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THE BITE: Rational keeps up with the Kardashians, ASK’s lobster margin madness and beating Blue Monday

Kim Kardashian kitchen

Andrew Seymour takes a lighter look at some of the more intriguing industry titbits that have found their way into FEJ’s inbox or popped up on social media this week.

Keeping up with the Kardashians

Anybody working in this industry for any length of time knows that it will, pretty quickly, turn you into a ‘kit spotter’. You walk into a bar or restaurant or watch a food programme on TV and the first thing you notice is the brand of equipment being used. Sometimes you only need to see the colour of a control knob or a glimpse of the logo to know exactly whose kit it is (I’m talking about you, aren’t I?)

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So I can fully understand why Rational was so cock-a-hoop this week after spotting a couple of its ovens in the home of none other than Kim Kardashian.

The reality TV star – who has 63 million Twitter followers – was giving a TV news crew a tour of her kitchen when the German manufacturer clocked its SelfCookingCenters in the background. Whether she knows her iCookingControl from her HiDensityControl seems unlikely given the Kardashian’s employ a professional chef to cook all their food.

Say cheese!

Search Google hard enough and you can find themed hotels that cover every area imaginable. But a ‘cheese-themed’ hotel announced this week was certainly a new one on us. Guests are able to feast their eyes on cheese-themed wallpaper, sleep in cheese-themed bedding and shower using cheese-scented soap.

Casual dining chain Cafe Rouge is behind the gimmick (although I should clarify that it’s not strictly a ‘hotel’ as you or I know it, but a self-catered apartment in London that is open for a limited period of time) to promote its new winter menu and raise some cash for The Prince’s Trust.

However, what impressed us most was the array of cheese-based puns the company’s PR agency managed to crowbar into the press release. Here’s our round-up of the best…

‘Brie our guest’

‘Homage to fromage’

‘Too gouda to miss out on’

And our favourite: ‘Opening its doors to those that ‘camembert’ to miss it’

ASK’s lobster dish claws least margin

It turns out that trading standards officers don’t just go around targeting companies trying to rip off old ladies or selling knock-off goods from faraway sweatshops. They also go into restaurants to check that dishes being served up actually resemble what they claim to on the menu.

ASK Italian can certainly vouch for that after being stung with a £40,000 fine by Swansea Magistrates Court due to a council inspector discovering its most expensive dish – ‘Aragosta e gaberoni’ or Lobster and King Prawn –  contained only a small amount of lobster.

If anything, the case exposes just how much pressure restaurant chains are under to boost food margin.

The product ASK uses to make its £14.95 lobster dish costs just £1.40 to buy, but the company admits it still has the lowest profit margin of all its pasta meals.

Blue is the colour

Enjoy this weekend because next week starts with ‘Blue Monday’, so-called because it’s meant to be the most depressing day of the year. It’s the date when people have already broken their New Year’s resolutions, are feeling broke from Christmas and hankering for more sunshine.

Workforce management specialist Quinyx says hospitality businesses should be particularly switched onto the occasion as it’s also the time when industry workers start to think seriously about looking for new career opportunities. Its top tips for retaining and maintaining a happy and productive workforce include:

1) Tackle it with tech: Use anonymous surveys, data analytics and wearable tech to gain a real-time view of how workers are really feeling.

2) Pursue passion and purpose: While ‘increased salary’ has traditionally topped workers’ wish lists, ‘meaning’ is the new money. Research has found that employees who feel like they have a meaning and significance in their workplace are more likely to stay with their organisation.

3) Flexible friend: Nearly a fifth of UK workers believe they’d be more productive if presented with flexible working opportunities, making January a great time to demonstrate that flexibility is at the heart of your business.

Fuller’s chef fronts government campaign

I am a big fan of the work that pub chain Fuller’s has done to create a food proposition based on quality and provenance. The company has completely transformed the way it equips kitchens and many of its sites feature the kind of kit you’d normally see in five-star hotels.

Its growth is also underpinned by the success of its Chefs’ Guild, which defines the chain’s brigade structure and increases the standards of professional cooking within the business through greater awareness, education and training.

Given the kind of investment involved in doing this, it was great to discover this week that one of its chefs actually starred as the face of a major UK government campaign to promote apprenticeships.

Chef de partie Shey watched his grandma and mum cook Nigerian food growing up and now works at one of the chain’s sites in East London. His story supports the government’s ‘Fire It Up’ campaign encouraging employers to show young people that there are different routes into the workplace. Bravo.

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Andrew Seymour

The author Andrew Seymour

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