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Fri 20th Sep 2019 - Friday Opinion
Subjects: Keep it simple, you just need to keep up, silver lining to Yellowhammer, and healthy work-life balance creates a healthier bottom line
Authors: Glynn Davis, Sally Whelan, Domini Hogg and Julie Phillips

Keep it simple by Glynn Davis

Dining at local restaurant Through The Woods is a gloriously simple affair that’s extremely relaxing because it requires little engagement of the brain. It’s only open for dinner on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with a single sitting that kicks off at 8pm and serves a six-course, no-choices menu to a mere 18 covers. The only thing that requires thought is the wine list and even this has been stripped back to seven options (all available by the glass). Dinner there is a no-brainer.

Through The Woods is also on-trend with its sourcing, describing its approach as “extremely seasonal and sustainable”, with a plant-focused menu and heirloom vegetables from the chef’s kitchen garden and local growers. Only one of the courses is meat and this is “high welfare served in small amounts” and sourced from the British Isles.

What the restaurant doesn’t advertise but is equally as laudable is its levels of waste must be tiny. Any restaurant with a menu and proposition as fully locked down as Through The Woods is likely to generate no more waste than whatever’s left on diners’ plates. I didn’t contribute to this on my visit I hasten to add.

There’s no doubt the issue of waste has risen to the top of the agenda. Firstly, there’s satisfying the increased appetite of people for reducing waste on environmental and sustainability grounds. This was a factor in Skye Gingell introducing her early evening Scratch menu at Spring restaurant in central London.

The reduced-price menu – £20 (£25 from 1 October) – uses ingredients that would otherwise head for the waste bin. Elements such as offcuts, trimmings and shavings that can’t be used on the full-price menu find themselves on the Scratch version. It creates a full dining room in the early evening including many people who probably wouldn’t otherwise have been introduced to the restaurant and Gingell’s cooking.

Such an initiative also engages and challenges the brigade because they never know what they will cook until about 4pm, when they accumulate their ingredients. It’s a similar story at Loop in Helsinki, which focuses on reducing waste and features a daily menu determined by ingredients past their sell-by date that have been donated by local grocery stores and bakeries. Johanna Kohvakka, founder of From Waste To Taste, which operates Loop, has described the restaurant as like an “episode of MasterChef every day”.

The second driver of waste reduction is the need for restaurants to cut costs. With pretty much every cost involved in operating a restaurant having risen, there’s an ever-greater need to ensure food waste is kept to a minimum. Although much of the rationale behind a growing number of restaurants trimming menu items has been to improve efficiency in the kitchen, it’s also a way to reduce potential wastage. Restaurants with sprawling, out of control menus invariably run the risk of stock waste.

Frankie & Benny’s announced it is reducing the overall size of its menu by 10%, Taco Bell has undertaken what it calls “decluttering the closet” by removing nine items from its menu, while McDonald’s has scaled back its menus at certain dayparts.

While these major operators will have extremely efficient stock-management systems, many others following the trend for simplification will also enjoy improved control over their waste. Just like my dinner at Through The Woods, reducing waste is a no-brainer.
Glynn Davis is a leading commentator on retail trends

You just need to keep up by Sally Whelan

It’s said £200m has been wiped off the UK nightclub scene in the past five years as consumers turn their backs on evenings out in favour of nights in or a healthier lifestyle. What’s more, with pubs continuing to struggle under the pressure of changing consumer habits, it could be argued UK nightlife isn’t in the rudest of health.

Following discussions with a number of our clients – many of them operating in the late-night sector – the UK’s nightlife became a particularly hot topic in the office. Is the younger generation still going out as much or have experiences such as bottomless brunches gained so much traction in recent years they’re stealing competition from late-night venues?

Our office was split – while some believe every venue has its place as long as its offering remains up to date, others feel the growing popularity of experiential activities has led to an increase in consumers more likely to spend their money and time on something a bit different. To find out a little more, we ran a survey on what 18 to 25-year-olds put at the forefront of their lives. Here are the results.

When asked what time of day they were most likely to go for a drink with friends over a summer weekend, the result was fairly even – 52% chose the evening and 48% chose the day. Of those who chose the day, more than two-fifths (44%) said they preferred offerings available during the day while 19% liked to spend their evenings in. Interestingly, when asked the same question for a winter rather than a summer weekend, 92% would choose the evening to go out for a drink and only 8% would opt for the day.

For those who prefer going out with friends during the day, we wanted to find out whether this was likely to have an impact on their evening. Almost two-thirds (64%) admitted partaking in daytime entertainment would make them less likely to attend a late-night venue. So what about the “perfect Saturday night”? Our research showed while less than two-fifths (36%) of consumers would visit a local pub or bar with friends, almost two-thirds (64%) would spend it at home (whether alone or with friends). As for clubs, not a single 18 to 25-year-old respondent preferred to spend their Saturday night “out on the town”.

That said, when asked what the younger generation was more likely to do for entertainment with friends, three-fifths (60%) of respondents would choose to spend time with friends visiting pubs, bars or clubs, compared with 40% who would choose activities such as bottomless brunches.

So having seen the results, what’s our verdict? While those who have been out during the day are less likely to visit late-night venues, a number of factors still contribute to consumers going out less and it wouldn’t be fair to hold activities such as bottomless brunches responsible – particularly as many consumers would still choose traditional late-night venues over them.

In my opinion, every venue still has its place providing it can keep up with the latest trends of its key demographic.
Sally Whelan is founding director of guest experience management expert HGEM

Silver lining to Yellowhammer by Domini Hogg

With the recent release of Operation Yellowhammer, the government’s “worst-case scenario” for a no-deal Brexit, fears are mounting the already struggling restaurant scene will be hit by further price increases and shortages of fresh food and key ingredients. Already the fall in sterling is being cited as one of the main drivers in the surge of restaurant insolvencies this year (up 25% from last year), so further price increases could be devastating.

Wine, cheese, bacon and tomatoes are among the top imported goods from the EU and are likely to be most affected by increased tariffs. As the restaurant industry hurtles towards an increasingly sober October, it might be worth pinpointing local suppliers who could replace food and drink imports.

In many ways the changing economic scene offers restaurants an opportunity to start catering for an increasingly environmentally conscious consumer by thinking creatively and planning menus that feature local ingredients.

Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers’ Union, said a no-deal Brexit would be “catastrophic” for British farming, since getting the UK approved as an exporter of animal and animal products to the EU could take six months and the current value of those exports stands at £3.15bn. Embracing local produce now is a brilliant way to support local farmers during a fragile time.

Richard Lovemore, former Rabbit head chef and now a private chef at Indigenous Kitchen, is already embracing local produce. He said: “We need to think ultra-seasonal with food. What often happens is people get an idea of what food is available during certain times of the year but don’t know the realities of the often short English crop seasons. Asparagus, for example, only has a two-month window that changes year to year depending on the weather.

“We only know how the seasons are playing out by speaking to the people who are producing the food – the farmers. To enable us to source more locally, we need to utilise the micro-seasons for each crop the UK produces. It’s a challenge but one you have to be proactive about.”

With a potential no-deal Brexit looming, here are five simple ways restaurants can start embracing more local ingredients and suppliers.

Be open-minded: There are a lot more ingredients growing and made in Britain than you might think. Everything from specialist chillies, fresh wasabi and yuzu are being produced in the UK. NamaYasai is a farm in Sussex that focuses on growing specialist fruit and vegetables using agroforestry and biological control only.

Make menus more flexible: Changing more regularly will not only bring in loyal diners more frequently to try the new menu but also enable you to adapt your menu according to the changing seasonal produce in your area. You might want to consider using special boards to save on paper and printing costs or you could choose to wow customers with digital menu technology such as Inamo in London

Make local produce the star: Consumers are increasingly looking for unique experiences so designing your menu around ingredients that are especially prolific in your area can be an excellent way to attract more customers and encourage loyalty among locals.

Keep an eye on award-winners: This is a good way to pick out the best-quality produce in your area – and there are lots of them around. Even if an award scheme hasn’t announced this year’s winners, you can normally find last year’s on its website. 

Follow foodie hashtags: There’s no denying food and drink is very visual. Finding foodie hashtags or influencers to follow in your area can bring a number of suppliers to your attention while providing a feed that might inspire a few local dishes! Hashtags such as #dorsetfood, #dorsetproduce, #dorsetfoodie are replicable in most counties

Operation Yellowhammer has certainly exposed some fears about the impact of Brexit and the hospitality and farming industries could be among the worst affected. However, it’s not all doom and gloom. With a bit of creativity we could emerge after Brexit with a much healthier, more diverse and environmentally friendly food system.
Domini Hogg is founder of Tried and Supplied, which is designed to help food buyers and restaurateurs find the best sustainable and local British suppliers

Healthy work-life balance creates a healthier bottom line by Julie Phillips

In the hospitality business it’s all about presentation – but how can you present yourself and your business effectively if you don’t properly invest in looking after yourself? How can you be a great leader to your teams, deliver great customer experiences and be a strong negotiator on new sites, finance and with suppliers if you don’t practise self-care? Investing in yourself is a key factor in the performance of a successful business, and one many overlook.

When running businesses we must accept the work will never be done and there’s always more to do tomorrow. When work-life balance is out of sync, our stress levels generally are too and when they are heightened your energy is wasted looking for ways to survive rather than thrive.

Here are five tips to help you achieve a successful balance.

What’s ‘your’ balance?
Everyone’s work-life balance is different depending on where you are in your life and career. There’s no perfect 50/50 solution that works for all so it’s important to consider what your balance looks like. Create a vision by assessing:

Your spouse/partner: What time you wish to give to your relationship so both your personal needs are fulfilled.

Friends and family: Who is important in your life and how much time do you want to spend with them?

Health: How much sleep do you need? What exercise do you enjoy and what’s the time commitment for this? What time do you need to give yourself to help your mental health?

Work time: Set boundaries for your working day and map out how much time you need for each area.

Hobbies: What energises you? What interests do you enjoy or have you stopped because of work? How much time would you ideally want to restart or maintain these?

Consider from your list what your priorities are and why, and use those to determine how much time to spend at work and on yourself.   

Structure work tasks
Finding a workflow that fits your schedule and energy needs increases the activities you can complete in the same time. 

Many of us spend too much time carrying out low-energy tasks such as responding to emails. This may feel productive but probably isn’t helping you reach your business goals.  

It’s in the higher-energy “deep work” where we see increased productivity and get the business results we desire. Our creative and analytical abilities are pushed to their limit and we produce our best work. Schedule “deep work tasks” for when you have the most energy in the day such as the morning when you’re fresh and energetic, low-energy work after lunch, and administrative work in the late afternoon.

Schedule for success
Create a plan to take control of your days and serve the areas most important to you, at work and at home.

Schedule time in your diary for being with family or focusing on priority work as you would schedule a dentist appointment. Be fully present during those times without phones, social media or other distractions. 

Set yourself a finish time every day – Parkinson’s Law states “work expands to fill the amount of time given to it”, so if you never set your own boundaries, you’ll always be working. This wears you and other people in your life down.

Rise right to shine
You can enhance productivity by following a simple morning routine. Get up as soon as your alarm goes off, without pressing snooze! Research shows snoozing puts you back into a sleep cycle that can take up to four hours to break.   

You don’t wake in a bad mood, you set your own tone. Giving yourself just ten minutes to plan before you let the world in through phones and media will reap huge dividends. Keep your phone away from your bedroom and don’t check it until you’ve given yourself that time. Use a daily journal to note how you feel, what you are grateful for and, importantly, identify one bite-sized project you’ll achieve in the day. To-do lists are never finalised so only choose one thing that’s important to you.    

Positive people power
Surround yourself with positive, like-minded people who have shared values and beliefs and will support you in your life. Don’t be frightened of walking away from people who don’t serve you and bring a negative aura.

Work-life balance isn’t something that just happens – you are responsible for making it happen. You need to be proactive in creating a plan, establishing priorities and making sacrifices.  

As Michelle Obama said: “We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our to-do list.”
Julie Phillips is a personal and corporate development coach and former chief executive of a successful SME for 16 years

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