Bins, beer and regulations – it’s tough being a politician!

Don’t you just hate dodging bins and bags that are left out all over the pavement waiting for collection? It’s dodge this one and step into the road to miss that one – all as a result of the regulations (don’t even mention Brussels) imposed on the consumer. You can’t do this and you must do that in an effort to recycle or eradicate waste. After a long campaign it appears that plastic bags are now going to be charged for at the supermarket – at 5p a pop – in an effort to deter people from using new ones each time they shop.

They say that the money raised will go to charity. But, small and medium sized businesses with less than 500 employees will be excluded in order to protect independent retailers. What happens when these retailers get so busy with extra customers seeking to avoid the charge-per-bag that they have to hire more staff to cope and then exceed the magic 500 number? But I’m sure the regulators have thought that one through.

Image: Denis Slogar

Image: Denis Slogar

I wonder if Jon Rutter and his team of professional stocktakers are having to start suggesting to their customers ways they can provide packaging that meets all the regulatory requirements but still keeps the customers happy and prevents their purchases from falling on the floor at some inconvenient time?

Having dodged all the bins and bags on the way to work, can you imagine the irritation commuters faced when they had to dodge a hoard of press photographers sprawled all over the pavement outside a pub in London the other day? The gentlemen of the press were excluded from entering as some politicians were in there – no other punters either mind, just the politicos and their entourage as they sought to put on a brave public face in the wake of the election results. Nick & Vince were all smiles and even had some froth on their lips from the different brews they were sampling, mild and bitter.

The pub had possibly agreed to host the event on the off-chance that the press corps would surge in afterwards to take shelter and fortify themselves for the next stage in their busy day of seeking news once the main players had departed in their limos. I suppose the landlord of the Queen’s Head in London had told his stocktaker to factor-in an empty pub for the chaps do their photo-op in, ‘but make sure the keg of bitter is fully charged AND that the press lads have plenty of snacks and ale available for afters!’ It just didn’t seem to be as jolly an affair as when Nigel visits a pub, though.

What the England Football squad will have plenty of though – their stocktaker has seen to it – is their favourite sauce and butter, if they want it. Gone are the dietary restrictions imposed by the previous coach. Roy has rescinded the ‘no sauce’ ban and ketchup is back on the list. Some of the lads also like fast food and it appears that’s okay too. So hopefully, with their concentration off “what’s for dinner, coach?” the games will deliver the desired results too.

Roy might even throw in some of the prize-winning pies from The Chestnut Horse to keep the boys on track. Jon Allen has just won the “Pub Pie of the Year” with his Welsh cob pie (Wayne Rooney would like that). The pub has 42 pies on the menu – all named after breeds of horses!

How does Tom Kerridge get to be a judge at these events, lucky chap?

Here to vote? What colour do you want your pancake?

Rutter Collage‘Politician-speak’ is the use of a number of words and phrases that are designed to placate, pacify and deflect scrutiny. Some people call it ‘spinning‘ or saying things in a way that while no untruths are told, the real story is not revealed to those asking the questions. And while this week may have been a bad week for some politicians don’t think that ‘politician-speak’ is only limited to them.

Renowned chef Marco Pierre White (or at least, his spokesman) was quoted as saying things like, “… we can confirm …” and “… the feedback was provided in an informal way …” and my favourite, “… we have acted on what needed addressing and we continue to work closely with the Birmingham City Council …” All this because the food safety inspectors slapped a zero-rating on the good chef’s four-star restaurant that sits perched on the top of the block in Birmingham known by many as The Cube. But I suppose mouse droppings, mouldy cow carcasses and old and re-labelled chicken will do that to a restaurant. I shouldn’t think that there was much ‘politician-speak’ behind the closed doors of the restaurant when Marco got his certificate and window sticker with a big fat “Zero” on it that is supposed to be displayed to the paying public.

More of the same type of language was doled out too by the powerful and seemingly immoveable Sepp Blatter who admitted that awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar was “a mistake.” In response Gary Lineker Tweeted that he imagined that “Sepp’s resignation letter was being composed as we tweet” … don’t hold your breath, Gary. Sepp has indicated that he will be seeking election for a fifth term as FIFA President next month. The soccer supremo suggested that his French rival who might oppose him was “… a man of very deep character, he wouldn’t do it.” The maneuvering and discussions that go on in the corridors and boardrooms across the world of football also confirm that “politics” is not always limited to running a country. Perhaps the irony of Sepp’s comments about referring to his rival as being of “deep character” was lost on himself.

The good news for Gary and other supporters of Team England is that London has once again outshone the French. London has been crowned the most attractive city in the world, knocking New York of the top spot, while Paris moved down two places. This has got have a positive impact on attracting visitors to England in general and to the capital in particular. So people like Jon Rutter and his team of professional stocktakers will probably have even more challenges placed on them as their customers plan and innovate to stay ahead of their competition.

Jon is probably hoping that he doesn’t have to analyse the profitability of new technology someone might want to install in their restaurant after having read about personalised pancake designs. If some place that sells pancakes gets it in their heads to get the “design-your-own-pancake” machine it will be one more thing to consider whether it is worth investing in or not. It is a nifty little number though. Apparently you can program in a unique design and then the “PancakeBot” machine uses CAD technology to distribute the design, in batter, onto a hotplate. Flipping the pancakes still requires human intervention.

Knowing politicians, though, come this time next year you might find a slew of tables outside polling stations with activists giving out pancakes in the shape of their party logo using coloured batter that matches their party’s colour.

Give me a pub team anytime! (… so says Roy)

Image: Felipe Dan Reis

Image: Felipe Dan Reis

Any place that runs speed-eating competitions would probably have their stocktakers tearing their hair out over pre-ordering quantities for the event. Especially if the world champion competitive eater is expected in town. But in order to be recognized, she’d probably have to wear a notice saying “I’m the Champion” because the petite, size 8 mum-of-four doesn’t look like she could shovel away a 5000 calorie burger in six½ minutes! The “Stellanator” consisted of six slabs of meat, slices of cheese, six fried eggs, 12 slices of bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, mayonnaise, pickles, grilled onions, peanut butter, jalapenos and then there was the bun (top & bottom) to keep it all together.

It all started off as a way of proving someone wrong – as one does – and things escalated from there to 9 lb burritos, 54-inch pizzas and more. I’m still trying to get my head around how she manages to work her way through a 12 lb sandwich and 1 lb of fries in 53 minutes!

The question many ask is, “Why?” But Mollie Schuyler does it for the money. In January she scooped £17 800.00 for guzzling 363 chicken wings in 30 minutes.

Money also seems to be the motivation for becoming a professional football player. You’d think that earning 200 grand a week would be enough. But no, Yaya Touré “wants his cake and eat it” too! But Manchester City insist that they did give him a cake to celebrate his birthday. I didn’t realize that birthday #31 was such an important milestone.

Who would be a football coach? Especially when your star player is miffed because no one (allegedly) gave him his birthday bumps? And especially if you’re Louis van Gaal, the new coach of Manchester United when the National Coach has said that he could beat Man U with a pub team if he had six months to prepare! And he’d probably only have to pay them in pints and crisps, too.

But for that matter, who’d be a politician when things go wrong for some of them the way they did this week. You had a leader who didn’t know who he was there to support, nor who was running that particular council – all caught on two separate occasions on TV and on radio. Awkward.

Or the politician that organised for steel band who were all set to play their tunes and entertain the crowds when they discovered that the political party that had contracted them wasn’t who they wanted to support. “Pack the drums away, lads, we’re outta here!” I wonder if they had to return their fee?

Jon Rutter would be the first to tell you how imperative careful planning and good strategy is in running a successful pub, restaurant or club. Sportsmen and politicians could do well to take note of his principles and ethos – if they did, they’d end up with the cake they wanted, knowing what candidate they were there to support and they’d have had music to dance to as well.

The beautiful game showcase kicks off in Brazil in 21 days time – hopefully the hosts have their careful planning and good strategy all in place. 

“Big Brother” also slips up from time to time …

Line Of Police Cars In EnglandMany have complained that we live in a society where our every move is scrutinized. Others embrace the concept arguing that if we aren’t doing anything wrong there is no need for concern. But Sophie Vaughan was minding her own business in traffic, in a traffic jam no less, when she took a sip from her Slush Puppy.

A sharp-eyed policeman on a bike spotted her actions and handed her a £100 fixed penalty for ‘driving without due care and attention.’ Perhaps he thought she would throw cold Slush Puppy in his face and felt he needed back-up, so he called for reinforcements and another three colleagues came to his support. Ms Vaughan will now have to go to court to have the 3 penalty points that came with the fine rescinded, even though there is no clarity in the law on whether eating or drinking while driving is illegal. The law merely states that ‘if you present a significant danger’ and if the police think ‘you are not in proper control of the vehicle.’ So it appears that this particular band of four officers felt that sitting in a stationery vehicle and sipping a drink rendered Ms Vaughan reckless.

But for the Met officer who was caught on camera, sipping at his drink while he was driving his patrol car there seems to be a bit of the pot calling the kettle black going on. I’m sure the Met would argue that police officers undergo stringent driver training before being placed in charge of a vehicle, so presumably being able to “sip-and-drive” comes into their training regime.

What happens if someone is seen chewing gum while driving?

Another ‘Big Brother’ moment occurred when it was mooted that pubs or restaurants should have glasses with lines marked on them that indicate how many units of alcohol are in the glass. The campaigners for this move appear to think that if the lines are prominently displayed on each glass then consumers will suddenly suffer a dose of ‘guilt and responsibility’ and only consume what the recommended plimsoll line indicates. Or consumers will decant their drinks into their own glasses or they will develop ‘line-blindness’ as a consequence.

If the move was introduced, would the Palace also follow suit at their State Functions? Would restaurants be able to order colour-coded lines on their glasses to match their décor? It would be a maître-d’s nightmare trying to get his table settings to look good in a Michelin-starred establishment with all those lines, logos and information printed on their finest crystal.

For hard-working stocktakers there was some cost-cutting good news from the USA recently. A 14 year old student in Pennsylvania has advised the USA Government how they can save $400m by making a simple adjustment to the way they print out things. He worked out and analysed that by merely changing the font on their documents from Times New Roman to Garamond the amount of ink saved on the less bulky font will save that massive amount of dosh!

Now if Jon Rutter and his professional team recommended a pub or restaurant change their menu fonts in order to be more profitable, it is unlikely to save them $400m – but the principle of using less ink on the fonts and not so many twiddly bits as decoration could reduce the number of times the print cartridges are changed, which mean savings. Stocktaker’s job done!

Or you could just use a blackboard – chalks are probably cheaper than paper and print cartridges. It would save more trees too.

Social media could go ‘viral’ …

0833-business-1100021594-10182013Nearly a year ago we made the point that like it or not, social media is here to stay. Some folk use it much more than others – either as tools to help their business, others, merely as a means to stay in touch with gossip and frivolous communications with friends.

One person (and maybe there are others too) use it as a form or revenge to vent their ire on bad or non-existent service. The case in point is when a Bristol graphic designer ordered and paid for a PS3 console from a Gumtree advertiser but his item never arrived. And when he couldn’t get hold of the ‘seller’ he realized he’d been conned out of his money. The police felt that there was little hope of ever catching the conman so Mr Joseph used his unlimited O2 contract to extract his revenge by sms. Having the conman’s mobile number he merely copied and pasted the entire works of Shakespeare into one message and sent it to him – all with one click. Mr Joseph’s iPhone automatically breaks the message down in over 29 000 messages of 160 words and merrily sends them on their way.

So if you happen to spot a Gumtree ad where someone is selling a “fully functional mobile that recites all Shakespeare’s plays” perhaps it would be the conman trying to relieve himself of an sms deluge.

One of the most well-known, some would say notorious, sites that people consult about checking on good and bad experiences, is Tripadvisor. Laughing Buddha owner Jin Cheng tells of how he spent years building his reputation on Tripadvisor but seems to have only negative reviews now owing to his ‘losing it’ with his customers and having 43 patrons walk out en masse without paying after the row over service. Police have commented that it is a ‘civil matter’ – some might suggest to the Kent Police that events were decidedly uncivil.

So with the Laughing Buddha’s decided lack of humour going viral in the most negative way, consider how a social media trend has had the opposite result and raised over £8m for charity. The idea of ladies with no make up,  posting ‘selfies’ on the internet was the unique idea of Fiona Cunningham. But it went further by her urging some friends to make a donation to a cancer charity when posting a ‘bare-faced’ picture and then issuing a challenge to some other friends. She said she was inspired by Kim Novak’s decision not to wear make up to the Oscars and she just took it further.

The recent good news the Chancellor declared also went viral – the news that the alcohol duty escalator was scrapped and the price of beer coming down spread pretty rapidly. The news was being ‘Tweeted’ as it happened so those sitting in pubs and following events knew about it straight away and probably ordered a celebratory pint immediately.

Jon Rutter and the team of professional stocktakers welcome this news with their customers – and they are also working on getting their own “How our stocktaking service can help YOU!” video on YouTube to spread the word too.

It seems that using social media is the effective way to share all types of information, not at all “Much ado about nothing,” it’s more about dealing with a tempest. We have Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more, is there a social media platform named ‘Shrew‘ yet?

(Eels) To eat or be eaten, that is the question!

If you were to wander along the High Street in Walthamstow you’d see the latest building to have been awarded Grade II status by Heritage England. It is the “L. Manze Eel, Pie & Mash Shop” and has been perfectly preserved. Stepping through the doors will transport the visitor back to the style of the 1920’s when the shop first opened, serving the same type of fare of the day too. A selection of pies, mash and gravy. Also eels.

Image: Michal Zacharzewski

Image: Michal Zacharzewski

Happily for current owner, Mrs Cooper, she’s not likely to have some bloke in a white coat carrying a clipboard arrive and tell her to repaint with fire-retardant paint in the interests of “health-and-safety,” because all the walls are tiled from floor to ceiling in keeping with the décor of the day. The shop looks like it is worth a visit and is proving to be popular with tourists. But any tourist who hopes to go there to get “the eel treatment” while they eat their pies, is going to be disappointed. And even though eels are on the menu, they are for consumption.

The “eel treatment” is the latest beauty trend imported from China. Interested folk sit around with their feet in buckets while the eels nibble away at their skin. This treatment is designed to exfoliate and leave the skin lovely and smooth. Apparently there are health concerns over this treatment as well as questions being raised about the qualifications of those who administer the treatments. It seems that one needs to have a “level-two pedicure” national occupational standard in order to put someone’s feet in a bucket. It would also be a stocktakers nightmare trying to distinguish the edible eels from the working ones on a spreadsheet.

The challenges of any stocktaker never cease to amaze – Jon Rutter and his team of professionals need to look at every angle in helping their customers operate efficiently and stay in profit but at the same time give the paying public the value for money they deserve and look out for. With this in mind, one wonders how supermarkets are going to follow the politician’s suggestion to give their staff a pay riseto help them deal with the cost of living” when their margins are so tight? This could develop into a vicious circle of increasing expenses (salaries) which leads to increasing the price of product the consumers have to pay which leads to the consumers able to afford less so they need an increase in order to “deal with the cost of living” etc etc. In the end, someone has to pay or something’s got to give – cutting the coat according to the size of the cloth. A concept professional stocktakers work with all the time.

This could be the reason there has been a recent boom on folk seeking and using allotments. People have been viewing their respective “cloths” and deciding that the principle followed by Tom and Barbara in The Goodlife might work for them. Many have also put some fun into their hard work by entering some of their produce into competitions and exhibitions. Whether one wins or loses, the main prize is being able to consume what was entered.

Perhaps there’s a modern day Goodlife-style reality show on the cards? – “I have an allotment, get me out of the supermarket!

“Profit” – isn’t a dirty word

Put any butcher, baker, landlord, or stocktaker against a wall and grill them on the cost of things and they will probably be able to reel off the list of items relevant to their trade and where to get the best value. Put a prime Minister on a radio show and he can’t even tell you the price of a loaf of bread (he bakes his own, you see) but he can plug the flour he uses and the machine too. He just doesn’t know what they cost.

Image: Mike Korn

Image: Mike Korn

But the PM will be able to confidently give you all the low-down on this or that statute, the nuances of a particular bill before Parliament or the intricacies of the trade agreements with another country. And it’s quite interesting how politicians will talk of paying millions of £’s for something as though they were discussing the cost of a packet of crisps, but get very serious expressions on their faces and talk about the generous increase in the NMW of 12p per hour to a hefty £6.30.

If you want to turn your hard-earned cash into a profit, though, just don’t send the PM or Boris off to the shops together. The only one making a huge profit from their custom would be the shop owner.

Songwriters Kandor & Ebb wrote “Money Makes the World go Round” for Cabaret, but few would disagree with the sentiment. Without it, you can’t live at the level you want to. With it, you can! Anyone who is “in business” is probably constantly working on ways to ensure that they have an excess of the stuff by applying Mr Micawber’s recipe for happiness – spending less than you have, instead of more. Jon Rutter’s teams of stocktakers know what it’s like to juggle the options and ensure that their customers work on Mr Micawber’s happiness formula rather than on Dicken’s other character, Pip, who “… began to contract a quantity of debt …

Perhaps this is what lead to Ben Hatch labelling himself as Britain’s stingiest dad, with his cost-cutting measures and frugality. His account of the tricks and ploys he uses makes fascinating reading and will have many raising their eyebrows in disbelief or astonishment. From the way he sneaks his own food snacks into Disneyland Paris (strictement interdite) to shopping almost exclusively at Oxfam, his accounts of cost cutting is ingenious. And it stems back to the example he learned from his mother. One of the lines Ben writes jumps out when he says, “… children don’t need expensive things. They just need love and your time.” He is quick to point out that his family do not lack anything. He just has a different way of approaching spending habits in order to stay in profit.

Sky is also doing things differently. They have launched the new Pub Challenge App in an effort to help landlords with their profitability. It’s designed to search for nearby Sky Sports venues that are showing Premier matches and also to incentivise patrons to spread their custom around so that they qualify for prizes and special deals.

And with the Christmas season fast approaching, be on the lookout for the calendars that are being sold to make profits for various charities and causes. Over the years, though, diverse groups have had to resort to ‘nude shoots’ as a way to get their calendars sold. Remember the Calendar Girls? That was the start. Then there have been the Troopie Wives, the Firemen, the Armed Forces etc. The latest is the Foxy Fillies Naked Posh Girls calendar, from the Jed Forest Hunt. All on horseback or holding shotguns or hanging round 4×4’s.

I wonder if there’ll be a Naked Pub Landlord calendar on the cards soon?

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).