Week on a Plate

The week digested: Pizza Express founder passes away and shares fall in retailer McColl's

Catch up on the food news from December 3-7, including a number of significant openings, from the world’s most popular dumpling chain to H&M’s first in-store cafe.

7 December 2018
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Nando’s sales rise 14%

Nando’s has one Christmas menu item this year: a peri-peri chicken gravy, which is described as rich and warming with fiery herby notes. The chain can afford to be fairly blasé with its festive fare as it has yet to close any outlets this year and recently reported a 14% rise in total sales (excluding South African properties) in the year to February 25, raking in £963m across it portfolio. Expected pre-tax losses rose from £17m to £30m, as the restaurant continues to invest in its “global restaurant footprint,” which includes spots in the US, Canada, India, Singapore, Australia and Malaysia.


Pizza Hut readying for revamp

Pizza Hut will cut traditional restaurants and increase takeaways, according to Greg Creed, chief executive of parent brand Yum, in an attempt to bring it in line with modern consumer eating habits. Within five years, sit-down venues will form just 25% of global outlets, down from 40%. The company is also testing fast-casual units that will not feature table service.


Not guilty verdict for ex-Tesco directors

Former Tesco directors Chris Bush and John Scouler have been cleared of fraud in the Court of Appeal. The pair were accused by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) of being complicit in the £263m accounting scandal that rocked Britain’s largest retailer back in 2014. The case was originally dismissed due to insufficient evidence, a view upheld on appeal, in a verdict that several papers have called a significant defeat for the SFO.


Pizza Express founder passes away

Peter Boizot, founder of the restaurant chain Pizza Express, has died aged 89. Boizot opened the first Pizza Express restaurant on Wardour Street in Soho, London, in 1965 and has been credited by many with revolutionising the casual dining experience. The brand now has more than 500 restaurants worldwide.


Wagamama could treble shares in Restaurant Group

One of the Restaurant Group’s biggest investors, Schroder’s Andy Brough, believes shares can treble over the next five years thanks to its takeover of Wagamama. He says it could emulate the success of food operator SSP by rolling out concessions to airports and rail stations in America and India. Restaurant Group plans to make better use of its kitchen to sell takeaways through apps like Deliveroo, another reason to back the business, according to Brough.


Turbulence fights stability at Patisserie Valerie

The former marketing chief of Patisserie Valerie is suing the bakery chain for £325,000 over the alleged non-payment of bonuses – a claim parent company Patisserie Holdings is contesting. Hedley was responsible for managing the cafe group’s contracts with companies such as Groupon and Barclays, which did deals with Patisserie Valerie to provide its products to their customers. The news came as Patisserie Valerie appointed an interim finance chief. Nick Perrin was formerly in charge of the finances at veterinary company CVS.


Eggslut sexes up the humble egg

US restaurant chain Eggslut has announced plans to open its first UK restaurant in London next year. The casual dining concept champions the use of the humble egg beyond breakfast. Its signature dish, named Slut, is made with pomme puree and a coddled egg, which is poached in a glass jar and served with slices of baguette.

image credit: Eggslut

H&M opens first cafe

Fashion brand H&M has opened its first in-store cafe in the UK  at its Westfield White City branch, offering salads, cakes and sweet treats on the menu. Ingredients are largely locally sourced and organic, much of the packaging is decomposable and waste is decomposed on site to create compost.


Tesco weighs in on Asda-Sainsbury’s merger

Tesco’s submission to the Competition and Markets Authority about the proposed merger of Sainsbury’s and Asda has been published, with the supermarket saying extensive remedies would be needed for it to go ahead. Tesco noted that Sainsbury’s and Asda are not proposing to make any big operating cost savings, as they are going to keep the brands and the propositions separate. Tesco said that nearly all of the announced efficiencies rely on harmonising costs and prices from suppliers and that this is a big ask when the merging parties do not appear to be able to offer suppliers very much in return.


Dumpling chain steams up London

London welcomed the most famous dumpling restaurant in the world into its foodie fold this week. Din Tai Fung  boasts 160 sites worldwide and was founded in Taipei in 1958. It will open first in Covent Garden, with a second site set to grace Tottenham Court Road in 2019. The chain’s signature is the xiaolongbao: steamed pork dumplings that undergo 40 minutes of hand preparation by staff who have been trained for up to six months. Other popular dumplings are on the menu too, as is the restaurant’s famous steamed chicken soup, which is cooked for six hours.


Greencore confident on supply chain

Greencore, which supplies goods to M&S and WHSmith, has pledged there will be no shortage of its products on shelves after the UK leaves the EU. It had previously warned it was “not inconceivable” that supply issues could arise as a result of logistical problems entailed by a hard Brexit, but now says it has prepared mitigation plans. Results from the year to the end of September saw sales rise 4.2% to £1.5bn and pre-tax profit increase to £17.8m from £15.8m.


Brits are ‘fattening as never before’

The English have never been fatter, with 4% of adults now morbidly obese and nine out of 10 leading unhealthy lifestyles. Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, said: “The adult population is not just getting fatter but the already fat are fattening as never before. That state of affairs will continue until the health secretary [Matt Hancock] drives forward his mantra that prevention is better than cure. Horrifically, we will have to wait years for that to be achieved.”


Putting the blue in British cheese

British blue cheeses are on the rise – and we’re not talking about Stilton, which has actually declined in sales by 3.5% in the 12 months to November 2018. UK producers like Shepherd’s Purse and Cropwell Bishop are being inspired by continental companies to create new varieties, including Gorgonzola-esque Beauvale, velvety Harrogate blue and Drunken Burt, which is tumbled in Gwatkins Golden Valley cider.

Mrs Bell's Blue
image credit: Shepherd's Purse

Rump of butchery chain devoured by entrepreneur

Part of defunct butchers chain Crawshaw has been bought up by entrepreneur Tom Cribbin. The Irishman has acquired 19 stores and the Rotherham factory out of administration for £1.4m.


McColl’s shares dropped 30%

The collapse of wholesaler Palmer & Harvey "severely disrupted" trading at McColl’s, leading the convenience store chain to adjust down its profits by a fifth. As a result, shares in the retailer have dropped 30%, though further trouble may be ahead, according to the retailer’s CEO, citing introduction of the National Living Wage, competition in the sector and weak consumer spending.


Amazon’s grand designs for cashierless tech

Amazon has plans to expand its cashierless technology more widely and to bigger supermarket spaces, including its Whole Foods stores. The online retail giant is said to be aiming for 3,000 cashierless shops by 2021, though there has been no news yet on when it will debut in the UK.


Man vs wild

People in rich nations will have to make big cuts to the amount of beef and lamb they eat if the world is to be able to feed 10bn people and to prevent climate change, according to a new report from the World Resources Institute. More than 50% more food will be needed by 2050, but greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture will have to fall by two-thirds at the same time. The extra food will have to be produced without creating new farmland, otherwise the world’s remaining forests face destruction. Meat and dairy production use 83% of farmland and produce 60% of agriculture’s emissions. Increasing the amount of food produced per hectare was the most critical step, the experts said, followed by cutting meat-eating down to 1.5 servings a week on average and putting a stop to the wasting of one-third of food produced.


Roasts return to the oven

After years of declining popularity, the roast is back. According to Kantar, we ate 1.28bn servings in 2017, a 4% rise on the year before. Millennials were particularly hungry for them, eating 10.7m additional roasts, with international takes aiding the trend.


Salt Fat Acid Heat

The Financial Times interviews Samin Nosrat, a “new kind of domestic goddess” who hosts Netflix’s new food series, Salt Fat Acid Heat. The articles digs into why the show has been so well received, from its focus on the multiculturalism of modern food to celebrating female home cooks.


Chocolate growth fuels deforestation

Big chocolate companies and the governments of Ghana and the Ivory Coast were responsible for the deforestation of tens of thousands of hectares of land over the past year in former rainforest-covered nations, despite their solemn promises to end the practice last November, according to campaigning organisation Mighty Earth. With more chocolate being devoured each year – the average Briton ate 8.4kg of it in 2017 – the few remaining forests are being cut down to meet demand.

image credit: Getty Images

Michelin called out on colour

There are only two black head chefs with a Michelin star in the UK, a Guardian analysis has found, prompting leading chefs to call for action to make kitchens more diverse. 


What’s the best spag bol in London?

Rather than ranking the best restaurants, new app Eaten accumulates scores for popular dishes like spaghetti carbonara and a hamburger, enabling consumers to find the best one in their area. Founder Tim Lui hopes to collate the data into an awards ceremony, where the 25 most popular types of dishes in London will compete for the honour of being named the best in their category. The algorithm has been created to mitigate fake reviews, according to the company.


Just Eat’s origin story

Food tech wasn’t a thing in 2006 when Just Eat set up shop in a one-bedroom flat in east London. In an edited extract from James Silver book Upscale, which focuses at British tech entrepreneurs and investors, he looks at the beginning of Just Eat and how it grew to become a £4bn company.


How to open an artisan bakery in six weeks

Raluca Micu talks about what it takes to run her artisan bakery – called October 26 – in Shepherd’s Bush, after setting up the business in six weeks. There are nine breads in the range that spend 12 to 18 hours proving in the fridge, with 70 to 130 breads baked a day. 

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