Weekend on a Plate

The weekend digested: Aldi and Lidl have the most loyal customers and Brexit food supply concerns

The news, reviews and trends from July 28-29, including Byron Burgers still facing potential problems and Domino's expansion woes.

30 July 2018

Food news

Brits prove loyal to the Germans

Tesco is poised to face an uphill battle in gaining new customers for its impending budget grocery chain, with research suggesting that Aldi and Lidl have the most loyal customers in the UK grocery sector. According to the Telegraph, research by retail consultants TCC Global found that Aldi and Lidl came first and second respectively in a study measuring the loyalty of shoppers, while Waitrose came in at third. Tesco trailed at seventh, almost 40 points behind top-ranking Aldi. “This could come as a shock to Tesco as they launch their own discount store, which will need to offer something very different to Aldi and Lidl or it won’t be compelling enough to win shoppers back from the Germans,” TCC global insights director Bryan Roberts said. As Food Spark noted last week, speculation is rife that Tesco will open its first discount grocer store, to be called Jack’s, by early September.


Food supply faces 'tinderbox conditions'

Farmers are set to meet with government officials on Wednesday for an emergency summit due to fears a drought caused by the heatwave could adversely impact the UK’s food supply. The National Farmers' Union said the heatwave has caused “tinderbox conditions,” with reduced grass growth and depleted yields for many crops potentially causing a shortage of feed for livestock and dairy farmers later in the year, according to the Guardian.


image credit: Getty Images

Aldi drafts in suppliers in case of no deal Brexit

Aldi has asked its food suppliers to begin contingency planning in case the UK crashes out of the EU with no deal. According to the Sunday Times, the German discount grocer emailed suppliers last month to say it wanted to work with them “to help understand the potential implications” and to “mitigate any negative impacts”. The email included a spreadsheet in which suppliers were asked 15 questions, including breakdowns of any ingredients and packaging materials sourced from the EU, the percentage of EU staff they employed and the implications of WTO tariffs for their products. The news comes after Brexit secretary Dominic Raab admitted last week that the government was taking steps to ensure that there were “adequate” supplies for Britain in the event of a no-deal departure from the EU. He also sparked criticism from the British Consortium over his suggestion that grocers should be stockpiling food in the event of a 'no deal' Brexit.


Brexit provides the perfect ingredients for a national food crisis

More on Brexit secreatry Dominic Raab and the stockpiling of foods issue. As Jay Rayner writes for the Observer, the government itself would not be stockpiling food. It doesn’t have a way of doing so. Instead, it would be up to the food industry to deal with it. Raab's comments have left the entire British food supply chain – farmers, producers and retailers – utterly baffled. “There isn’t warehousing space in this country,” said Ian Wright of the Food and Drink Federation, which represents the interests of UK manufacturers. “There doesn’t need to be, because companies do not hold huge inventories. It’s massively financially inefficient to do so.” Only 49% of the food we consume is produced in Britain, he said. The rest comes from abroad, and most of that is in the form of ingredients to be turned into the foods we eventually eat. It arrives just in time to be used, after which the finished goods are immediately dispatched. “I don’t think the government understands that,” he said. Should we be concerned? According to Wright, absolutely. “You need only one unexpected shock in the supply chain and you’ve got no product very quickly.” He points to the recent acute shortage of CO2, a by-product of the fertiliser business. It led to supply problems with everything from beer to crumpets. A no-deal Brexit would make that one episode look like child’s play. “It would be disruption on a pretty epic scale, at least for a number of weeks,” he says. “If this does go wrong, we would see a very speedy erosion of choice.”


Burger chain Byron admits it may need another lifeline

Struggling burger chain Byron has warned it could face a cash call if hard-pressed consumers continue to spurn having meals out, according to the Sunday Telegraph. At the start of the year, the casual dining chain closed 19 restaurants and cut the rent of five underperforming outlets after thrashing out a CVA and restructuring with creditors. Byron, which was left with about 50 restaurants after the deal, also secured £34.5m of new investment. Of this, £25m was used to pay off debt and the rest was sunk into the business, according to annual accounts for the year to the end of June 2017. However, the results warned that as of July this year, “trading conditions continue to be difficult as the new shareholders and managers restructure the cost base.”

The Big Smoke

Franchisee fury at Domino's expansion strategy

Domino’s Pizza is under pressure from franchisees who are dragging their heels over new openings because of growing hostility towards the boss, David Wild, reports the Sunday Times. Relations are said to have soured so badly that some of the takeaway chain’s biggest franchisees boycotted the brand’s annual jamboree in Liverpool in March. If the situation worsens, the FTSE 250 company could be forced to slash targets, which would dent profits. The rancour centres on the ability of franchisees, who buy food and services from Domino’s, to make money from their operations. They have been affected by rising costs and pressure to open more sites in existing locations — which benefits Domino’s but damages franchisees’ profits. The rocky relations have driven 11 big franchisees to create the Domino’s Franchise Association UK & Ireland to represent the interests of them and others. The company promised between 65 and 75 new sites in Britain and Ireland this year. Analysts at the stockbroker Liberum found that 22 had been opened in the first half of the year.


Jamie Oliver on the casual dining crunch

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Jamie Oliver has bemoaned the challenges facing casual dining operators. He said: “It’s really hard on the high street. Not enough people, not enough money. I’ve always paid over minimum wage and used sustainable fish and well-sourced meat. If you’ve got values and you care, it’s hideous in the industry at present. Prices, rents and rates go up and everyone ends up going shit. Barbecoa in Piccadilly took £90,000 a week, but I needed £110,000 to survive’.”


Diners' app BigDish poised to float on London Stock Exchange

A mobile phone app that offers diners restaurant discounts at off-peak hours is to float on the London Stock Exchange this week, reports the Mail on Sunday. BigDish was founded by British entrepreneur Aidan Bishop in Manila, capital of the Philippines, and has expanded across Asia into Hong Kong and Indonesia to work with around 500 restaurants. As part of its float in London – which is expected to value the company at up to £20million – BigDish is also buying a similar British business called Table Pouncer, which was founded in Bournemouth. After the London listing, Bishop intends to expand his business across the UK. He will compete with established brands such as Taste Card, which offers diners discounts at restaurants including Pizza Express and La Tasca. BigDish charges restaurants a fee to use the app to offer customers discount rates during quiet hours. The app is free for diners.


Food trends

Waste not, wilt not

The Guardian featured a story by Bristol-based chef and sustainability campaigner Tom Hunt in which he suggested that wilted salad leaves could be barbecued rather than binned. Referring to how Brits dispose of 40% of all the bagged leaves – therefore wasting 37,000 tonnes a year and making it the most wasted household ingredient – he said that if you have a whole head of lettuce that is “wilted beyond revival”, grilling it would be a way to avoid food waste. Hunt provided a simple recipe of chargrilled lettuce wedges served with mayo and toasted nuts.


Would you like your afternoon tea shaken or stirred?

The traditional English afternoon tea has been turned on its head at the historic Dukes London hotel, thanks to the new MarTEAni Experience as revealed by the Evening Standard. The experience comes with three crafted mini martinis, which are paired with certain aspects of the afternoon tea. The Lemon Martini is paired with sandwiches, the Orange Marmalade goes with the scones, and a First Romance Tea Martini with the sweet treats.  

Chocolate ganache, orange sorbet, hazelnuts and white chocolate fudge
image credit: Instagram @the_purefoy_arms


Pack your bags for these cooking holidays

It’s no secret that food and dining is often high on anyone’s list of reasons to enjoy traveling, so it’s unsurprising that the Observer’s list of 10 of the best cooking holidays worldwide piqued our interest. Two of the featured holidays are in the UK. The first is the The Pig and Lime Wood Hotel in New Forest, England, where guests are encouraged to explore its walled garden, greenhouses and orchards or pick their own ingredients to be cooked up later. Guests can also take part in Angela Hartnett and Luke Holder’s cooking school, which is suitable for complete beginners as well as experienced cooks. The second listed adventure flying the flag for the UK is Fat Hen, who specialises in foraging and wild-cooking courses based in a barn in west Cornwall. Guests have the option of a Crab on the Beach experience, the Forage, Cook and Feast day, or the Gourmet Wild Food Weekend.


Food Reviews

Forza Win, Peckham, London, SE15 3SN

The Guardian’s Jay Rayner paid a visit to Forza Win in London’s south-east, which he praised for its smart cookery and “off-the-scale excellent” ingredients. He sampled the taut-skinned and buxom, sweet beef tomatoes in a panzanella salad, a fried cheese sandwich, and rigatoni in a lamb ragu that “demands to be chased around the bowl with every last piece of parmesan-draped pasta”. Rayner also tried the grilled pork collar steak alongside a dollop of braised lentils and a muscular salad of flat-leaf parsley and mint. However, he said the star of his meal was a whole spatchcocked chicken, which had been half boned out, then grilled with a generous squirt of lemon juice and came with a bowl of chickpeas and chard, and deep-fried Jersey Royals.

Rigatoni in a lamb ragu
image credit: Instagram @forzaqin


The Purefoy Arms, Preston Candover, Hampshire, RG25 2EJ

The Purefoy Arms is a relatively new restaurant in the village of Preston Candover, Hampshire that is run by UK Pub Chef of the Year 2017 winner Gordon Stott. The Telegraph’s Michael Deacon wrote that it was “small and buffed to a shine” and took its food “very seriously”. Deacon started his meal with the kedgeree, which looked like a small bowl of custard with an egg yolk floating in it. He said it “tasted great”, crediting the tangy curried rice, slippery poached cod, mussels, and juicy capers. His wife’s had the mushroom and truffle soup, while the main that was ordered was the pork chop, which he wrote was not “blow-your-socks-off spectacular, but good, well presented, and a cut above a conventional pub lunch”. The puddings sampled were the Tia Maria-soaked sponge with coffee cream, meringue and chocolate, and the chocolate bar, which consisted of alternating bricks of chocolate ganache and white-chocolate fudge.


The Bell Inn, Langford, Oxfordshire GL7 3LF

The Sunday Times' Dolly Alderton wrote of how she was “charmed into submission” by The Bell Inn, a gastropub located in the heart of The Cotswolds. Visiting for a late lunch, Alderton started her meal with wedges of juicy grilled peach, matched with toasted hazelnuts and dulcet, creamy goat’s curd. She also tried the shell-pink crab on toast while her dining partner tried the garlic, parsley and bone-marrow flatbread. For the main, Alderton had the wood-fired Torbay sole, served whole and on the bone, which she described as “abundant with delicate, snowy meat”. Alderton also sampled the sea bass with heritage tomatoes, of which she wrote: “The flesh is light and tender, the skin thick and crisp — a marriage as perfect as Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds, and as hard to replicate at home.” For pudding, the panna cotta was sampled, accompanied by soft, stewed strawberries.

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