Category Archives: Catering Business
When the Prime Minister announced yesterday that most pubs and catering businesses could re-open or extend beyond a delivery service on 4th July, many in the sector were already wondering how. In the end it will boil down to an individual business choice.
A Bit of a Muddle
Official guidance and guidelines on what’s required were not available on 23rd June. Indeed, googling catering guidance brings up the Scottish government response as the first option. Given that the opportunity to open only applies to England, that’s not particularly helpful. But we are assured that the guidelines will be updated soon. In reality this will be too late for a 4th July opening for those who decide to open.
As the AC Services’ region is South West England and South Wales, we have some customers who can consider opening and some who won’t hear until 9th July. This is when the Welsh Assembly is next due to announce its decision.
In catering, timing and communication are everything. All catering businesses need to consider whether they wish to meet the opportunity of opening on 4th July or to start communicating to their clients the date when they will be open. They can then plan accordingly and manage the risks.
What might catering businesses need to do?
Details are sketchy of what might be required. It became further confused with the reduction of the 2m to 1m rule. What may be needed is to:
- Provide mandatory table service for drinks as well as meals
- Require staff to wear face masks and wash hands every 20 minutes
- Use app-ordering by customers at table
- Reduce the numbers of tables to comply with distancing rules
- Provide options for sitting outside and perhaps Perspex screens between tables for those inside
- Take all customer details to enable contact tracing should an outbreak occur.
Consider your team and your catering equipment?
Ultimately to open or not after 4th July is a business decision. This should consider whether there is sufficient demand from your customers to fill your restricted venue delivered by a trained team of staff supported by fully operational equipment. This was the decision faced by AC Services at the beginning of lockdown.
As we maintain and service Rational ovens in hospitals and other key services, we could not fully close. We did however have to furlough staff to balance demand against potential income.
With clients already preparing to re-open, we’re getting increasing calls to service Rational ovens. This allows us to unfurlough engineers as the sector begins to get back on its feet.
Calling us before opening allows us to schedule the engineer visits outside of service hours. This minimises both covid-19 risks and the chaos caused when a machine fails in-service. We’d recommend that if your machines have not been used for some time, that they are serviced first as the best way to save costs.
But we also recognise that some businesses will take the risk given Rational’s reputation for reliability. We’re sure that those businesses will understand if we are unable to respond immediately, as we used to, until we have our own team back at full strength. And if it does happen do call us on 01454 322 222 so we can discuss your options.
While this will be our last blog for a while due to the impacts of coronavirus, we are still open for key sites with our core crew. If you’ve had to close please follow our Rational oven close down tips below.
So, if you’re a hospital, care home or an off-site food company with a maintenance contract with AC Services you’re still covered for any breakdowns that occur. If this does happen please call the normal number 01454 322 222 and speak to Helen. She will arrange for our engineer to visit to repair the breakdown.
If you’re already a connectedcooking kitchen, we are able to remotely monitor and identify the fault, which can minimise the time we need to spend with you.
If you’re a not a regular AC Services customer, but have a breakdown on a Rational oven in the area we cover of South West England and Southern Wales; we might be able to assist you if you are a key site such as a hospital or care facility.
As we’re sure you understand, we are prioritising our established client base and responding to their breakdowns. This unfortunately means we cannot promise to assist you as promptly as normal and may mean our engineer will be diverted elsewhere. But for key facilities, we will try to help repair your Rational breakdown if we can.
Continuing Business and Key Sites
Obviously, we need to continue to operate within the guidelines issued by the government to minimise the spread of coronavirus. We are considering what impacts this has on the need to regularly service Rational ovens to prevent breakdowns and how we can deliver this over the longer term.
In the meantime, we’d urge customers to ensure that the weekly and daily maintenance routines are adhered to using the approved products. These are available from our on-line shop if your stocks are running low.
Rational Oven Close Down Procedures
If you have closed your kitchen then please do the following for your Rational oven close down.
- Find the water supply and isolate the unit.
- Use the Handshower until it is empty.
- Power off unit and leave door partially open
When returning unit to operation, return power and water
- Use hand shower to rinse water feed system
- Run unit in steam for 30 minutes
- Run short cleanjet
Or for Rational CareControl SG range
- Find the water supply and isolate the unit.
- Use the Handshower until it is empty.
- Follow instructions above to empty tank. If this does not work with the door closed, repeat with door open
- Power off unit and leave door partially open
When returning unit to operation, return power and water
- Use hand shower to rinse water feed system
- Run unit in steam for 30 minutes
- Run short cleanjet
Keeping in Touch
While there won’t be any blogs for the next few weeks, please follow us on Facebook for any updates. Or if you are spending time creating a new strategy for your business why not check out our earlier blogs on trends in catering businesses and show reports.
No one needs telling that we’re living in desperate times when the government orders the closure of catering businesses.
Those who are offering a takeaway or distribution service are currently exempt.
But when the likes of MacDonalds, Costa and Nando’s voluntarily decide to close to protect staff; it’s time to see what has been put in place already for Covid19 and catering businesses.
Government Specific Help for Catering Businesses
Following the Chancellor’s announcements there is some useful information on covid-19 support on the government’s pages . Check this out for the latest info and updates.
The government’s interventions are primarily about continuity so that when the crisis ends pubs, restaurants, hotels, mass catering and leisure facilities are still around to begin trading again.
The first is for staff under the Coranavirus Job Retention Scheme. Here a grant will cover 80% of retained but non-working employees pay. This is capped to a monthly salary of £2,500 equivalent to £30,000 pa. It’s backdated to March 1st and will in the first instance run for 3 months to the end of May. It could be extended. Now is a good time to have an open and honest conversation with staff about balancing pay and a future job. And then getting a grant for the majority of that cost.
The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme focuses on the business who turns over under £45M. This provides a government-backed guarantee for 80% of the loan amount. The government will pay the first 12 months interest. The maximum term of the loan is 6 years.
Here the government is enabling catering business to access loans where previous the answer would be no and giving an interest holiday. The full loan amount will need to be repaid. Consider what essential items could benefit from being covered by a loan; and then how you would be able to pay it back from 2021.
Covid-19 Tax and Reclaim Breaks
With immediate effect, all VAT is deferred to the next quarter so the next payment date for any outstanding is the end of June. But treat this carefully as the VAT will need to be paid at that time. And with limited or no income coming in, it will be difficult to replenish that pot.
If you are having tax payment difficulties, the best advice is to call 0800 0159 559 to discuss the Time to Pay scheme. Do this at the earliest opportunity, not at the last minute.
If staff are unfortunate to catch Covid-19 then with an isolation note from NHS111online, as an employer you can reclaim 2 weeks statutory sick pay.
Local Authority Support for Covid19 and Catering Businesses
Some catering businesses have opted to provide or expand their takeaway meals services. This is a good way to liquidate stock or to maintain limited supply from key suppliers. Some local authorities have been quick with suitable advice such as Monmouthshire .
More significantly there are a number of business rate measures that will be enacted by your local authority. These require no action on your part. Business rates for those in hospitality, retail and leisure have been abolished for the Tax Year 2020-2021. A new statement will be issued by your local council.
Local councils will also administer the Retail and Hospitality Grant Scheme and notify you directly. This is based upon rateable value:
- If your rateable value is up to £15,000 you can get a cash grant of £10,000
- For those between £15,001 and £51,000, the grant is £25,000
- Farm shops and micro businesses are not left out. If you are in receipt of Small Business Rate Relief or Rural Rate Relief; there is a one-off grant of £10,000.
Cashflow is King
For catering businesses cashflow has always been king. Now more than ever, owners and managers need to look very carefully at their budgets and costs. Work out what is necessary, deal with people honestly and respectfully and access what is available to help for covid19 and catering businesses.
At AC Services Southern we look forward to working with you in any way we can; so that your business can revive when this crisis is over.
There really is only one topic of conversation at this time – the coronavirus pandemic.
This global issue is everyone’s business and unusually, there is very little solid advice or predictions about the future.
Indeed the advice changes daily and the impacts are increasing substantially. Events have been cancelled or postponed, airlines have folded and the streets, especially in Italy, are deserted.
So what does this mean for the UK food and drink industry? The answer is simple. We don’t know. None of us. Yet. The only thing that is certain is that the sector has to respond to current and future circumstances…and fast.
First, let’s debunk a few myths. We are not going to run out of toilet paper. Antibiotics have no effect on the virus; neither does spraying your body with alcohol, eating garlic, taking cold or hot baths; or avoiding Chinese takeaways. As a virus, it is airborne, therefore it can be carried anywhere by the air and therefore, it’s inevitable.
Cleanliness is being urged. This message is getting through as we can see from the global shortage in hand sanitisers. While some branches of KFC are already removing its ‘finger-lickin’ good’ slogan to support the cleanliness message.
On a more serious note, the food and drink supply chain will inevitably be affected. A major outbreak of the virus could result in permanently empty shelves, panic buying and food riots in a worst case scenario; but retailers have ready-made plans in place. For example, Tesco has been practising ‘multiday simulation’ exercises with different teams preparing responses to a flu pandemic. There will be a priority list of products drawn up by the supermarkets to ensure that, again, in a worst case scenario, staple food groups will be available to all. On the plus side, the frozen food industry is benefiting: sales of frozen food have seen notable increases.
Ian Wright, the chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, said “at this stage, supply chains have experienced disruption; but there is no evidence of significant disruption to food supplies. UK food and drink manufacturers have robust procedures in place.”
The industry will be more affected by the cancellation of events. The food and drink sector relies heavily on revenue from outdoor concerts, festivals and other events. The loss of this revenue will hit hard. Plays on Broadway in America have already been cancelled; theatres in the UK are clsoing. Sporting events are being postponed and football matches are being played in closed stadiums.
Coming on the back of the excessive flooding experienced earlier this year in many areas, pubs are feeling the pinch. According to Coffer Peach Business Tracker, pubs saw a decline in both food and drink sales, down 3.9% and 4.6% respectively, with managed pub groups also seeing collective like-for-like sales fall 4.2%. The sector, as a whole, saw like-for-like sales dip 3.3% compared to February last year.
Executive director Trevor Watson believes there may be a redistribution of trade with local pubs and restaurants seeing trade sustained as people stay local. “People will not shut themselves away indefinitely and will see smaller scale local pubs and restaurants as less of a health risk,” he predicts.
But as of 16th March even this prediction may fall flat; with the advice to stay away from pubs and restaurants. But with no government ban on this, various insurances have not been triggered that might allow the business to deal with no trade for longer.
The coronavirus impacts food and drink supply chains and global trade but to what extent, we are unsure. It goes without saying that panic buying will only make things worse. We have lived through and survived other viral infections and we will survive this one however severe it becomes.
ExCeL London played host last week to HRC, the industry event formerly known as Hotelympia. Billed as the UK’s most prestigious and largest event for the foodservice and hospitality industry, HRC was split into four exhibitions: The Professional Kitchen Show; The Foodservice Show; Interiors and Tabletop Show and Hospitality Tech Show.
All four offer industry professionals the opportunity to meet with a wide range of leading suppliers. This gives the chance to test, taste and source new products and business services to drive their business forward.
There was plenty going on over the three days: the UK Coffee in Good Spirits Championship (UKCiGS) and UK Brewers Cup Championship (UKBrCC), the World Food Innovation Awards (a celebration of innovation and excellence across every category of the global food industry), and the Hospitality Jobs UK Conference.
Unique to the show is The HRC Buyers Club, the UK’s only dedicated hosted buyer scheme for the foodservice and hospitality industry. The Club is only accessible to specifiers and procurement professionals from leading restaurants, hotels and catering businesses. They were able to test, taste and trial the latest product innovations. Exclusive networking and educational opportunities were also available.
The International Salon Culinaire is the UK’s largest and most prestigious chef competition programme with four competition categories: Live Theatre, Salon Display, Skills Theatre and Sugarcraft. There were more than 100 different competitions taking place. The Salon Live Theatre was a great attraction. This year it was dragged into the 21st century with every station having state-of-the-art equipment including a combination oven and induction pads for the benefit of the talented chefs. The competition programme incorporated a huge variety of classes for chefs of all levels (apprentices, students and those new to competitions). The sugar-craft section hosted a range of different competitions attracting entries in a wide variety of styles and themes.
The Vision Stage offered talks, discussions and interviews from influencers and industry-leading speakers on everything concerning the food, drink and hospitality industries.
Topics ranged from employing a homeless person or ex-offender and the role of culture as a game changer when recruiting. There were also informative talks on the Brexit effect, looking at the impact Brexit is set to have on employment and immigration law.
The Covered Market
The Covered Market is aimed at chefs, F&B purchasers and restaurateurs. It enabled visitors to meet local, independent raw ingredient suppliers to gain an understanding into how their produce can help transform menus.
It covered artisanal producers across six specialist categories: fresh fish, dairy, fresh produce, bakery, butchery and herbs, spices and pulses.
Finally, TechX at HRC gave a fascinating insight into technology’s role in sustainability for the foodservice industry, how tech reduces wastage and delivers transparency.
Information included using AI and big data to improve the customer journey and the benefit of harnessing social media as well as exploring the tech available to source new staff and fill gaps at short notice.
Hospitals will be increasingly in the news over the coming months as the country copes with coronavirus. AC Services Southern already maintains a number of hospitals’ Rational equipment to ensure that their kitchens are fully functioning, whatever the demands.
We were particularly pleased when Rational UK decided to film conversations with the Royal United Hospital Bath about the reasons why they choose to go with Rational. Find out about the savings, HACCP benefits, ConnectedCooking and improved product for their 46,000 meals a month on the video.
What the video doesn’t show is the support provided by ourselves on a service contract as the local certified Rational Service Partner. This support is both regular service and maintenance calls and through alerts generated through the ConnectedCooking functionality. This combination enables the Rational equipment to deliver consistently high standards with lower stress for the chefs.
Looking after Catering Staff during the Coronavirus Crisis
Hospital resources will be stretched with potentially 1 in 5 of the workforce affected. Thankfully most of these will be mild cases, but they will still be contagious. The official advice is if you have a cough, a high temperature or shortness of breath then phone the doctor. Don’t attend in person as this potentially increases the spread of the disease amongst those least able to cope.
For catering businesses themselves, then good food hygiene practices are key to reduce the potential to spread coronavirus. Hopefully already catering staff are:
- catching sneezes and coughs in disposable tissues and then washing their hands
- avoiding touching their eyes, nose and mouth
- washing hands regularly ideally with soap and water for 20 seconds as though they were a surgeon preparing for an op. So, no touching of taps without a paper towel afterwards.
A change in the routine might be the provision for staff of anti-bacterial hand gel to keep service flowing. This is less effective than soap and water, but for those handling crockery and cutlery allows more regular use. Be aware though that repeated use of hand gel can dry skin; out so perhaps provide some end of shift hand lotion. Alternatively, now might be the time to resurrect waiters in white gloves!
Please don’t be surprised if your AC Services engineer asks to wash his hands on arrival and just before leaving your business. We’re already planning how to minimise contagion so that we can give our hospital and catering clients the service they need at this critical time.
Billed as the biggest and best trade show in the South West for the food and drink sector; the Source Trade Show 2020 took place last week at Westpoint in Exeter.
Here visitors sampled speciality foods and quality drinks and were inspired by ideas for hospitality and corporate entertainment. More than 200 exhibitors gathered from far and wide with 45 first-time exhibitors. It’s not just local produce on offer. Exhibitors also included innovative cooking equipment, venue furniture and the latest EPoS systems as well as advanced business services.
Among the new exhibitors were BeeWraps. This is a natural way to wrap food without the fear of any toxins leaching into the food. With zero waste, and made from 100% cotton, beeswax, pine rosin and a touch of jojoba oil; the wraps are ideal where plastic is usually used, for instance, sandwiches, fruit, cheese, fresh bread. They are also reusable.
Drink and Be Merry
For those who enjoy a little tipple, British Mûre Liqueurs exhibited small batch liqueurs from the winner of the UK Masterchef, Mat Follas. Their liqueurs on offer included Just Blackberry, Blackberry Gin, Marmalade Whisky, Roast Coffee and Rum and Properly Bitter Lemon. All of the products are made with no artificial colours or preservatives with minimum sugars used.
Still with the alcohol, Deck Chair Gin was on display with its award-winning smooth, light and refreshing 3D London Dry Gin. This is created in the heart of the English Riviera. It is crafted with seven botanicals using pure Dartmoor spring water, sweet on the tongue with a refreshing zesty orange finish. The gin is created in small batches using traditional methods and modern technology.
Cocktails All Round
New for 2020, Cocktails and Charcuterie went down a storm. Obviously, a collaboration between Somerset Charcuterie and Ginjar, the feature offered innovative flavour pairings between award-winning charcuterie and refreshingly twisted gin. Participants enjoyed pairings such as air-dried duck with burnt orange gin; black pepper salami and burnt orange gin and fennel salami with rhubarb and ginger gin.
Not Just Drink
The Innovation Kitchen brought together a variety of inspiring chefs and passionate artisans. The South West Chef of the Year winners demonstrated their winning dishes amongst other features. The programme included talks on food allergies and intolerances with Richard Valder, owner of @Angela’s in Exeter. As a small restaurant it can be tricky adapting menus to suit lots of specific dietary needs. Richard shared some of his tried-and-tested methods.
There were also demonstrations from Jim Fisher, head chef and co-owner of Exeter Cookery School. He served up a range of techniques to simplify breakfast. This included tips and tricks on how to serve the perfect poached egg time after time. He also demonstrated how to plan and produce the perfect picnic.
Ash Hamilton of The Curious Kitchen explained how to handle vegans, vegetarians and allergies; and how he creates an atmosphere that welcomes all kinds of eaters. His menu includes a whole host of fantastic dishes that focus on local, high-quality ingredients first and foremost.
The Source Trade Show 2020 demonstrated the great opportunities to learn from others in the South West on how to stay abreast of current trends.
As an authorised Rational Service and Spares Partner, AC Services Southern repairs and maintains the complete range of Rational units. This includes the VarioCookingCenter previously sold under the Frima brand. So this week we’re focusing on that as one of the units we service for clients across South West England and South Wales.
Rational’s VarioCookingCenter® is the ideal multi-functional appliance for any kitchen because it can do a multitude of cooking tasks at the same time. The beauty of the appliance is the value it offers – savings in time, cost, speed and ultimately, profits.
The VarioCookingCenter® is suitable for any catering requirements, from small caterers to high-end restaurants. With over 95% efficiency, it cooks up to four times faster than conventional appliances. And uses up to 40% less power consumption.
Moreover, it has cooking versatility, letting you cook several different dishes quickly at the same time. The multi-functional cooking technology lets you bake, boil, roast, toast, braise, deep fry and a host of other cooking techniques. So if you are serving a full English breakfast; you can serve up the fried bacon, boiled eggs, sautéed tomatoes and toast all at the same time.
The appliance also offers a pressure-cooking feature, enabling the reduction of cooking times for a range of dishes. Times for soups, stews, casseroles and braised dishes can be cut by 30% without compromising taste or quality. The built-in cooking intelligence VarioCookingControl® ensures the desired cooking level is achieved precisely.
Another major benefit of the VarioCookingCenter is its space-saving value. If you are tight on space, then this system is the perfect solution. It has an integrated water outlet which allows draining without any movement to the pan. This prevents scalding and allows the appliance to be installed without a floor channel drain. Furthermore, because nothing sticks or overcooks, cleaning time is minimised.
The appliance has been designed by experts using intensive R&D, testing and analysis to attain the optimum cooking intelligence. As a result, the VarioCookingCenter works day and night with minimal monitoring or checking required. Because the appliance sensitively regulates the temperature at the touch of a button, you get a perfect cooking result the next morning. This is a major boost for larger cuts of meat that need overnight boiling like ham or cured pork, beef and brisket.
The VarioCookingCenter is a sustainable and holistic approach to everyday cooking designed for resource savings using the very latest technology. Contact us here at AC Services (Southern) for more details if you need it serviced or maintained on 01454 322 222.
If you’d like to buy one, contact Rational UK or attend a local cooklive demonstration to see its suitability for your business.
With the ongoing debates on climate change and with plant-based foods on the increase in terms of both popularity and availability; the meat industry is being vocal in explaining the “vital importance of livestock farming” to the South West region.
At a recent seminar, stakeholders heard from a panel of industry experts and farmers. They educated visitors on a sector often unfairly blamed for its contribution to global warming.
The seminar focused on long-standing reports that livestock farming involved a choice between food production and caring for the environment. This has long been a contested issue. As Jonathan Foot, head of environment at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) pointed out, producing one kilo of beef takes a fraction of the water used to produce two pairs of jeans. He also highlighted the high nutritional value of meat.
NFU president Minette Batters said: “UK farming has some of the highest standards in the world both in terms of animal welfare and the environment…we need to encourage a return to whole foods.” The seminar also advocated the benefits of livestock resources to improve the quality of soil. This is becoming degraded but good soil equates to better crops. Livestock is also a source of natural fibres which will become more important in the move away from plastics.
Farmers in Wales are also having their say. This follows a statement by the UK Government’s Committee on Climate Change hinting at the need for taxes on meat and dairy products to curb consumption by a fifth. There is also the suggestion of increasing UK tree cover from 13% to at least 17% by 2050.
According to the Farmers Union of Wales; even if all UK food production ceased overnight, the carbon emissions of the country would fall by just 10%. Farmers believe that introducing such measures will simply increase Britain’s reliance on food imported from countries with greater carbon footprints. This clearly defeats the object.
FUW president Glyn Roberts commented: “as acknowledged by the Committee, switching away from UK red meat would increase the nation’s carbon footprint because we have some of the lowest greenhouse gas emissions of meat reared anywhere in the world.” In addition, farmers in the uplands of Wales argue that on windswept thin soils; only livestock rearing is suitable as crop production is impractical.
Moreover, the union stressed that plant-based foods aren’t necessarily more environmentally friendly. All manufactured food, it argues is very dependent on agricultural systems and available natural resources; as well as transportation and how far the product has travelled.
Give Us Your Food
Meanwhile, down in Devon, ‘imaginative’ stallholders and food sellers are being sought for the 2020 festival in Exmouth in May. The four-day event is the largest free festival in the South West and now in its 24th year.
An Exmouth Festival spokesperson said: “We’re looking for imaginative and customer-focused local food sellers, offering a wide variety of tasty choices for our hungry festival-goers to cater for their different tastes and diets”. Time to get your applications in!
There’s good news for a change. Reports published today show that for the first time in a decade, UK pub numbers have risen. According to the Office for National Statistics, the number rose by 0.8%. And the main reason is down to food sales.
In 2003, four in 10 employees within the UK pub industry worked behind the bar and three were employed in the kitchen; but today, the story is very different. Pubs and bars across the UK now employ 457,000 people and of this, food staff make up 43.8% of employees.
It seems that going for a pint has transfigured into going out for a meal. This is very good news for the industry. Despite the significant closures seen over the past few years, there has been an increase in jobs. With 7,000 (an increase of 16%) more jobs in the sector in 2019 compared with 2018.
There is no doubt that our consumer habits are changing with pubs having to diversify to accommodate these changes. It may come as a surprise that one of the largest chains, J D Wetherspoon, serves more coffee than any other restaurant, except for Costa.
But the chain has proved it can put its money where its mouth is. It announced last month that would inject £200m into the business over the next five years, with the creation of 10,000 new jobs and new pubs.
In the same vein, independent and smaller pubs are serving coffee, tea and breakfast to attract a different demographic such as women and families.
These changing habits are further reflected in a report just out. This confirms vegan food to be on the increase, with sales of meat-free foods expected to exceed £1.1bn by 2024.
In 2019, more than one in four new food product launches were labelled vegan. Last year, a smorgasbord of meals and snacks aimed at vegans, vegetarians and flexitarians went on the market. The uncontested leader of the pack being the outrageously popular Gregg’s vegan sausage roll.
14% of Britons consider themselves flexitarian, meaning they consume meat occasionally but their diet is mainly plant-based. This is twice as many as vegans, vegetarians and pescatarians combined. And those cutting down on meat soared from 28% in 2017 to 39% in 2019. Sales of meat-free foods rose to an estimated £816m in 2019, up 40% from £582 million in 2014.
Still Pressure for Smaller Pubs
It was also reported that the number of micropubs, small pubs and bars in the UK saw a rise in 2019 by 0.4%, the first time in over 15 years that the net figure has increased. This category is defined as those with under 10 employees, however, it is also under a great deal of strain faced with challenges such as business rates, beer duty and price matching with the big chains.
Hugh Stickland, senior statistician at the ONS, said: “While smaller pubs have been struggling to survive in recent years, bigger pubs have been growing in number. We’ll have to wait to see if this marks a revival for smaller ‘locals’.“