Winning is better than just “taking part!”

Young stylish businessmanSince the dawn of the professional era in sports the focus for the spectator has generally been on the spectacle of the event, whether it be football, motor racing or even darts. And as media has become more sophisticated and accessible there is hardly a gap when sport of some kind is not available to be watched and enjoyed.

So you can imagine the outcry across pubs and sitting rooms across the country when ITV decided that switching from the last tension-filled game of the French Open final wasn’t a priority so they turned it off. A “spokesman” was quick to point out that things had gone “… over the scheduled broadcast time etc etc” … but cynics may suggest that there was some technician sitting in front of a darkened console, who was not interested in tennis, who merely just flicked a switch according to the roster he had in front of him instead of actually thinking about the result of his action – after all, public relations aren’t his responsibility.

Perhaps there will be a different, tennis-loving “techie” on duty at ITV while Wimbledon is on.

Gone are the days too, when the result of a match tended to be played along the lines of the Olympic Creed, “The most important thing … is not to win but to take part …” This won’t sit well with many supporters of some teams at the World Cup in Brazil. You won’t get much of a smile from Roy Hodgson’s lads by telling them that it was only a game, and wasn’t it nice to take part?

Professionals who strive for success in any field will tell you that winning is everything. Even in the hospitality trade, success is measured in results and successful results usually translate into profits. Jon Rutter and his team of professional stocktakers can show you many examples of this truth. You can make the best soufflé in the world but if you’re not selling it for a profit it’s not contributing to your success.

Occasionally some strive for success without proper planning or attention to detail and then are found wanting. Like the holidaymakers who thought that climbing up a mountain in the Nevis Range was a bit of a stroll and had only packed their enthusiasm. They had to be rescued. If you happen to find a pair of flip-flops on the side of a Aonoch Mor sometime, they will be the ones a rescuer chucked away in anger as he had to carry their owner down on a stretcher.

But planning and strategy, while vital in any business, can be a bit like smoke-and-mirrors if you’re not careful and want to give the impression of prudential management, while in reality nothing changes. The prime example is the FIFA Exco (sport, again) who have decided that the recommendation of the Ethics Committee should be adhered to and that the awarding of bonuses should be banned. So they have stopped taking bonuses. Instead they have given themselves a 100% pay rise.

One punter commented, “Nice work if you can get it … but why do we even have FIFA Exco members being paid a salary? Oh yes, it’s for the love of the beautiful game.

Rules are made to be broken, said Bernard!

D Day CollageAccountants and stocktakers like Jon Rutter will tell you that there are rules for a reason and that they should not be broken. Like making sure that for every credit there is a corresponding entry in the debit column, or something like that. He will tell you that without the rules in place the wheels of a business can quickly fall off.

Sometimes ordinary folk will look at rules as something some “jobsworth” has invented to spoil our fun and restrict our freedom. One of those occasions is the ruling that has put a stop to what has been going on for 900 years – yes, Morris dancing cannot continue from Nottingham to Southwell. The Nottinghamshire County Council traffic manager has said, among other things that“…a need to recognise the complexity of managing old events safely on today’s roads which carry high volumes of fast-moving traffic.” Why they don’t just close the road like they do in Monaco, or on the Isle of Man or in half of France when sporting events happen. But then I don’t suppose Morris dancing brings in as much cash as racing does.

Sometimes the rule breakers just take the view that they’re going to do it anyway and the consequences be damned! Like Bernard Jordan who told the staff at his care home, “I’m going out for a while …” after they told him that he couldn’t go to Normandy for the D-Day memorial events. But he went anyway and those who told him “no” welcomed him back with applause! Bernard’s day out saw him negotiating a bus and ferry trip to pay his respects to those who fell in the events and after D-Day. No regulations and rules were going to stop him – that’s the spirit that won the war! If some of the present day ‘elf-and-safety’ crowd were around in 1944 they’d have had the whole fleet wearing high-vis jackets and “Mae Wests” in case they fell overboard en route to the Continent.

It is also fitting that Mr Jordan hails from Brighton and Hove – the town where Rutters Stocktakers is head-quartered. Mr Jordan was also mayor there once and moves are afoot to have the Freedom of the City bestowed on him. I suppose it was easy for Mr Jordan to sit at the care home and ponder his moves seeing as you can virtually see Normandy from Brighton. Sometimes breaking the dictats of others is a no-brainer.

One wonders what the safety officers will make of the chef in Grantham in Lincolnshire who has invented a curry that is three times hotter than pepper spray. Apparently the customers who want it are made to sign a disclaimer warning of the consequences of eating it. For those hot food aficionados, this brew is 12 million on the Scoville heat measurement scale. What other stocktaker has to include goggles and gloves for the chef and gloves for the customers in his customer’s inventory?

It would be curious to know why people put themselves through that type of heat-experience … but hats off to the chef whose seen ‘an opening‘ in the market for this type of nuclear curry dish, boldly going where no gastronome has been before.

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?

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. 

We DO have a child-free area, sir … it’s called the cockpit

Airplane Flying Towards The SunsetThere are times when people visit restaurants and pubs for special occasions, like birthdays, anniversaries and other celebrations. Sometimes business meetings also take place over a meal or a snack accompanied by a glass of wine or a pint of beer. The waiting staff and management of these establishments are generally conscious of these things and usually don’t intrude on the people’s conversations – they like to leave them to get on with it!

But when a guest arrives with a child in tow it has been known to cause some consternation and disruption. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong or bad about the child, but management may be concerned that some of the child’s table manners and behaviour might not be as restrained as the majority of the patrons they are trying to serve. And this is why Grant Achatz, chef of Alinea in Chicago, is considering a ‘baby ban’ at his restaurant as it would put diners off their hors d’oeuvres and other courses.

It is reported that some diners have expressed the opinion that they would be livid if they were out for a quiet dinner and their senses were being assaulted with a crying baby in the background. Especially if they are paying the type of prices the Alinea charges.

These ‘noise’ concerns are probably also the reason that 7 out of 10 Britons also want to see child-free flights on airlines. It is reported that as much as 35% of those interviewed would be prepared to pay extra for child free flights. The awkward part about the survey though, reports that ‘drunk and rowdy travellers’ or ‘people with bad hygiene’ and ‘seat-kicking passengers’ were rated even more aggravating that crying babies. So will there be advocates of alcohol-free flights? And who is going to determine who are those with bad “B/O” and redirect them to board the ‘stinky’ flight from Heathrow to Dubai?

At what age does it then become acceptable to introduce one’s child to fine dining? Some would even say that there are some chefs even better behaved than their customers – regardless of the customer’s age. And when is it acceptable to have a child in a flight, when there are adults who cry and shout and throw tantrums on a plane when there isn’t a child in sight?

The lawyers must be rubbing their hands in anticipation.

In much the same way Mrs Attenborough’s barrister son (how convenient for her) had prevented a cricket team from hitting sixes when they have home matches as it might annoy his mum. She doesn’t like the odd cricket ball landing in her garden which is next to the field. Apparently they have come to an ‘amicable solution’ with the club. I’m sure that the Britwell Salome Cricket Club’s opponents are the ones who are most pleased with the solution – especially if they have a dodgy slow bowler – they aren’t going to be slaughtered in their matches.

All the permutations each restaurant, each airline, each cricket club has must be challenging to stocktakers like Jon Rutter and his team of professionals. What a good thing there are easy tools like spreadsheets, stock programmes and CRM platforms to help them keep track of what each client needs in their quest to keep patrons happy.

How long will it be until a restaurant is threatened with legal action by some customer with a relative who’s a judge for playing the wrong music, or being seated at the wrong table because it upsets their feng shui?

Grandpa, can I print you some lunch?

Can you imagine this email going out?

“Dear Jon Rutter – we have had a lot more elderly customers in our restaurant lately and some of them are “chew challenged” so please can you ensure that your stocktaker adds the new “smoothfood” products to our inventory. Chef will send through the menu choices later. Oh and we also need to budget for one of those 3-D things so we can print their food out for them – sincerely Restrauteur, from Pull-the-Other-One Diner”

Starter, entree, mains & dessert!

Starter, entree, mains & dessert!

Some German scientists/cooks have developed gel-food using molecular gastronomy as an alternative to folk who find it difficult to chew their food. The process works by taking the real McCoy and then using Heston-style alchemy turning it into easy-to-swallow gel that is then put through some kind of 3-D printer to present the food in the shapes and colours the normal dish would look like. The report is not too clear on how it works but I suspect that it is much the same as a cookie cutter might operate – put in the ingredients and pop out the finished article.

However, regardless of how much they paid the photographer though, the finished product doesn’t look like it would tickle the old taste buds. Just like taking a pill as a substitute for an entire meal in science fiction movies didn’t seem to appeal to everyone either. I wonder if this will take off?

What might take off, however is the trick an American brewer has revealed that allows a person to drink without getting drunk! Jim Koch says that taking a teaspoon of yeast before you drink will stop you getting drunk. He adds that taking in dry yeast isn’t too palatable so suggests that it can be added into yoghurt. He is also quick to point out that the process doesn’t completely eliminate the effects of alcohol, just reduces it.

Apparently the yeast transforms the alcohol into carbon, hydrogen and oxygen molecules so before the alcohol reaches the brain it is effectively “neutralized” before it causes drunkenness. Which is fine for people who do not suffer from gluten intolerance – for those who do, moderation is still the key!

Publicans might have to ask their stocktakers to source a good stock of yoghurt and dry yeast for their patrons so they can also offer this remedy to their punters. Some would be forgiven in thinking that this concoction now gives new meaning to the term “gastro pub.”

Even supermarket chains have taken to using ‘science’ to attract their customers and sell their wares. Have you ever wondered why, after a few weeks the item you always found in aisle 6 has been moved to a gondola in aisle 2? Or that the size of mayonnaise bottle you really want is on the bottom shelf and the packet of flour your family uses now appears next to bottles of beetroot instead of with other baking products?

The answer is all down to the marketing schemes and tactics psychologists suggest the supermarkets use to keep us buying things we don’t really want, or things that we weren’t thinking about but end up filling our trolleys with. And beware the red stickers – they doesn’t always mean a “special discount” – they can also mean “danger, higher price!”

Some shoppers prefer to forego science and technology and stick to a shopping list, eat what they like and drink in moderation – yeast free!

This £ is genuine, Guv – it has 12 sides to it!

Image: Chris (chidsec)

Image: Chris (chidsec)

Over the centuries there has been the cry for education – and that it will make a difference. It will be the factor that allows one to move forward. To be successful. But even with 17 GCSE’s it didn’t stop a young lass from Blackpool looking like a right plonker!

Her ‘education’ saw her referring to the President of the USA as ‘Barraco Barner’ but she blamed this misnomer as a fault with the predictive text function on her mobile phone. As one does. She was also quick to point out that politics was not her strong suit. But that she had gone ahead anyway and voiced a political thought on ‘something that wasn’t her strong suit’ could point to the idea that young folk are trying to become more politically aware especially with an election coming up in the next year. 

One wonders what names she’ll assign to the current crop of politicians sitting in Westminster – Cameron Davies, or Edmund Miller?

It’s a very good thing that spreadsheets and accounting packages don’t have predictive text – or maybe they do – if you glance at the comparison prices recently revealed in the latest supermarket war. The poor stocktakers must be tearing their hair out at the way things change. Morrisons have slashed the price of certain foods, forcing others to follow suit in order to stay competitive.

And the consumers raised a collective cheer!

However, the downside for the consumers is that they might have to supermarket-hop in order to take full advantage of the lower prices. These days most shoppers are too street-wise to fall for the ‘loss-leader’ strategy implemented years ago that attracted customers with really low prices on selected items only to catch them on the other things they chucked in their trolleys that were much dearer than in other shops. This was the way things levelled out for the supermarkets and they continued to make profits. But looking at the price comparison charts it appears Lidl and Aldi still have the lower prices.

Some changes take longer than others. The £1 coin is going to change …. but not yet …. only in 2017. Her Majesty approved the change yesterday but one wonders why it takes so long to make a new one? After all, the artwork and mock-ups are done, George Osborne didn’t take the Queen a rough pencil sketch to approve did he? And the reason for the change is apparently the new coin will be harder to copy. So the chaps circulating the counterfeit ones have another 3 years to ‘make hay’ so to speak.

Of course not everyone is happy with the proposed new coin. A whole phalanx of Councils and vending machine owners are already saying the thicker coin will mean they have to modify their machines at huge cost. But people like Jon Rutter and other forward thinkers who know about keeping up with technology and trends will be advocating using things like apps, smart phones, pre-paid credits and scanners to pay for things that vending machines vend. If they’re going to change the machines they might as well change them to the type of technology that can handle future changes ad infinitum instead of just making the slots bigger.

And seeing as they have three years before the new twelve-sided pound hits the streets, they’d better get on with it! Let’s see who starts innovating – could this be a “Dragons Den” opportunity?

Hold on to your ‘toque’ … the Chefs are on the run!

Over the years many chefs and restaurants have striven to emulate the standards set by the French in the field of cuisine. In the background there has been a cultural war going on as to which nation produces the best food, the best plating, the best techniques. And the perception has been that cost’ has reflected quality – if it costs less, “… then it can’t possibly be as good as Monsieur Chef down the road whose food is frightfully dearer.” Most people have heard of the Michelin Guide and some will glibly boast of having eaten at a 2-star restaurant without really knowing what that means.

modern-table-setting-1013tm-pic-1185Not many have heard of the Gault-Millau culinary ‘rankings’ (pronounced: “go meeyo”). Among the French some even regard this as the food Oscars but compare the Michelin Guide as being the mere Cannes, Palme d’Or of food – still glitzy but not as significant. But those in the know are suggesting that the halcyon days of charging a small fortune for a smear on a plate with a scallop or two and some flowers are over. Restaurateur Jean-Claude Vrinat indicates, among other things that restaurateurs “Re-examine your economic policies, and think of the consumer’s pocketbook.” Cheers from all the consumers out there! (This is what good stocktakers have been doing for their clients for years – constantly examining, re-evaluating and adjusting to keep the client and the consumers happy).

Some trivia here: apparently the Gault-Millau culinary ‘rankings’ work on a score up to 20 and then the restaurant/chef may display from one to five toques (five being the highest). A toque is the correct name for the headgear that a chef wears. Which possibly explains why the Aussies rate their chefs as “1, 2 or 3-hatted” – maybe they just don’t speak French that well.

Looks can be deceptive. This was borne out by the police in Nottingham who nabbed a beggar for something and discovered the chap was carrying £800.00 in notes and small change on him. The proceeds of his three days work. The police also don’t believe that he’s homeless, as he claimed. However they had to let him go, with the dosh. So if a pub or restaurant in that area happen to have what might look like a dodgy character pitch up and ask for a brew and a nice meal, don’t be so quick to move him on. He could be loaded and just wanting a bit of peace and quiet!

The security at Tesco had no difficulty in identifying a horse in their shop in Co Durham though. The recent craze that has been sweeping the world, “neknominations” was played out by the lass on the horse downing a Pepsi (instead of alcohol) as she accepted her nomination and then challenged some friends of hers to upload their own videos within 24 hours. (The “neknomination” challenge is to nominate someone to down a drink in one go while having it videoed, then to nominate two others to do the same within 24 hours). While some of these challenges have been accepted by the nominees with fun and good grace, there have been some tragic events in the aftermath of the craze as people seek to do more and more outrageous things to better those who have nominated them for the challenge. Others have turned their nominations into opportunities to engage in acts of kindness to others less fortunate, making the video and then challenging others to do similar things instead of consuming alcohol.

Organisations and clubs like Rutters Stocktakers, Brighton Rugby Club and others are always up for a bit of harmless fun in the same way some have used the “neknomination” opportunities given to them to help those in their communities – all it takes is planning and dedication – just like making any business a success.

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!

Break with tradition! How about resolutions all year long?

Rutters logoWho ever heard of taking stock before due time? And isn’t it traditional to do it at New Year? But  sometimes circumstances dictate that things are done differently. Take Alastair Cook for instance, he and the team have gone into the change room needing to look at their business plan for the next phase of their activities. This out of necessity (and almost a desperation) at losing the treasured urn in Perth in dramatic form with the manager, the coach and the members of the group evaluating what has gone before, where they want to be and what to do to get there.

Jon Rutter and his professionals do much the same things with their teams of players. They look back on what’s happened too and work with their clients to strategize the next stage of an overall business plan to achieve an end result. “The Ashes” of their particular field – a Michelin star, a higher rating in a tourist guide, an endorsement by a renowned chef, a glowing review by a food critic or even becoming “the place to be” for celebrities to hang out!

But successful businessmen will tell those who want to stretch beyond where they find themselves that only doing an annual “stocktake” at the end of each year in the form of a series of new year’s resolutions is a bit like relying on Mystic Meg or Camelot … a very remote chance of hitting the jackpot but not always a sure thing! Those individuals with the operations that seem to always be leading the pack will quietly tell those who care to listen that their “position” is due to constant motion so that they are never still, never satisfied, never complacent, always ready to learn and re-evaluate.

The golfer Gary Player, on being questioned about his golfing success and skill said that the more he practised the luckier he got. Another South African golfer, Ernie Els after winning a championship, accepting the trophy and winner’s cheque was seen heading to the practice tee with his coach and proceeded to hit 500 balls before retiring to the shower and the celebrations. On being questioned why, told the interviewer that he wasn’t totally satisfied with his technique and wanted to correct it while it was still fresh in his memory. Stock taking?

In this competitive world of “hospitality” whether it’s an upmarket hotel, an exclusive club, a restaurant chain or an ice cream van at Blackpool, no one is in it to be just mediocre. No one wants to be in the same position today as they were a year ago because that’s really just going backwards. From the customer perspective that’s boring and it’s probably unprofitable too. The business owner, together with his stocktaking team would be well advised to assess and revise strategy, tactics and execution in order to be ahead of the opposition. In order to be feted and to receive the accolades of customers and peers alike. It is inconceivable that anyone works so that they can fail. Setbacks can and do occur but it’s the stocking process that identifies and then remedies the shortcomings that’d keeps the business rolling forward.

So let’s hope Alistair Cook and the lads have the type of “stocktakers” a good restaurant has … The type who can pick them up from a setback and work out the right process to recover lost ground and then ultimately recover their statu – Custodians of The Ashes! The “Michelin Star” of the cricket world! The Aussies did. After their dismal performances in England a few months ago,  general opinion had them capitulating again and England retaining The Ashes till the next time at least.

Team Oz didn’t wait till the traditional time of year to reassess, they bucked convention and called the professionals together, took stock, and acted.   It seems that a three-month reassessment worked for them. If it works in the cricket world, why not hospitality? Or indeed, any industry? Old Year’s eve may be too late for that “resolution” …

It would be unfortunate to be caught on a sticky wicket with ever widening cracks appearing, making the task of batting even more and more difficult.