rise of diabetes. That debate is a whole other ball-game in itself, but whatever you eat, there is a group that would approve and another that would disapprove. For example: some say butter is bad margarine is good … and then those who say that marg. is plastic and artificial while butter is best; cook in oil – avoid it like the plague! Chefs, bakers, amateur cooks, pub owners et al will always have someone against what they serve.

The bottom line is that people will eat what they like, and if they like cupcakes – give it to them!

(PS: There is a time and place for everything though, I found out recently. Serving cupcakes and Earl Grey to some friends while watching the ManU v Chelsea match saw the cakes bombarding the flat screen when Petr Cech performed his acrobatics on Hernandez‘ header. The one time I’m just glad I hadn’t served spareribs.)

You’re not bringing that thing in here, Sir – take a number!

He sat across the table from me in the busy restaurant and reminisced. I could swear I saw a tear starting to form in the corner of his eye. “Those days, you could come in here and it would be an occasion. No music, just the gentle buzz of conversation from the tables and the waiters moving back and forth, the sound of cutlery on crockery and glasses being clinked together.”

“Now look at them all! Heads down, thumbs working at the phones and hardly a word spoken. I bet you find most of those people at that table are emailing each other while they sit there.”

Fred had a point. “Those days” that Fred was talking about was only 20 years ago. Since then the telephones have morphed from ‘bricks’ carried in briefcases to slim gadgets you can slip into a shirt pocket with technology that could virtually land a jumbo jet. But it’s not only the instrument that has changed. The whole way that people have been effected by this technological progress has changed the way we do things on a social level, too.

Internet shops became cafés as they dished out coffee in order to keep people there. More and more internet hubs sprang up as more people had the need to access the internet for business. And with the emergence of the smartphones, social media and trending favourites like Pinterest, the need for people to connect has become more pressing.

Mobile phone

Thank goodness for WiFi! Without it some pubs and restaurants would be empty. Michelle Perrett, writing in the Morning Advertiser, cites some interesting statistics on how pubs have become the ‘second office’ for many, thanks to the availability of WiFi. Internet connectivity was not what any landlord would have expected to have to consider a while back. But this aspect of running a business is the type of thing that customers who use stocktaking firms like Rutters now have to factor in to the equation of how to be efficient and stay ahead. Jon Rutter and his team of professionals continue, with careful and sustained planning, structure and foresight, doing what they can to ensure their clients stay ahead in the very competitive and demanding hospitality industry.

Many places now advertise “Free WiFi” – but obviously someone has to pay for it. And when the scale of the worldwide traffic on the internet in just one minute is considered, the result is staggering. 204 million emails, 6 million Facebook pages, 1.3 million YouTube videos viewed to mention a few. In one minute! The cost must be staggering too.

So it would seem logical that pubs, restaurants and other places where people gather to eat and drink should be up to date with technology so that at least patrons will feel they can stay in touch with their ever increasingly busy technological world from the comfort of their dinner table or seat at the bar.

Blokes like Fred who lament the passing of the ‘good old days’ are dying out. The sheer numbers of people using the new technology of smartphones, mini laptops, tablets and pads are fast outnumbering the old-school traditionalists. Despite the protestations of Fred and his ilk, it’s not going to change back, so those places without modern technology on offer might need to consider joining the trend.

Or not. Maybe the new trend will be a pub with no micro-chips allowed! How about arriving at the restaurant and being asked to check your devices in to the lady at the counter? She will put your smartphone in a box and give you a ticket (make sure you don’t lose it), and at the end of the evening will return your phone to you with the screen proudly displaying the 16 emails, 4 friend requests and 11 notifications that have arrived in the interim. Together with the reminder that you have a dinner reservation at 7:00 – 2 hours ago.

This might be something that could take off!

Fresh, local, wholesome & tasty (or bye, bye box-meals)

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.

Tapas Collage

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!