Week on a Plate

The week digested: supermarket sales figures and the restaurant-closure blame game

Catch up on the food news from November 5-9, including the UK’s first plastic-free shopping zone and PepsiCo’s hunger for premium crisps.

9 November 2018

Sainsbury’s up

Several supermarkets revealed sales figures this week, including Sainsbury's, which announced half-year results that showed tepid like-for-like growth. This was compensated to some extent with positive news on profitability, reflecting effective cost-cutting and synergies with Argos.


M&S down

At Marks & Spencer, sales have dipped in its food halls as cheaper rivals like Alid and Lidl step up their expansion. New food boss Stuart Machin has been tasked with modernising the chain, including lowering prices and getting rid of confusing promotions. Machin has said he will oversee the introduction of bigger packs aimed at families, while lowering the prices of popular foods such as whole chickens and hamburgers.


Morrisons up and down

Morrisons, meanwhile, reported rising sales as it benefitted from a better and broader offering in its ‘Best’ own-brand range, as well as demands for fresh fruit and vegetable ranges. This was below expectations, however, leading shares in the retailer to fall.


Prezzo loses £200m

Prezzo’s restructuring, resulting in the closure of 114 restaurants, inflicted a near-£200m hit on the value of the company’s assets. The chain is now focusing on the refurbishment of current restaurants and experimenting with a new menu.

Uber Eats on hiring spree

Uber Eats is tripling staff across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, taking the headcount from 300 currently to 900 next year. At the same time, it plans to tweak its website to encourage online ordering – 80% of users utilise the app, compared to the relatively even split between web and mobile ordering at rival JustEat.


High street needs decisive action

Retailers have called for “decisive action” from the government to address high business rates after new data showed the number of shops, pubs and restaurants lying empty has soared by more than 4,400 in the first six months of this year. Pubs were among the hardest hit as more people drink at home and young people drink less, while independent coffee shops increased their openings.


Diners to blame for closures

Middle-market chains are bearing the brunt of the spate of closures, which has seen 1,123 restaurant companies became insolvent so far this year The Times blames the insatiable demands for short-lived restaurants with specialist themes such as cassoulets, duck dishes and Japanese pancakes.


Restaurants to blame for closures

Harden’s London Restaurants guide has revealed that around 117 independents have shuttered in the capital over the past year, the worst rate of closures in decades. “There are just too many restaurants out there,” said Peter Harden, who added the glut was more to blame for closures than business rates and inflation.


Crawshaw administration lead to loss of 350 jobs

More than 350 jobs have been lost at Crawshaw Group after the Yorkshire-based chain of butchers went into administration and shut two-thirds of its stores. It has been under pressure from the rise of discount supermarket chains Aldi and Lidl – which have forced other supermarkets and Crawshaw to cut prices – as well as challenges from rising rents, business rates and fragile consumer confidence.


Plastic-free shopping zones

The Thornton Budges in Belsize Park has become the first supermarket in Britain to initiate plastic-free shopping zones, having changed the packaging for 1,700 product lines in just ten weeks.


Number of indie retailers to rise

Nimble independent retailers are going to grow, according to research from American Express and GlobalData, which predicts a 0.3% rise in outlets between 2017 and 2023. However, the top 10 fastest-growing categories are mostly non-food related, with the exception of coffee and tea shops.


US smart kitchen app taps into UK

US-based smart kitchen app Innit is launching in the UK for the first time. It wants to revolutionise mealtimes, with interactive content, voice assistance and recommended personalised meals from around 10,000 different variations, which can then be customised by adding a different protein or sauce.


Health secretary wants personalised advice

Health advice will be tailored to class, lifestyle, location and even genetic make-up using people’s digital footprints under plans to improve disease prevention. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, wants public health bodies to learn from companies such as Amazon and Facebook and use personal data to target advice on alcohol, diet and exercise.


Lidl raises wages

Lidl has announced plans to raise staff salaries around the UK to match the Living Wage Foundation's recommended pay in March 2019. Entry-level hourly rates will go from £8.75 to £9.00 per hour outside of London, while those inside the M25 will receive a bump from £10.20 to £10.55. It will do the same in the Republic of Ireland, where pay will go from €11.70 to €11.90.


PepsiCo devours Pipers Crisps

Pipers Crisps is to be acquired for £20m by PepsiCo, which wants to expand its share of the premium crisps market. The deal is subject to approval by the Competition and Markets Authority.

Taco time

Taco Bell will open four new sites in the UK before Christmas with some of the chain’s most popular dishes promoted, including the Crunchwrap Supreme, Crunchy Taco, Grilled Stuft Burrito and Big Bell Box Taco, which puts a burrito, taco, nachos and churros all in one box.


Pigs in blankets

Health food retailer Muscle Food has made a giant pig in a blanket that is gluten-free, weighs almost 2.5kg and feeds up to 10 guests. Asda and Lidl are also selling foot-long versions.


Butcher on the chopping block

A butcher has come under attack from militant vegans after offering customers the chance to pick out their turkey for Christmas before it is killed. The farmer behind the idea said he wants to teach customers’ children lessons about the food chain.


Milk tech brings major supermarket to the yard

A major supermarket will trial labels on milk bottles that will change colour when they are too warm to help households reduce food waste. The government-funded waste charity Wrap will oversee the trial next year and is also working with the dairy and retail industries to shorten the time milk spends in transit and on supermarket shelves by at least a day.


Wetherspoon raises wages, lowers financial expectations

JD Wetherspoon is raising wages while keeping menu prices the same, a move that the chain’s chariman, Tim Martin, says may impact full-year financial results.


Ocado chairman optimistic on retail

Ex-M&S chief and current Ocado chairman Stuart Rose declares retail is not dead, noting that retailers are all very entrepreneurial the good ones will always survive


Gordon Ramsay back in black

Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant empire returned to the black last year despite challenging trading conditions and the abrupt departure of its chief executive.


Gastronomy for the homeless

Rio restaurant Refettorio Gastromotiva feed the homeless with companies’ leftovers, which are cooked by a team of trainees led by professional chefs, in what is being described as social gastronomy.


Albert Adria’s sweets-only menu

One of the best pastry chef in the world, Albert Adrià of El Bulli fame, has created what he claims is the first sweets-only fine-dining menu. His creations at Cakes & Bubbles in the Hotel Café Royal include a salty-sweet cheesecake made of white chocolate and a soft ripened French cheese from Coulommier, ice cream sandwiches in silver bags, air-light eclairs, frozen chocolate flowers and pink puffs of strawberry meringue that taste of toothpaste.

Takeaway bosses jailed

Two takeaway bosses were jailed for the manslaughter of a girl who died from an allergic reaction after ordering delivery, with the sentence a warning to food businesses said the judge.


Greene King CEO abdicates

Rooney Anand, the chief executive of Greene King, has announced plans to step down next April after almost 14 years at the helm.


John Lewis chairman steps aside

Sir Charlie Mayfield has announced that he will resign as chairman of the John Lewis Partnership in 2020.


Getting James Cochran’s goat

James Cochran, winner of this year’s Great British Menu, talks to the Telegraph about why more people are eating goat meat, from the sustainability aspects (billy goats that would otherwise be euthanized at birth are often used) to the unique flavours and cuts.


Sainsbury’s admits gaps on shelves

Sainsbury’s has admitted cuts to management staff led to gaps on its shelves over the summer, compounded by the demand caused by the heatwave. Stores are now back to normal with better availability than rivals,  Mike Coupe, the chief executive of the supermarket, said, adding that the job cuts were necessary to adapt to changing customer habits, which include shopping more online. 


Suppliers and rivals take shots at Asda-Sainsbury’s merger

In other news for the UK’s second largest supermarket, its proposed merger with Asda could reduce competition, increase fuel prices, damage the business of small retailers and suppliers, and result in higher prices for consumers, according to detailed submissions to the competition watchdog.


20 chefs on future ingredients

Twenty chefs around the country talk about the ingredients we should be using more often like unusual flours, Japanese seasoning togarashi, foraged herbs, kombu seaweed, rice vinegar, Korean fermented chilli paste gochujang and offal.

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