Category Archives: Catering Business
When does the party season start for you? And when does it finish? New Year’s Day? What’s on all the menus? Turkey? Goose? Beef? Vegan platters? These are all pressing decisions! And let’s not forget the most important one – is your Rational oven Christmas-ready?
For those in catering, the oven is the most important gift over the festive season. If it breaks down, no amount of batteries or prayers will put it right. And few will be willing to sacrifice their own Christmas spirit to rush over to fix it.
There you have it, best case scenario – Christmas dinner ruined. Worst case scenario – frustrated and angry diners, potential court cases and an establishment with a very bad reputation. For restaurants and eateries who are planning to serve sumptuous banquets on and before the day, this could be catastrophic.
There is a solution: get your oven serviced now. Don’t wait for December, call AC Services (Southern) and avoid any last minute rush. We can guarantee that up until Christmas Eve, our engineers will be working flat out to cope with the inevitable panicked last minute rush!
Moreover, why not consider setting up a regular contract so that you can have peace of mind that your oven is looked after all year round? We have a number of options that suit both budget and business.
Value for money
What will you get for your money? Typically engineers will sort any of those annoying little faults that can compromise performance, if left unchecked. We keep our vans fully stocked so we can deliver a fix on the first visit in more than 95% of call-outs whilst we are with you.
- function testing and commissioning of elements
- checking the operational mode of water, gas and electrical connections
- testing electrical components, gas specific parts and steam generation.
You don’t even have to fret about forgetting the date of your scheduled Rational oven service. Every customer who gets their oven serviced will be issued with a reminder the month before it is due next year. So there’s no reason for you to conveniently forget!
Finally, make sure that you have plenty of oven cleaning materials in stock. Rational Self-Cooking-Centers have automatic cleaning programmes built into their software. When used with the right cleaning materials you get cosmetic and hygienic cleanliness.
Be prepared and make sure your Rational oven is in working order for Christmas service. Call us now and we can calmly talk you through the options available on 01454 322 222. Then you’ll have peace of mind that the Christmas season will go ahead as planned.
We may moan about the cost of living and in particular, the cost of food but a report commissioned from data research company Euromonitor shows that in the UK, in fact, we are better off than most of the world.
On average, Britons spend 8% of their total household expenditure on food eaten at home. Only America and Singapore spend less. In context, Nigerians spend 59% of their household budget on food to be eaten at home with Greeks spending 16%.
What is more, UK food consumption is the cheapest in Western Europe at 8% less than the EU average. We are spending less on food than our grandparents ever did! While housing and leisure costs have doubled in the past 60 years, the amount of household income spent on food has more than halved.
Why is this? There are many reasons, notably technology, loyalty and discounters.
Constantly advancing technology has led to food production becoming more efficient with the mechanisation of farming and speeding up of production. Transportation, storage and distribution have also improved considerably. UK trade between other countries also plays a major role. The UK currently imports about half of all its food simply because it works out cheaper to do it that way.
Nowadays, people shop around. There is very little loyalty to brands or stores and large weekly shops have given way to more frequent shopping. Discounters such as Aldi and Lidl and Jack’s are also key to the shopping routine. The former two stores have 13% of the UK’s grocery market.
Are there any threats to this state of affairs? Of course there are. The weather is a variable as always. Take 2018 as a classic example. Huge storms (remember the Beast from the East?) followed by a summer of scorching heat have wreaked havoc on crops with increased prices in supermarkets. For example, between March and July the wholesale cost of carrots rose by 80% and wheat by 20%.
Then there is the reliance on imported food. Here we must mention Brexit which has already caused the fall of the pound against the euro and the dollar, and trade disputes. Marmitegate led to Tesco temporarily dropping Unilever products when the manufacturer increased its prices. An update on the sales of Vegemite over this period is currently not available.
According to Lord Price, Conservative trade minister, a no-deal Brexit will lead to “a pretty significant increase in the cost of fruit and veg, the cost of meat and the cost of dairy products“. We will see.
Finally, our global tastes and habits are changing. There is much more demand for fresh produce rather than processed food. The vegetarian/vegan movement is extremely popular and there are more calls for organic food. Countries like China (a massive population) are becoming more affluent and making different choices when it comes to food.
It seems that the low cost of food in the UK may not be long lasting. Manufacturers and food producers will have to keep their eyes and ears open. They will need to be amenable to diversification and innovation to keep prices as low as possible through the coming uncertainty of variables such as Brexit and the weather.
It barely seems any time at all since the last Restaurant Show but apparently, it has been a whole year. And last week, it returned to Olympia in London. The Restaurant Show 2018 incorporated The Bar and Pub Show and the Catering Equipment Expo.
These three brought the hospitality industry together. Catering for those owning, operating and working in restaurants, hotels, pub, bars and hospitality establishments across the UK.
As always, the event attracted hordes of visitors for companies showcasing their products. Seminar subjects were wide ranging. From digital storytelling: the secret ingredient for social media success to what’s next for casual dining and some strong advice on creating the ultimate cheeseboard!
Other topics included combining the art of hospitality with smarter technology and the influence of the fast-moving world of coffee as well as the importance of the correct background music to create exactly the right ambience.
National Chef of the Year
One of the highlights of the three-day event was the National Chef of the Year competition. This has been running since 1972 and has become one of the UK’s most respected and sought-after culinary titles.
The ceremony saw Kuba Winkowski, head chef from The Feathered Nest Inn crowned as the new National Chef of the Year. His menu included native lobster, oyster emulsion, Yorkshire grouse, quince, and sticky toffee dessert. The runner-up spot went to George Blogg, head chef at Gravetye Manor. With Derek Johnstone, head chef at Borthwick Castle taking third place in the dramatic cook-off.
The Catering Equipment Expo proved to be the place to get a great deal on the latest products. A range of catering equipment was on display, from cookers to fridges and those strange-looking but essential items that only a cook can recognise. Among the exhibitors was Rational displaying its SelfCooking Center and VarioCooking Centers.
Food Glorious Food
Food and drink, obviously were plentiful with over 400 suppliers exhibiting at this year’s event. New products included Drunken Dairy Ltd’s selection of booze-infused dairy and free-from ice creams and vegan sorbets. The Handmade Cake Company launched its Vegan Belgian Chocolate Cake, specially designed to be 100% vegan.
The Restaurant Show 2018 celebrated its 30th birthday with an abundance of products, seminars and events aimed at anyone involved in the catering industry. Visitors were delighted with the range of advice and new initiatives aimed at maintaining the restaurant industry’s standards in the modern world, with everything needed to sustain a successful business under one roof at Olympia.
Innovation has always been the catchword for this Show. Exhibitors, seminars, live demos and new features all showcase the latest in the food industry. Billed as the number one event for business growth and expansion in the food profession, the Show was well attended by a range of food and drink entrepreneurs striving for success.
The Show ranges from the food demo arena to the franchise area, where there were businesses opportunities for sale aplenty. From sustainability through to plant-based sustenance to plastic straws, it seemed there was no subject matter left unturned.
The Delivery Zone focused on the increasing demand for delivery with more restaurants providing this option to their customers. The zone highlighted the many suppliers of the transport to get food to the customer. It also included new packaging methods to keep the food safe along the way.
The Show had discussions touching on a variety of contemporary issues. Many of these featured advances in technology as a baseline. For instance, the discussion on how to leave better feedback at a restaurant brought up digital comment boxes, such as Blurtbox. This is an intuitive app that allows guests to log in and leave private, anonymous feedback. The restaurant can then respond to these in real time. The app is centred upon the massive impact of smartphone usage, which is perfect for the modern consumer.
One of the most interesting and modern issues featured street food. A street food trader was frustrated with the outdated process of finding a pitch so he founded StreetDots. This has resulted in a network of premium trading pitches or ‘dots’ to be booked via an app. The technology gives traders the freedom to trade with no long-term commitment.
Another seminar covered the way technology helps retain staff and customers, as what happens at the table is key to their satisfaction. Customers want their order to be taken quickly and accurately. Staff want to be equipped with technology that works quickly and efficiently making their jobs easier. The forum suggested many ways to improve the service, for example by centralising customer information, analytics and marketing database in one system. Or investing in intuitive touchscreen interfaces, making them easier for staff to use and which are less likely to cause problems for customers.
Technology and innovation were at the forefront of the Food Entrepreneur Show 2018, with ideas and advice on how to ensure that the catering industry is up to date with new ideas and techniques to keep up with modern demands from discerning customers.
Summer has all but evaporated with the promised Indian summer failing to materialise. It’s time to put away the flip-flops and sun-cream and turn our attention to the winter months. For most, it’s terrifyingly close to the countdown to Christmas. Even John Lewis is confusing us with a pre-Christmas Christmas advert. For thousands of people in care homes, autumn as with winter bring other worries.
Hundreds of care homes are not meeting legal standards. These specify that food should be “suitable to sustain life and good health” says a report published in the Independent. Over the past three years, Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspectors have found numerous older people’s care homes failing on the legally required standards for nutrition and hydration. The most serious cases involve residents lasting almost a week with the equivalent of two cups of water and “minimal food”.
To meet the standards, regulations specify people’s religious and dietary needs must be catered for and adequate food provided. A survey conducted in March suggested “abuse” of older people, such as not giving enough time to complete meals, occurs in 99% of care homes. This is driven largely by staff shortages.
This is an issue that has to be addressed fast. A recent study shows that demand for care home places will rocket by more than three quarters in less than 20 years. Almost 190,000 more elderly people will require care by 2035.
If we look at catering, there’s a very worrying issue in that qualifications for care home catering are virtually non-existent. In fact, the first professional catering qualification for health and social care catering (Level 2 Award in Professional Cookery in Health and Social Care) was only officially approved by the Ofqual Regulated Qualification Framework in 2017.
The National Association of Care Catering (NACC), Hospital Caterers Association (HCA) and the awarding body of the Institute of Hospitality (IOH) developed the Level 2. It is designed for health and social care settings and offers an awareness of diet and appetite issues. It covers nutrition, hydration, food modification. Also included are the effect of dysphagia on patients and how to plan, prepare, cook and finish food for this condition.
Peter Ducker, Chief Executive, Institute of Hospitality, said: “Caterers in hospitals and care homes now have their own rigorous and specific qualification for their unique training needs. This may encourage more people to choose health and care catering as a…profession and we would urge all organisations that work in the field of health and social care to make the new qualification available.”
Funding for care homes is high on the agenda for all political parties. Not least because the belief is that the industry is at crisis point. This means inevitably that something will change soon, hopefully for the better. Having an infrastructure in place, such as specialist qualified catering staff is a positive and proactive move. With apprenticeships now back on the agenda as an alternative to higher education, there is the opportunity to recruit a new generation of chefs with a brand new qualification.
AC Services (Southern) maintains a number of Rational appliances at care homes across the South West and South Wales. We recommend Rational ovens to those care homes looking for reliability, performance and quality with their cooking requirements.
For the first time since 1976, we have enjoyed a blisteringly hot summer. The sun has shone relentlessly down on the country, bringing hordes of holidaymakers onto the motorways of Britain, heading for the sea.
So much so that Cornwall issued a ‘cannot cope’ warning last week. Visitor numbers are already up by about 20% on the 4.5 million who usually flock to the region at this time of year.
Cornwall’s tourism chief Malcolm Bell claims the county is “struggling to cope” and the tourist board has decided to stop promoting a few of the most popular beaches.
And the Isle of Skye in the Scottish Highlands is under siege from a massive surge in visitors. This has put the island’s infrastructure under pressure. Trends elsewhere suggest that the UK hotel industry will need to be able to cope with higher demand.
But on a positive note, imagine the joy of hotel owners and caterers as the mercury rises. It’s not just coastal areas that are eagerly looking forward to profits at the end of the year. London is expecting over 9,000 hotel rooms to open. This is more than the 8,000 rooms that opened in 2012, the Olympic year.
2017 had a boost to inbound holidays from the weak pound. But despite fears of a lull in 2018, there is a lot of optimism. Factors influencing travel to the UK in 2018 were the Royal Wedding, Farnborough International Air Show, the European Sports Championships in Scotland, the Gymnastics World Cup in Birmingham and the Terracotta Warriors to the World Museum in Liverpool.
The International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF2018) was held back in March and good news came from it. Last year economic outlook at the time was cautious, but this year, there was plenty of optimism.
Marc Socker, Managing Director of investment management firm Invesco, asserted that there was more interest than he had ever seen in the sector. “First and foremost, hotels is a growth sector,” also pointing out that only 4% of Chinese nationals currently have passports and 5% of Indians. In addition, it is quite mind-boggling to realise that 90% of Americans do not have passports. “Every increase of 1% (in those populations with passports) leads to tens of millions of new travellers coming into the European market,” he maintained.
After this summer, with the forecast for more similar sun-baked summers to follow, investors could do worse than put their money into resorts and complexes. The UK has a wealth of coastal accommodation. With hotter and longer summers, the UK hotel industry is ideally positioned to attract new investment and offer the UK as an alternative to other European or Mediterranean destinations.
The UK has one of the best heritages of any country. It is renowned for its historic locations and its excellent cuisine. Some of the best chefs in the world were if not born here, then settled and opened restaurants here. The UK hotel industry has to seize every opportunity to attract visitors and tempt them to the country’s shores.
This summer has reinforced the great British love of visiting amusement and theme parks. The fabulous weather has been a godsend to these venues. An increased amount of visitors are taking advantage of a thoroughly enjoyable, dry day out.
Globally, attendance at the world’s top theme park groups increased by 8.6% from 438 million to 476 million visitors in 2017. Figures suggest that this year, it will be even higher. Globally, Disney theme parks dominate the market, with the USA leading the way in numbers and profit.
In 2017 in the UK, surprisingly, Legoland came out ahead of both Alton Towers and Thorpe Park in terms of attendance and profit. However, the usual suspects of bad weather, economic decline and political instability last year are the main reasons behind a less-than-enthusiastic public and lacklustre results.
Pressure for New Experiences
There is constant pressure on theme park and amusement parks to enhance the experience to attract more visitors. Unfortunately, confidence has been hit when it comes to new rides. Too many teething problems and horror stories have emerged in the past few years and the public are therefore wary of racing to try new rides. So the call is for new attractions to be multifaceted to embrace new technologies.
Technology to the Rescue
Virtual reality is well established in the gaming world and some believe that it has a future in theme parks. The idea is that VR can revitalise an old ride with significantly less cost than building a brand new one. It can also add a new dimension to a branded attraction. This is exemplified by Europa-Park in France developing a new VR Paddington attraction and Hong Kong set to open its first VR roller coaster.
Augmented reality is another revelation that can be of use to theme parks. AR overlays the real world with the digital world, rather than replacing it. Both Disney and Apple are expressing interest in the AR trend. Disney filed a patent for projection-based AR to enable visitors to experience AR without headsets. The technology is in its infancy but it is one to be watched.
Disney is also looking further into bots, filing a patent for robot characters. Japan based theme park Huis Ten Bosch has announced that two thirds of its staff will be replaced by robots. This leads to speculation that bots could have a future in managing the infrastructure of attractions and reducing labour costs.
Finally, facial and voice recognition are expected to play a major role in the design and operation of interactive rides in the future where guests control the outcome or path of the experience. Disney is believed to be looking into rides that can be customised from reading the visitor’s emotional reactions based on facial recognition.
Keep Up With Modern Trends
Amusement and theme parks are constantly evolving to make the experience even better for visitors. Modern technology is expected to play a major role in the future. With this new level of sophistication comes an opportunity for street vendors and caterers to provide food and beverages that challenge the traditional fare of burger, chips, pizza and hot dogs.
The price of theme park entry encourages a full day visit rather than a few hours. Catering must therefore optimise the opportunity to offer a wide variety of food for all mealtimes.
Food and drink have hit the headlines again over the past week. With the sighting of a nine-foot shark off the coast of Cornwall and four smaller, but nonetheless impressive sharks caught in Devon. SW food buyers are checking supermarket fish carefully for fins.
The nut industry has been given a boost with the news that a diet rich in nuts could improve male fertility. According to a new study, “nut-rich diets produce a higher sperm count and more powerful swimmers.” A clinical trial was conducted over 14 weeks that found better sperm in the healthy young men aged 18-35 who supplemented their usual diet with 60 grams/day of mixed nuts, including almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts. Those in the nut group had significant improvements in their sperm.
Scorching New Flavours
It’s good news for ice cream manufacturers too, with retailers reporting a sales increase of over 100% on this time last year. Waitrose has experienced a massive lift in sales with ‘adult’ ice lollies topping the frozen treats charts with an increase in sales of 188%. This is a perfect example of diversity: from Fab to Ab Fab! Ice cream manufacturers have found a new grown up market although a frozen old-fashioned orange jubbly is still hard to be beat when it comes to cooling down.
SW Food Exports
Food and drink have been in the news in the South West and Wales this week with news that exports of SW food and drink have increased year on year to £760 million to March 2018. This is an increase of 7% compared to the previous 12 months, according to the latest HMRC figures. Meat was the most popular product (£97m) followed by dairy products and eggs (£148m).
It appears that China is benefiting the most from these exports, perhaps capitalising on the Brexit uncertainty and the trade tariffs enforced by the Trump administration. 24% more food and drink was exported to the country compared to the previous 12 months.
Food Minister George Eustice said: “Our food is known for its high quality and great taste and there has been a huge growth in the worldwide demand for British produce. Through the Food is GREAT campaign the government provides invaluable support to food and drink companies in the South West so they can access foreign markets and see their businesses grow.” It seems to be working then.
Finally, Bristol is being defiant in the face of fears that cheese, milk, butter and yoghurt imported from the EU could become much more expensive after Brexit. Yes, haloumi is at risk. But a Bristol-based agricultural expert has said it is an “opportunity” for those West Country dairy farmers and businesses to expand and diversify.
Food and drink industry expert, Graeme Fearon said: “before Wallace and Gromit think about emigrating, perhaps the market can be relied upon to save itself. In theory, every EU producer which finds itself unable to sell competitively to the UK is an opportunity for West Country farmers and businesses to expand their ranges and diversify their offerings.”
And the news from AC Services this month is our engineers are saying “if you think it’s hot in your kitchen, try driving my van in this weather to get to you on time!“
So far this year we have been spoiled rotten. Not only have we had the best run of good weather since 1976 but the World Cup has boosted the country like never before…well, not since 1990. Images of English football fans enjoying themselves have been flashed around the world.
There is no doubt that had we won the World Cup, the economy would have benefited exponentially. In the short term it has provided a major boost for pubs and clubs as people gathered to watch the games. These are the sort of in-country tourists that are often forgotten.
And don’t forget Mr Trump’s ‘I’ll Fix Brexit Singlehandedly’ tour. His controversial presence in the UK has sent pictures around the world, with people from all nations curious to see how he was received. The myriad snaps of him in Marine One on his way to iconic locations such as Blenheim Palace, Chequers, Windsor Castle and the inside of the Sun newspaper offices put the UK at the forefront of the world’s media.
2018 Inbound Tourism Forecast
The VisitBritain forecast for 2018 is for 41.7 million visits, an increase of 4.4% on 2017 which saw record highs with overseas visitors reaching 40.3 million. £26.9 billion in visitor spending is forecast, an increase of 6.8% on 2017.
Brexit looms with uncertainty as always and the ongoing value of the pound is a key variable. In financial terms, the pound remains much lower than its pre-referendum level and is forecast to continue to be weak throughout the medium term, indicating that Britain will remain a good value-for-money destination.
A spokesman from GlobalData commented: “The pound’s Brexit drop has rendered business and leisure trips to the UK more affordable, luring a growing number of European travellers.”
The UK economy has been boosted also by the emergence of countries such as Russia and Brazil from recession. China, India and much of South East Asia are continuing to grow at a rapid pace and residents of these countries are making plans to visit Britain.
Regional Success and the Future
Figures show 2017 was a record year for tourists in the South West, with South Devon particularly bolstered by a rise in tourism numbers. Some of the towns that attracted the most attention were Teignmouth, Dawlish, Salcombe and Exmouth, with 75% of visits to the website in 2017 from new visitors.
Bristol is hoping that its new museum, Being Brunel will attract more visitors. And the amazing weather has led to more and more people heading for the South West beaches.
With all indications that tourism will remain constantly buoyant over the next five years, it is an ideal opportunity for the food industry to capitalise on the current food diversity trends. Street food, pop-up restaurants and alternative food venues can help to create a Britain that can be lauded for its food as well as its locations. Catering should remain confident in its future investments to profit from tourists from home and abroad.
According to the BBC’s Good Food guide, there are new restaurant food trends that diners are enjoying in 2018.
The keywords are health, the environment and the community which have translated into exciting new trends in food and drink.
One of the most innovative is gut-friendly foods, which comprise probiotics like kimchi, kefir and miso and prebiotics such as onions, garlic and other alliums. It’s all about plant-based diets and root-to-stem eating.
Diets are focused on produce rather than meat with people shifting away from highly processed foods towards whole foods. In addition, there are now a reported 550,000 vegans in the UK, up 360% over the past 10 years. This means that tastes are shifting and restaurant food is having to become more adventurous and creative to accommodate this new demographic.
The faux meat industry is booming as more chefs embrace ingredients such as chickpeas, falafel, tempeh and tofu, and food technicians globally are working hard to develop a range of faux meat products.
In America, there’s a company that not only produces a totally plant-based burger but there’s a secret, not-on-the-market-yet added ingredient called heme which gives the faux meat a blood-like appearance for those who (used to) like their meat rare.
The Arrival of Hemp
Hemp is the new superfood. It is a highly nutritious source of “quality plant-based protein” according to Paul Benhaim, the CEO of Elixinol Global, which makes hemp product.
Hemp is an excellent source of omega-3 and omega-6, essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. Perhaps the easiest way to consumer hemp is via the seeds which a number of restaurants are now using as a garnish. Despite coming from the same plant species as cannabis, the tetrahydrocannabinol (the hallucinogenic component in cannabis) level in hemp is minimal.
Increasingly, restaurants are using all parts of a food to minimise waste. This root-to-stem eating is a fantastic foodie trend requires diners to eat the whole fruit or vegetable.
For example, don’t throw broccoli stems away. Simply slice them into little discs and roast them as an alternative to croutons. In the same way, pickles can be made out of watermelon rind and crunchy garnishes made from baked potato peelings.
I Can’t Believe …
Keep an eye out for the new craft cultured butter. Butter Culture has produced a new batch of churned cultured butter. This uses local Jersey cow milk produced from English bred Jersey dairy cows, a healthy bacteria culture and a dash of naturally mineral rich Himalayan pink rock salt. It is a traditional Scandinavian recipe. The lactose eat the sugars and carbohydrates in the cream and produce specific lactic acids. These are incredibly rich in butter flavours.
Also note that the unicorn trend so popular at the beginning of the year is out and purple is in. Apparently, instagram is responsible in part for this trend…purple food is incredibly photogenic.
Finally, drinks. 2018 is seeing the return of historic small beers with low ABV, mead, port and vermouth appearing on cocktail bar menus. This reaffirms the idea that alcohol should be for enjoyment, rather than just the obvious side effects. Confirming once again the key restaurant food trends are health combined with flavour.