Category Archives: Catering Business
Fast food and mass catering may appear to be the invention of the 20th century but catering for the masses transcends millennia. Evidence has been excavated at the site of the Pyramids. This revealed a mess hall for the workers, long benches and tables and fish and meat bones. Armies throughout history were fed en masse (possibly not with the healthiest food but fed nonetheless) so catering as a trade has a long heritage.
The modern idea of fast food evolved with the inception of the motor industry where it became easier for people to pop into a store to buy a burger. By the 1950s in the USA, fast food was in full swing. It wasn’t long before heavy advertising and the introduction of children’s meals made it a firm favourite. Today, the global contribution of fast food outlet revenue is in the region of £500 billion.
Fast Food Growing
According to a recent report in the Guardian, the total number of takeaway food shops in England has risen by 4,000 in the past three years. This is an increase of 8%. There are currently 56,638 takeaways in England. They comprises more than 25% of all the country’s food outlets.
Many of the 326 local authorities in the UK have seen significant increases in the number of fast food outlets. Between 2014 and 2017, 20 record rises of more than 20%. Only 40 councils (12%) have seen the number of fast food outlets fall or stay the same.
Since 2012, the fast food and mass catering industry has performed relatively well. Takeaway operators have responded to higher levels of consumer expenditure by introducing higher quality food, often using organic produce and ensuring low-fat, low-sugar and low-salt meal options.
Despite the constant criticism of unhealthy and high calorific food content, fast food is still very popular . Reasons include affordable prices, busy lifestyles and increasing on-the-go consumption. There is also a much wider variety of products available to accommodate different dietary requirements.
With any mass catering, the emphasis is on efficiency and hygiene. This is true whether it is for a fast food chain or a mess hall, hotel, hospital, airline or school. Too many instances of bad practice resulting in food poisoning or infection have been traced to bad habits in the kitchen or inadequate cooking facilities.
An oven, such as the Rational units, must not only cook the food but also synchronise the cooking of each individual element. It should also be fast and reliable in performance. In addition, the oven must be regularly serviced and checked. This is best as part of an ongoing maintenance regime to ensure top performance.
Contact AC Services on 01454 322222 if you are a fast food and mass catering organisation for appliance best practice .
Wales has over 78% of its land surface given over to agricultural use. The vast majority of which consists of permanent grass pasture or rough grazing. This has led to the world famous Welsh lamb. Other traditional dishes include laverbread (made from edible seaweed), cawl (a lamb stew) and bara brith (fruit bread).
However there are literally hundreds of Welsh food producers that offer succulent and exotic food to pubs, restaurants and other eateries which are worth a look.
Cider making is big business for Hallets. At their headquarters at Blaengawney Farm, the company uses old traditional methods of cider making from fresh cider apples borrowing a few techniques from wine makers along the way. Ancient oak barrels with cider ageing inside work alongside stainless steel wine fermenters to produce real and draught cider.
“We make a number of different draught ciders and a perry… all of which are pure juice. We ferment each variety of apple separately and then blend into the ciders listed below. Our limited edition ciders are also produced in smaller quantities as opposed to our standard products of Heartbreaker, Blindfold and National Treasure which are available all year round,” says a spokeperson.
If cupcakes are your thing, then Ridiculously Rich by Alana had a good start in life, having won the Apprentice Show and the backing of Lord Sugar. Every Ridiculously Rich cake is meticulously hand-crafted in Wales using the finest ingredients. Gooey Chocolate Brownies, Chunky Rocky Road and Salted Caramel Slices are just a few of the delicious flavours on offer. Originating from a little country kitchen, Ridiculously Rich’s approach in the kitchen is described as “perfectionist, experimental, flavour-obsessed, and motivated by all things indulgent.“
Cheese is everyone’s favourite and Caws Cenarth is a family business started in 1987 in response to Milk Quotas. Six generations of cheesemaking tradition go into the manufacture of the Caws Cenarth cheeses, which include the creamy, fresh-flavoured Caerffili. In fact, it lays claim to being the oldest established producer of Welsh Farmhouse Caerffili. Also on the menu are Garlic and Herb Caerffili, Smoked Caerffili and Brie-like Perl Wen, a creamy blue, Perl Las, and Golden Cenarth, a washed-rind cheese.
Chutneys, curds, preserves, jams, jellies and marmalades are all available at Little Grandma’s Kitchen a family-run business based in St Clears, Carmarthenshire. The company manufactures mouthwatering chutneys, including Mulled Spiced Apple, Caramelised Red Onion, Grumps Spicy Apple and Apple, Carrot & Ginger. For those brave enough, there is the Inferno Chutney with Naga Chilli and Weapons Grade Chilli! All products are made in small batches to retain their individual flavour using seasonal, local produce where possible.
Last of the Welsh food producers today is The Food Assembly at Abergavenny. This is an award-winning food community delivers the best produce from local Welsh farmers and foodmakers. It works via an online market, where customers to place their orders for vegetables, fruits, eggs, dairy products, meat, bread, honey and fish. The choice ranges from exotic spices to mackerel fillets to organic meat, all locally sourced.
Entering its 30th year of exhibiting, The Restaurant Show 2017 is an eminent trade event catering to those owning, operating and working in restaurants, hotels, bars, pubs and other hospitality establishments throughout the UK.
Incorporating Bar & Pub, Conscious Hospitality and Catering Equipment Expo, the Restaurant Show 2017 featured over 450 suppliers. All offering products, ideas and networking opportunities for anyone involved in the industry.
There was plenty to keep everyone entertained and informed. It included live events, with culinary demonstrations, premier competitions and seminars addressing key industry trends, innovations and new talent.
The Show provided a daily Business Insights session. Here leading industry experts discussed the latest industry news, trends and controversial issues. These included how pubs can continue to stay relevant in the face of changing consumer behaviour.
There were also talks on wine tasting, serving tea and coffee, food presentation and the rise of the flexitarian. This is a cross between veggie lovers and carnivores who choose vegetable-based dishes mid-week and save sustainably-produced high quality meat for special occasions.
Bar & Pub Show
The Bar & Pub Show also hosted seminars with the focus on getting the most profit from serving drinks. Topics ranged from sake to cocktails. Did you know that 9.2 million consumers regularly choose cocktails at the bar making it a £499m category?
There was also a discussion on raising the bar with premiumisation. This is catering for young people, who simply don’t drink like we used to. Thus they are looking for more than just a cheap pub or bar.
Rob Fink, Founder of Big Drop Brewing explained that “more and more adults are moderating their alcohol consumption… including the 18-24 age group, in which 1 in 5 are teetotal, so pubs and bars have to adapt to stay relevant. But whilst people…are also being more demanding about their choice of drink and craft beers have been instrumental in making people think differently and expect more from their beer.”
Restaurant Show 2017 Awards
The Restaurant Show also hosted the National Chef of the Year and The Young National Chef of the Year competition. These have been running since 1972 and are considered the UK’s most respected and sought-after culinary titles.
After a two-hour cook-off in front of a packed audience The National Chef of the Year 2018 was awarded to Luke Selby for his starter of sea vegetable minestrone, mussels and farfalle pasta with a poached scallop, British caviar and a lemongrass scented buttermilk sauce. His main course was roasted fallow deer, blackberry, celeriac, sprouts and bacon served with a venison sauce finished with chocolate. And for dessert warm walnut almondine, ginger infused bramley purée, caramelised cox apple filled with apple compote with cinnamon and ginger ice cream.
Other competitions included the UK Pastry Open and Kikkoman Masters. While three Compass Chef of the Year events focused on apprentice, junior and senior chefs.
The Restaurant Show 2017 lived up to all expectations. The industry is expanding and adapting constantly to changes in legislation, governmental policies and the impact of Brexit. This Show gave visitors and exhibitors the ideal opportunity to discuss issues relevant to the future of the hospitality industries under Olympia’s roof
A question that has often puzzled me is when should preparing for Christmas really start? If we were in the USA then we would already be in the throes of Happy Holidays marketing. But in the UK there is the automatic groan when the first Christmas advert appears. Or the C-word is mentioned at a networking meeting.
An enforced watching of daytime television last week, revealed that already it is not only DFS encouraging you to order now in time for Christmas, but there is an advert for Christmas 2018. Clearly it is never too early to start planning!
All families and most businesses have traditions around Christmas and New Year. Whether that is the day off for Mum with Christmas dinner in a restaurant or the Boxing Day walk and trip to the pub.
For businesses it’s party season. Or the insistence that Christmas Eve is a half day even though no work is done. Of course this year as the 24th is a Sunday that tradition does not apply!
In some ways the Americans are right. The last week of December and turn of the year is all about partying, feasting and holidaying. Of course the early Christian Romans beat the Americans to it when they chose the 25th December as the day to celebrate. As this was the time of the pagan revelry of Saturnalia and the festival of Sol Invicta (the Unconquered Sun), it was an easy transfer.
So what’s this to do with Rational, Frima and AC Services?
Sol Invicta celebrated that the winter solstice had passed. By 25th December, it is usually possible to see the days once again drawing out. By January 1st it is clear this is happening, so we can look forward to future harvests and eat and drink what we have.
AC Services Southern has fallen into the tradition of highlighting to owners of Rational ovens and Frima vario-cooking centres that early October is the time to prepare for the feasting season before it’s too late. Whether that’s because the autumn equinox has passed and the days are clearly shorter, we don’t know!
But now is the time to plan to have your ovens serviced to avoid disasters on the big days. Remember, remember preventative maintenance is almost always cheaper than breakdown catering disaster.
Prepare for Celebrations, Act Now
So there is no better time to book a service for your Rational oven in time for Christmas! Why not also order your cleaning products now and avoid the impending price increases?
AC Services (Southern) are more than happy to help. We offer a range of packages to suit any budget for service. Our aim is to help you take some of the stress out of December. If you own a Rational oven in South, South West England and South Wales, we are the local cost effective provider of all your Rational oven and Frima vario-cooking centre service needs.
So, if you’re preparing for Christmas, please talk to one of the team on 01454 322222.
It’s a veritable smorgasbord this week with events related to the food industry. lunch! 17 opened at ExCeL London for two days, welcoming visitors in their thousands. For those who missed the show, worry not, there’s another one, the Food Entrepreneur Show opening this Wednesday. And 5 other shows at Excel.
lunch! 17 offered up its biggest and best show yet, with a new venue, over 330 exhibitors, two education theatres, thousands of products and tons of tasty treats. Dedicated to the food-to-go sector, the show celebrated its 10th anniversary with a packed itinerary. This included a number of influential keynote speakers.
lunch! 2017 saw the return of the Innovation Challenge Awards, showcasing the most innovative products in the food-to-go sector. This year, there were 70 new products presented to the public.
In addition, the Start Up Zone presented a plethora of start-up companies from across the food-to-go sector. 24 companies not normally found at trade shows displayed giving visitors the opportunity to see, taste and source innovative products. New companies included 4SOME Health, C’go Drinks, Doughlicious Ltd, Iraw Healthy Habits and The Hangry Food Company Ltd.
The Café Life Awards 2017 organised by the Café Society took place at the end of the first day of lunch! This was acclaimed as celebrating the leading operators in the café industry, hosted by celebrity chef Theo Randall. The awards “highlighted those involved in the sector who are pioneering and leading the market, whether in the development of new products or the creation of excellence in the high street.”
The Live Challenges this year included the Da Vinci Gourmet Speciality Drink Challenge, the Norseland Toasted Cheese Sandwich Challenge, the Florette Food to Go Challenge, New York Bakery Croll Challenge and the judging of the Café New Drink Innovation Award.
Food Entrepreneur Show and Five Others
Following lunch! 17 at ExCeL is the Food Entrepreneur Show 2017 on 26 and 27 September 2017. Exhibitors, suppliers, feature zones, live demos and talk shows are all on the menu. The show is the best opportunity for any entrepreneur striving for success in the food and drink industry.
The show runs alongside the Takeaway & Restaurant Innovation Expo, Restaurant Technology Live, Bar Technology Live, Hotel Technology Live, Restaurant Design Show and Street Food Live. So something for everybody!
The seminars and talks promise to be entertaining and informative, with subjects such as Marketing in 2017, Bear Traps, The Recipe For Future Takeaway Success, How Sustainable is Your Restaurant? And my particular favourite, Busy Fools, Honey Pots & Burgers.
Food & Drink Innovation Awards
The Food & Drink Innovation Awards at the Food Entrepreneur Show recognise the pioneers that have made an outstanding impact on the food industry in the last year. Four awards are up for grabs to those who have a product or service that is breaking boundaries in the food sector.
In addition, throughout both days of the show, the FoodTalk Radio Show will be interviewing new exhibitors, gaining insights into the concepts behind their products, services, and business. The event is completely free to attend and all of the seminars and features are free too.
Open only to the trade, the first show opened 17 years ago and since then, has expanded enormously to embrace all aspects of the speciality food market.
Kara Bowen, Event Manager, said “Speciality & Fine Food Fair has, without a doubt, been at the forefront of the UK’s gourmet food and drink industry for nearly 18 years. Buyers from retail, foodservice and wholesale rely on the Fair as it provides an exclusive opportunity for discovery and inspiration. It is also a fantastic platform for producers to grow their business.”
Debut and Returns
This year, more than 700 food and drink producers attended, including nearly 200 suppliers making their debut. Among a number of new features, the old favourites such as the Discovery Zone, the Great Taste Awards and the Chocolate Trail were eagerly awaited. The Discovery Zone unveiled the latest food and drink delights from new businesses. Its stands are exclusively reserved for companies who have only been trading in the UK for up to 36 months.
Despite the unpopular sugar tax, chocolate and confectionery are still firm favourites. The Speciality & Fine Food Fair is heralded as the UK’s finest trade showcase of luxury and gourmet chocolate. The Speciality Chocolate Trail did not disappoint and led visitors through the halls of Olympia to over 50 fine and artisan chocolate producers.
Savour the Flavour: Live Kitchen, also drew the crowds. It featured practical tips and advice from some of the industry’s best known chefs and personalities.
This demonstration was supplemented with Food for Thought which offered visitors workshops on trending topics, and Scale Up which provided in-depth round-table discussions on key business queries. Topics covered included Cooking Successfully with Allergies, Mastering Cheese and The Proof is the Provenance.
A company that attracted a lot of interest was Grub, which offered edible insects. Apparently, as well as being tasty, insects are nutritious and sustainable, high in protein, minerals like iron and calcium and containing essential amino acids like Omega 3 and 6!
The Speciality & Fine Food Fair offers a platform for artisan food and drink, from centuries old heritage brands to up-and-coming new food businesses. The success of the 2017 show is to be repeated next year from 2 to 4 September at the same venue.
AC Services (Southern) has again received the SafeContractor accreditation. This seal of approval is issued by Alcumus and is testament to the company’s health and safety arrangements, policies and qualifications of contractors. This third party accreditation scheme confirms a company’s competency in the practice of health and safety.
AC Services received the accreditation following a stringent vetting process which examined all health and safety procedures and their track record for safe practice. It is used by thousands of organisations in the UK including SMEs and FTSE 100 companies.
Indeed there are a further 300 nationwide businesses, from several key industries, who have signed up for a separate scheme to select only accredited contractors for services including building, cleaning, maintenance, refurbishment or electrical and mechanical work.
Seal of Approval
AC Services will continue to use the SafeContractor seal of approval on their documentation and marketing material and will be included on the SafeContractor website, accessible only to registered users and signed up client organisations, enabling them to choose a potential accredited contractor.
Gemma Archibald, Director of Alcumus SafeContractor said: “Major organisations simply cannot afford to run the risk of employing contractors who are not able to prove that they have sound health and safety policies in place. More companies need to understand the importance of adopting good risk management in the way that AC Services has done. The firm’s high standard has set an example which hopefully will be followed by other companies within the sector.”
Helen Hagger, MD of AC Services is delighted but not surprised at the accreditation. “We take health and safety extremely seriously and our organisation has adhered to the highest standards both in the office and in the field when we service our clients. We are proud to consistently employ best practice in our operations and the SafeContractors seal of approval is testament to this.”
As the gateway to South West England, the region has much to offer in terms of fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry and fish.
Powells of Olveston is located in South Gloucestershire and is passionate about the produce it sells, and with good reason.
Powells sources all of its produce locally and ethically, working closely with local farmers and fishermen. This enables it to guarantee traceability on all meat and fish and ensure it is of the highest quality. The company offers lamb, pork (including sausages), chicken, duck, beef and line caught and dayboat caught fish.
It is the fish for which Powells is renowned. It’s wet fish includes cod, bass, dover and lemon sole, pollack, halibut and haddock. While the oily fish includes mackerel, salmon, trout, sardines, herrings and whitebait.
Another company that is making its mark in Bristol is Plough to Plate. Launched in 2003 Plough to Plate has built a superb reputation. So it is known for “sourcing the finest hand crafted and artisan products and supplying them to discerning chefs and specialist retailers throughout the region”.
Plough to Plate offers everything from micro-brewery beers, award-winning cheeses, hand raised pork pies, authentic charcuterie, slow risen breads and artisan chocolates. Billed as “an encyclopedia of regional fine food”, the company also sources unusual or exotic items. These include fresh truffles or a 25-year old DOCG balsamic vinegar.
Arthur David promises food with service! Founded in 1962, the company now grows its own produce, often supplying products unavailable at market. Fruit is succulent, such as red skinned Victoria plums as well as Muscat grapes, Discovery apples, English Somerset cobnuts. While vegetables available include baby leeks, baby carrots, baby turnips and all the coloured baby beets. More unusual vegetables include new season coloured carrots in purple, white and yellow, along with a range of purple and orange cauliflowers.
Another of the farm producers is Frocester Fayre Farm Shop. It has an abundance of meat, from Welsh Black and Aberdeen Angus cattle reared at Church Farm. All cattle are fed on a diet of grass, silage and barley, all grown on the farm. 150 hens and 20 ducks supply the shop and kitchen with eggs.
The owners butcher and sell all the meat in the shop. With the pork and lamb left to hang for a week, whilst the beef is hung for a minimum of three weeks. From this meat come delicious sausages, burgers, meat products and delicious faggots, all made in the farm shop’s kitchen.
Frocester aims to “use as many local ingredients as we can keeping ‘food miles’ and our ‘carbon footprint’ to a minimum. We are a genuine family business and our aim is to give all our customers excellent quality food at affordable prices”.
Finally, Jekka’s Herb Farm farm boasts the largest collection of culinary herbs in the UK. Jekka’s Herbetum was created in the grounds of the farm in 2013. It is a gastronomic delight for anyone interested in good food containing over 300 culinary herbs carefully planted in raised beds.
Recent research has suggested that the sector’s workforce could begin to drop by 2021. Given that the industry employs almost 10% of the entire UK workforce and since the economic crisis has grown its contribution to the economy faster than any other sector, it is a valid concern.
Currently, hospitality is the sixth largest contributor to export earnings and fourth largest employer, accounting for 4.49 million people or 10% of the workforce and over 180,000 businesses.
EU Workers and a Booming Market
The sector’s economic contribution could now decrease due to cost pressures from wages and business rates together with the labour squeeze. Figures show that around 65,000 hospitality staff come from EU workers. If this workforce is unavailable then labour productivity will cease to improve and will remain at 2016 levels. The report suggests a “1% fall in the number of people directly employed in the sector compared to 2016 to 3.17m, with the economic contribution the sector makes also starting to fall from its current level of £73bn.”
It’s not all bad news: the hotel industry has been booming . London is predicted to be at 80% occupancy by the end of the year, with average room prices reaching £142 and 8,000 new rooms in the pipeline. ‘Staycationers’ are being credited with a rise in regional travel, with more domestic visitors travelling around the UK.
To fill the potential labour force gap, plans are already in place. According to Ufi Ibrahim, Chief Executive of the British Hospitality Association, “over 700,000 Europeans work in hospitality and tourism and although we are determined to rely less on EU service workers over the coming years it will take time. The industry would need to recruit an additional 65,000 UK workers each year in addition to the ongoing recruitment of 200,000 workers to replace churn and to power growth.”
Filling the Void
The BHA is calling for a detailed study by the Migration Advisory Committee on behalf of the government on the number of visas. This should cover “all strategically important sectors including hospitality and tourism, the fourth largest industry in the UK. Britain needs services workers as well as scientists and engineers.”
However, the Office for National Statistics reported an increase of 13.6% since last year in the number of 16-24 year-olds not in education, employment or training (NEET). This, according to the BHA is a labour force! And it’s not the only sector of society that has potential. “[Our] strategy focuses on three main sections of the populations – the unemployed, returners to the labour market such as older people, and the next generation. So far our industry has delivered 67,000 apprenticeships, work experiences, and career opportunities through the BHA’s Big Hospitality Conversation for Britain’s young people,” continues Ufi Ibrahim.
The hotel and hospitality industry offers a massive opportunity for those who are unemployed, looking to enter the workplace or who want a career change, from front of house to backroom staff to kitchen operatives. Calls for government to enhance and promote those opportunities are welcomed by all to ensure we have the hospitality staff we need.
During the summer season, we cannot rely on the weather to be clement enough for us to spend a day at the beach so for many, the welcome attraction of a theme park or other local venues is quite literally, a port in a storm.
Amusement parks are popular destinations throughout the world generating billions in revenue for the relevant countries and operators. The largest and most profitable is beyond doubt the Walt Disney Company with more than 16 billion U.S. dollars in revenue from its parks followed by Universal Studios Theme Parks.
Although the UK is unable to compete on such a scale, the amusement parks that we have see significant visitors annually. Alton Towers competes with Thorpe Park and Drayton Manor Park as the leading theme park attractions in the UK. In 2016, the most visited free attraction was, for the ninth consecutive year, The British Museum with nearly 6.5 million visitors. This was closely followed by the National Gallery which had more than 6.2 million visitors and the Tower of London topped the list of paid-for attractions with 2.7 million visitors.
Going to the Zoo
Interestingly, Chester Zoo experienced its highest ever ranking, in second place, with nearly 1.9 million visitors and this seems to be a new trend, as a new survey from VisitEngland shows that gardens and zoos saw the most significant growth in visitors to attractions last year. The survey collected information from over 1,500 English attractions, and reported that stately houses and castles saw an increase of 7% in visitor numbers, and country parks a 4% increase. Gardens and zoos showed a growth of 8%.
According to VisitEngland Chief Executive Sally Balcombe, “there are so many outstanding attractions offering year-round experiences throughout the country and it’s great to see Brits enjoyed 2016’s ‘Year of the English Garden’. Attractions are a much loved and valuable part of the tourism landscape, adding colour and variety to the visitor experience and encouraging people to get out and explore, driving the value of tourism across the regions.”
However, if you prefer the thrills and spills of adrenaline pumping rides, then you will have to wait another five years for what is being deemed the biggest, best and most advanced theme park to hit UK shores…a theme park to rival Disneyland Paris!
London Resort Company Holdings (LRCH), is behind the idea and is planning to have the resort constructed on the Swanscombe Peninsula in North Kent to be opened by 2022. The company has stated that it would create at least “five themed areas including a cartoon circus, Starfleet Command, Action Square, Port Paramount and Entertainment City”.
If the plans are approved then the theme park would not only offer more than 50 rides but it would also come with a 2,000 seat theatre putting on shows to rival the best of the West End. Rides at the park will be inspired by Paramount Films as well as the BBC and Aardman Animations.
There is no doubt that theme park attractions bring in a fortune in revenue to the UK with caterers and catering staff comprising a major part of the workforce. At AC Services (Southern), we have a vested interest in all food and drink related issues, so we welcome the possible arrival of a new theme park.