I’m freegan out!

Image: Philip Jackson

Image: Philip Jackson

“Freegan” Libby Russell openly bemoans the fact that she has to go into the supermarkets when she wants to treat herself to a chocolate as because she doesn’t find any in the skips that she searches through to get the perfectly good food that she uses to stock her pantry. Freegans are those folk who pick up the bargains that supermarkets have tossed out as “beyond-their-sell-by date” – the downside for the freegan community is that sometimes they have to climb in and out of huge skips and bins, but hey, it saves them a fortune in food!

Image: Rawkus

Image: Rawkus

The good news for Libby is that she won’t have to wait much longer for some binned choccies to make their appearance in the waste bins. Because 3 months prior to Christmas the little red Santa’s and reindeer themed chocolate treats are already on the shelves (probably with those same ‘festive’ music selections as the last 10 years also playing in the background) so it won’t be long before some confectionery items will have reached their “expiry date” because they were probably made a year ago anyway. Merry Christmas, Libby!

You’d think that supermarket chains would use stocktakers like Jon Rutter and his crew to plan more carefully to avoid wastage and profit loss. It is precisely the planned strategies, specialist advice and effective problem solving that stocktakers bring to a business that make winners out of pubs and restaurants. And one of the stand out statements on hearing that Tom Gee had won the Best Freehouse 2013 title was that the judges had said that they felt, “… Gee was a licensee with a clear vision and a firm grip on the direction of the business.Jessica Mason, writing for the Publican’s Morning Advertiser, goes on to list all the winners. Congratulations to them all. For them to achieve that success probably means, among other things, that they have a very firm handle on the stocktaking aspect of their business too.

With the Premiership only 40 matches old and loads more to come, choose with care where you watch the matches. You don’t want to be sitting there with your favourite pint in hand and ten minutes into an important game find some bloke coming in with wire cutters, snipping the cable and walking off with the TV-top box because the landlord hasn’t got an official connection. One landlord has been fined nearly £6500 for not having the correct commercial subscription. I wonder if she had a stocktaker? They could ensure that this type of detail gets sorted before the trouble starts.

Following on from our account of the story of the pub with no beer (town with no pubs) – some enterprising chaps in New Zealand pranked their mate by re-plumbing his house to deliver only beer from the taps. Watching the video I don’t think his girlfriend was impressed, but it made for a bit of a laugh as it was soon reversed. Beer on tap in every room, what a thought. And even though beer is supposed to be good for your hair, it does take a bit of effort to get it to lather properly. Pity that.

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!

What’s in a name? … burger all, it seems!

The management in a Tesco store didn’t find the antics of the pair masquerading as a pantomime horse quite as amusing as the person videoing their antics. The video, that went viral on YouTube, has the cameraman giggling as the ‘horse’ makes its way through the food section calling for its mom. The other shoppers seemed to see the joke – so did the cashiers. Management are so humourless.

Burger

The news that prompted this prank was that horse meat was detected in the composition of burgers and other meat products. Tesco cleaned everything off their shelves so that even people who didn’t care about it couldn’t get a burger for love nor money. And there are a huge crowd who really don’t care! One telling post on the social media that caught my attention was the one that stated “if the package had only displayed x-percentage horse meat, it would have been fine.”

The fuss, it seems, is not about the horse meat, but the fact that the ingredients weren’t spelled out. One wonders for how long the horse meat-additive has been going on for, months or (perish the thought) years? One also wonders whether people exercise the same diligence when dining as they do when shopping. Continue reading