Weekend on a Plate

The Easter weekend digested: pub closure figures and Morrisons heading for Supreme Court

The news, reviews and trends from April 19-22, including how major manufacturers are turning to healthy concepts and experiments in sausage ice cream.

23 April 2019
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Food news

How many pubs closed in 2018?

Britain lost 914 pubs last year, according to a yearly review by real estate data company Altus Group. Despite this being far from positive news, it does indicate a slower rate of closures than in 2017, when 1,292 pubs closed, reports The Guardian. “The increase in the thresholds at which businesses, such as pubs, pay business rates coupled with the pubs discount during the last two financial years has helped ease the decline,” said the president of Altus Group, Alex Probyn. However, the Campaign for Real noted that business rate increases continue to strangle the pub sector.


Nestlé reaps rewards of ‘innovation for a changing world’

While many tucked into chocolate Easter eggs over the long weekend, The Times notes that Nestlé, one of the world’s biggest chocolate manufacturers, has been moving towards healthier offerings, reducing sugar and salt in its products. The company’s chief executive, Mark Schneider, noted that its “innovation for a changing world” is clearly resonating with consumers, after Nestlé posted better-than-expected first quarter results. It’s not the only major conglomerate to go down this path, with both Unilever and Danone investing in NPD and acquisitions that strengthen their vegan and health portfolio.


Unilever boss plays down Rotterdam move

Speaking of Unilever, it too revealed encouraging first-quarter results last week, according to The Times. Chief executive Alan Jope also sought to allay fears about previous plans to simplify the company’s corporate structure by re-centring the operations on Rotterdam – i.e., away from London – saying: “The business is not wedded to one or the other geographic location.”


Morrisons will appeal to Supreme Court

Morrisons’ has been given permission to appeal to the Supreme Court over a ruling that it is responsible for a data breach that saw 100,000 employees’ payroll information published online in 2014. In what is Britain’s first class-action case over a data leak, according to The Financial Times, more than 5,500 former and current staff are seeking compensation over the dissemination of their bank account details, national insurance numbers, dates of birth and contact information online. While the data breach was down to the actions of a disgruntled employee who has already been sentenced to eight years in prison, the claimants have so far successfully argued that Morrisons is vicariously liable for the leak.


Salmon sponsorship

Wild Atlantic salmon in Scottish rivers have declined 70% in the past 25 years and a new initiative hopes to uncover the causes. The public are being asked to “sponsor a smolt” (young salmon), contributing £100 towards the £300 cost of tracking the fish as they migrate across Scottish waters. “Sponsors will be able to name their smolt and a league table of the fish will be published to rank their swimming,” writes The Times.

image credit: Getty Images

The wurst idea?

A village in the German state of Thuringia is offering punters chocolate ice cream with smoky pieces of bratwurst. The strange combination comes from the mind of Elke Gerhardt, who has previously experimented with adding sauerkraut to her scoops, according to The Times.


CVA closures top 1,000

Four retailers and restaurant groups have initiated CVAs since the beginning of this year, while a further five are in talks to do so, reports The Financial Times. This will push the total number of chain store closures in the last two years to over 1,000.


Kraft Heinz taps new CEO

Kraft Heinz chief executive Bernardo Hees is stepping down, following a trifecta of troubles in February, including a $15bn writedown of the company, a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into its accounting and the slashing of its dividend. Miguel Patricio, an Anheuser-Busch InBev executive, will take up the reins in July, reports The Financial Times.


Food trends

Low-cal tubs taste teste

The Telegraph sticks a spoon into the bevy of low-cal ice creams on the market, from American heavy hitters like Halo Top and Ben and Jerry’s, to Britain’s home-grown heroes Jude’s and Oppo, to retailer versions from Aldi and Asda, ranking them from good (Jude’s Very Vanilla) to bad (Breyers cookie dough). The article also details the common sweeteners, emulsifiers and stabilisers found in the tubs.

Food interviews

Kevin Johnson, Starbucks CEO

The boss of Starbucks details his plans to “streamline the company, so we can put more of our energy behind the things that matter most – creating a great customer experience.” Speaking to The Sunday Times, Kevin Johnson says he is putting a hold on opening more of the upmarket Reserve Roasteries as well as shuttering branches of tea retailer Teavana, devoting attention instead to introducing new cold drinks and expanding the brand’s delivery capabilities.


Food reviews

Gloria, London EC2A 3QR

“It takes both skill and luck to make a place that only opened in February feel as thoroughly bedded-in as this joint now feels,” writes Kathryn Flett, admiring how Gloria has taken on the guise of one of London’s long-time trattorias while giving off the impression of “perma-summer on the Amalfi coast.” “Straightforwardly Italian” options like tiramisu and polpo fritto dominate the menu, mixed in with the “faux-naff playfulness” of items like the Robert De Niro pizza: “a posh margherita with some spicy salami.”

Matt Healy X The Foundry, Leeds LS11 5WH

The runner-up of 2016’s Masterchef: The Professionals, Matt Healy’s menu includes smoked eel atop celeriac remoulade, dressed with pickled radish, and steak tartare with a “precision engineered” cheese toasty, made with blue cheese and caramelised onions. “You won’t identify any ideas here that could be described as massively innovative; instead, it is a collection of well-trodden paths, walked with precision and care, and all at an extremely good price,” writes Jay Rayner.


Noya’s Kitchen, Bath BA1 1UL

Marina O’Loughlin heads off on a jolly to Bath in search of gastronomic treats. She struggles to find enthusiasm for Eight’s menu – which consists of just eight ever-changing dishes – particularly a complicated courgette dish with many elements that is “so try-hard, haute vegetarian that it makes me want to gnaw on a T-bone in protest.” Noya’s Kitchen fairs slightly better under her critical gaze, though the praise is mostly reserved for the starters, including goi cuon (“summer rolls bulging with mint and coriander and fine rice vermicelli, crunchy cucumber and carrots and a suave omelette stained green from more herbs that greedily slurps up a sprightly nuoc cham dipping sauce”) and dumplings that are “pregnant with fragrant, fatty pork and ginger and crowned with a lightly pickled slaw.”  

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