Tag Archives: Catering business
Gloucestershire lies close to the Welsh border with the River Severn flowing through it and the Cotswolds to the east and the Forest of Dean to the southwest. Food production from this county has always been prolific, from lamb and pork to elvers and eels to cheese and pickles. Today, the food industry in the county is thriving and varied.
The award-winning Severn & Wye Smokery is one of the finest fish markets in the country. It sells a whole host of seasonal British and international fish as well as shellfish and the smokery’s own smoked haddock and kippers. After a three-year renovation project, Severn & Wye Smokery opened The Barn in October 2017. The former derelict outbuildings have been transformed into a foodie destination. This now encompasses a restaurant, bar, fish market, deli, gift shop and café.
Initially starting with smoked wild salmon and smoked eel from the rivers Severn and Wye, the business has grown to produce a full range of smoked fish products. So popular is the product range that the company sends weekly shipments to Italy, Germany, Greece, Dubai, Bahrain and France. The production techniques and smoking processes are still very traditional with grading, filleting, curing and cutting still mostly done by hand.
If you are looking for something a bit more exotic, TruffleHunter is the UK’s leading supplier of fresh truffles and truffle products. Located in the Cotswolds, the company produces truffle oils, minced truffles, truffle salt, truffle honey, truffle mustard and truffle mayonnaise. It sources truffles from the finest truffle regions across Europe, as well as from Somerset and Wiltshire.
Trufflehunter began in the UK in 2010 and today supplies restaurants throughout the UK and much further afield. The main markets are the UK, Germany, USA, Japan, Singapore and India. All truffle products are produced in small handmade batches in the Cotswold factory.
Mustard Through the Ages
An artisan product that was featured in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, is Tewkesbury mustard. The Tewkesbury Mustard Company is now the only true producer continuing a tradition that dates back to the 16th century. The product range is hand-made in a small kitchen in Tewkesbury. Legend has it that Tewkesbury Mustard Balls covered in gold leaf were presented to Henry VIII when he visited Tewkesbury in 1535.
Renowned for their excellence since medieval times, these balls were sent all over the country. The ingredients are simply local grown mustard seed, mixed with an infusion of horseradish. This is steeped in water, milk, cider or cider vinegar until it was workable. Now, Tewkesbury mustard is still as popular as ever.
Specialising in porridge and couscous, Wolfys is the brainchild of Kitchen Garden Foods, traditional preserve makers. It was launched in the summer of 2013 after a challenge to find a hot, filling and tasty snack for a festival caterer. Each pot of Wolfys has another little pot hidden under the lid. This is jam, marmalade or honey in the porridge and chutney or relish in the couscous. Everything is made by hand in Stroud. Everything is vegetarian and the couscous is vegan.
Gloucestershire food producers prove that in our region there is a wealth of local suppliers of all types of food. And those producers also supply internationally such is their quality.
The headlines are currently dominated by Brexit, the snowy weather, the great American stand-off and the Oscars. But what is making the headlines in the world of food and drink?
There is a greater call of allergen labelling following the death of a schoolgirl from an unlabelled baguette. Proposals unveiled by environment secretary Michael Gove would see all prepackaged food labelled to help the UK’s two million food allergy sufferers decide whether they can safely eat it.
There are celebrations down in Devon as a popular fish and chip shop has been crowned as the best chippy in the UK. Krispies Fish & Chips in Exmouth has “battered its way to the top” winning the coveted award as UK’s best fish and chip shop at the National Fish and Chip Awards 2019, organised by Seafish. Krispie’s is owned and operated by husband and wife team Kelly and Tim Barnes, offering “true excellence in the fish and chip industry” with factors such as “sustainability, menu innovation, catering for special dietary requirements, customer service and marketing activity” all part of the judging process.
It’s also been getting spicy down in Devon with the humble ketchup being the focus of attention. The South Devon Chilli Farm has been listening to market research and is giving fans their signature chilli twist to the UK’s favourite condiment. Three new delicious chilli ketchups – cool jalapeno, smoky chipotle and hot habanero –have been added to the range as an alternative to the tomato option. Presented in a smart glass bottle, the range is suitable for vegetarian, vegan and gluten free diets and contains no artificial ingredients or preservatives.
Over in Taunton, the newly-introduced ‘bleeding’ vegan burger has been a new year triumph for TGI Friday. The completely meat-free burger, which was one of the most talked about burgers in the USA last year, is high in protein and has zero cholesterol. As well as beetroot, which gives it the iconic bleed, the flame-grilled burger is made from coconut oil, mushrooms, herbs, plant proteins, and spices.
Terry McDowell, TGI Fridays’ head chef, said: “Friday’s flame-grilled, hand-crafted burgers are one of the most popular dishes on our menu and now everyone can enjoy their legendary taste, whether they are vegan, vegetarian, trying to cut down on meat, or anything in between!”
Over in Wales, the Welsh government has just published a consultation considering a range of proposals to encourage people to change their eating habits and be more active. As well as banning energy drinks to under-16s, other measures in the ‘Healthy Weight, Healthy Wales’ include “restrictions on the positioning of products in stores, restrictions on the amount of marketing of certain products in stores, restrictions on promotions and discounting of certain products in stores, mandatory calorie labelling for food purchased and eaten outside of the home.” If you want to be heard then respond to the consultation.
And staying in Wales, following the huge success of the inaugural event in in 2017, BlasCymru / TasteWales returns March 20 and 21 2019. The show will bring together buyers, producers and food industry professionals for this signature international food and drink trade event and conference, held once again at the world-class Celtic Manor Resort.
I’m sorry but this week we simply have to talk about Brexit planning.
Over the last two years the only thing that most people have been certain on with Brexit is that the day of departure is 29th March 2018. Now the politicians may this week, or next, attempt to change this but with 67 days to go, it makes sense to plan.
Good business planners look at any situation and attempt to work out the absolute worst scenario, the best scenario and the others in between. For UK catering businesses these vary widely, but most can find a sensible middle ground for their own business with a little thought now.
Shutting Up Shop
Option number 1 is that the situation on 29th March and the weeks that follow that the best option is to shut down for a month. This is an approach that a number of car manufacturers are taking such as BMW and its mini production in Oxford.
If you’re considering this option you conserve all your resources and then make an orderly grand re-opening in May. The positives may also include allowing you to do that refresh of paint that you’ve been putting off. The negative that there may be a trust or reputational hit to your business in your local area or those to whom you supply.
Whatever happens after over 40 years of increasingly integrated trade and an international focus on just in time delivery, delivery times will spin quickly out. If the Manston lorry trial in January proved anything it is we are still underprepared for the impact on freight. However the Brexit food packs of freeze dried ingredients is an overreaction the other way.
Big food manufacturers have been quietly stockpiling key ingredients for the last few months. This is why UK warehouse space is now almost at capacity. Time for regular catering businesses to consider:
- How many of your ingredients are locally grown and sourced. Over the last few years AC Services has showcased various regional providers to provide choice.
- The key word in the point above is grown. We often assume that we can just ask our supplier for x not thinking that x must come from abroad. With the extremes of weather, we have increasingly seen shortages of basic products like lettuces or potatoes. Time to ask yourself if I run out of vanilla pods what will I do?
- When did you last have your machinery serviced? Catering equipment is an international business so the part that is needed may have to be shipped from elsewhere in Europe. It’s a good idea to do this in February so you’re ready.
Brexit provides an opportunity for an event. Not least because it falls the same weekend as Mothering Sunday and the beginning of British Summer Time. We’ll leave the menu choices to your personal preferences. But whatever you do start thinking and planning now for March 29th to minimise the adverse hidden effects Brexit could have on your business this spring.
Rational UK enjoyed a steady year in 2018 despite the ramifications, as yet unknown, of Brexit and global economic uncertainty.
The amalgamation of the Rational combi-steamers and Frima VarioCookingCenter® units under the umbrella Rational brand has successfully operated for almost a year. It has done what it promised by providing a complete solution for kitchen requirements from a single, reliable and reputable source. Everyone involved in the merger has applauded its successful and seamless implementation.
In the meantime, Rational UK is continuing its physical presence across the country with many shows and exhibitions already booked for 2019.
Locations include The Professional Kitchen Show at the NEC Birmingham in January; the Source Show in Exeter in February; and Expowest in Cornwall in May. Rational UK will also be exhibiting at the Restaurant Show and the Takeaway Expo in London later in the year. It’s always good to stop by the stand and find out what’s new for Rational UK.
As with industry as a whole, Rational UK’s future plans will be influenced by the outcome of Brexit. As an authorised Spares Partner at AC Services, we are keeping a wary eye on what might be impacted when the March deadline arrives. Currently some parts are guaranteed to be shipped from Germany within 24 hours. But whether this will change post-Brexit remains to be seen. And if it does what that will stretch to in the short term is anybody’s guess. We are committed to trying to maintain our current high spares supply levels.
To avoid post-March delay and to help us gauge the increased stock levels needed, we recommend that services are booked now. We can then create suitable buffer stocks of high-demand items to continue to offer our customary seamless service to all our customers. In addition, we’ll know what has been replaced recently in our customers’ units and what might need replacing later in the year. We can include this in our stock calculations to minimise disruption.
AC Services Team Update
On a more personal level, we are happy to report an excellent 2018. Our personnel are key to our continuing growth. Denise returned last year after ten years to the role as Service Administrator. Carolyn has been in her role as Accounts Administrator for a year. Kelly returned from Maternity Leave last year.
At our Christmas Party held at the Egypt Mill, Nailsworth we celebrated Senior Engineer Jon working for AC Services for 20 years. Helen said “20 years’ service is a remarkable achievement in most industries. But particularly amongst catering business that have seen significant change over that time. I’m glad we have Jon’s professionalism, experience and dedication to rely on”
Sometimes things go wrong. The best laid plans and all that can be thrown into total disarray for the most unforeseen reasons and, having carried out a recent poll amongst close friends, maybe I can make you understand the importance of pre-empting Christmas disasters.
Most of us can cook: although we may not in the league of genius then again, we all have at least one recipe which we claim as our signature dish. Most of our knowledge has been gained either by practice, by copying or by experience but sometimes however careful you may be, things go wrong.
Take Doris for example. Her first attempt at Christmas dinner could so nearly have ended in disaster. She planned everything to the letter, from ingredients to cooking times to presentation. On Christmas Eve, it horrifically dawned on her that her oven was too small for the Jurassic-proportioned bird she had so naively ordered from Mr Cleaver, the local butcher. Mr Cleaver had assured her that a 25lb turkey would be perfect for the four of them.
Luckily, a relative offered to cook the bird and bring it round on the day which would have worked perfectly had Edna not indulged in a few breakfast eggnogs causing her to trip and drop the bird on the road outside. With nothing else to do, they quickly scraped it up, transported it unseen to the kitchen and spent half an hour picking out the most obvious stones and debris. Surprisingly given the circumstances, Doris’s first Christmas dinner was deemed a triumph. No-one was any the wiser until many many years later.
Light Bulb Moment
Then there was the occasion when Chardonnay ran out of shallots while preparing her famous signature gravy at her sister Ava-Louise’s house. She asked sister if she had any more, eliciting a puzzled response.
“No, sorry, I forgot to buy shallots.”
“But I’ve just peeled loads of them!”
“Eh? Where did you find them?”
“In a bag on the floor, next to the fridge.”
“WHAT?? Those are my spring flowering bulbs I bought from the garden centre last week!”
“Alexa, are daffodil bulbs poisonous?!”
They’re not by the way.
Praise to the Caterers
I’ve muddled through over the years but this year, I am praising the caterers for the following reason. Having been lumbered with hosting Christmas dinner this year, I decided to ask the guests, all family, for their preferred choices.
My eagerness to please soon turned to horror as it dawned upon me that I was in no way, shape or form cut out for mass catering. Within our close-knit family, one is fully-fledged vegan, two vegetarian, one caffeine intolerant, two lactose intolerant and one is borderline type 2 diabetic. One suffers from coeliac disease, one from Crohns, another can’t eat gluten and two won’t eat ANY vegetables WHATSOEVER. Put any form of nuts within smelling distance of the mother-in-law and one of us will need to be sober enough to apply an epi-pen.
A frantic group chat to sympathetic friends solved the problem. Last minute booking for twelve at the local hotel it is. I am simply not prepared to take the risk. Let the experts take the strain.
So if you are eating out this season, make sure you appreciate what it takes to cater for a diverse clientele in terms of training and learning and applying the knowledge to produce mighty fine food for all. And if you are a caterer, just make sure the Rational oven is Christmas ready!
Have a wonderful Christmas from the team at AC Services (Southern).
NB All names have been changed to ensure a happy family Christmas!
The BBC Good Food Shows have kicked off the season. Last week, it was the turn of the NEC to host one of the most eagerly-awaited food shows of the year.
With Christmas just around the corner, the flagship Winter Show offered a feast for visitors of produce and entertainment. Top chefs joined exhibitors to present a veritable smorgasbord of culinary delights. These included demonstrations, new products and fabulous retail opportunities.
The Birmingham Winter Show combined the UK’s greatest cookery experts, with plenty of festive inspiration and live entertainment in the Big Kitchen and other stages. Greeting visitors to the NEC was the show’s new contribution, Street Food. Brand new for 2018, delicious street food made a successful appearance at the Show. An army of street food vendors in the outside areas, brought a huge selection of ready to eat food for all visitors.
The Big Kitchen is always the highlight of the show. Here top celebrity chefs cook festive recipes and share tips for seasonal winter foods. Tom Kerridge and Michael Roux Junior were just two of the famous names demonstrating their skills to the public. The highlight was the demonstration by everyone’s favourite Bake Off judge, Mary Berry.
This year, the Big Kitchen was sponsored by Travelsphere, who offered additional free themed sessions to the menu. This included a taste of India with Cyrus Todiwala, chef patron of Cafe Spice Namaste, award-winning Pan-Indian restaurant in London and also Mr Todiwala’s Kitchen and The River Restaurant (in Goa). A taste of Spain was presented by José Pizarro described as the Godfather of Spanish cooking.
BBC Good Food Stage
Barney Desmazery hosted the BBC Good Food stage. There, he offered live interviews into our favourite chefs’ success and seasonal advice from some local foodie experts too. The sessions involved an interview with Nadiya Hussain and a masterclass from Stacie Stewart.
The BBC Good Food Pop-Up Restaurant offered a sit-down meal, of two or three courses, inspired by some of the most popular seasonal dishes from the country’s leading food website, www.bbcgoodfood.com. The succulent menu presented delights such as:
- chicken, leek, smoked bacon and apricot terrine with watercress salad,
- baked goat’s cheese with beetroot, honey and thyme and
- main courses including garlic cheese-stuffed turkey breast wrapped in pancetta, with parmesan roast potatoes, buttered sprouts and glazed carrots.
The Winter Kitchen, sponsored by Magimix inspired by a range of seasonal dishes for the festive season with contributions from Mary Berry, James Martin, Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith amongst many other top chefs. Complementary to this was the Skills School where a number of experts shared their secrets from knife skills with Zwilling to sourdough masterclasses.
At AC Services Southern, we think it’s always a good idea to attend the Good Food Shows. These help us to learn new trends and to judge consumer reactions. That way our business never gets stale.
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.
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.