Weekend on a Plate

The weekend digested: Asda job cuts and more problems for Pret and Patisserie Valerie

The news, reviews and trends from October 27-28, including Sushi Daily’s rising profits and a guide to ethical eating.

29 October 2018
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Food news

Out of a job

Asda may cut up to 2,500 jobs next year to try and make itself more competitive. The areas highlighted for redundancies include petrol, bakery, back-office and apparel arm George.


The Naked Chef’s bare bank account

Jamie Oliver injected £13m of his own money into his Italian restaurants last year to keep them from collapsing, but he has now said that he has insufficient funds to repeat the move if business doesn’t improve.


Rolls of money

Sushi Daily’s profits increased almost 50% last year to £30m, with sales rising 23% to £269m.

Amazon Go targets 200 stores

Amazon head Jeff Bezos has hired property agents to seek out around 200 sites that would be suitable for Amazon Go, the checkout-free grocery stores that are being piloted in the US at the moment. It has also been speculated that the company may seek to snap up a whole swathe of existing stores following the Sainsbury’s-Asda merger should regulators force the pair to sell off some of their locations in exchange for greenlighting the deal.


Branded gin on the rocks

A panel of industry experts has selected supermarket own-brand gins over branded offerings in a blind taste test. Which? gave the panel 11 gins that cost under £20 to sample, asking them to score each one on palate, aroma and finish. The top five best buys based on overall score featured only one brand-name gin, Tanqueray (£18), which scored 75% – the same as Asda’s Special Triple Distilled Premium Gin (£16) and a smidge more than Lidl’s Hortus Original London Dry Gin (£16). Head of the class, however, was Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Blackfriars Gin (£16), which scored 83%.


Million-dollar mistake

Adding to Pret A Manger’s existing allergen woes, the grab-and-go chain has agreed to pay almost $1m in the States to settle claims it underpaid staff in its New York outlets. The class-action lawsuit comes in the wake of other legal battles in the US over Pret’s labelling, which is allegedly misleading, since a number of the products labelled ‘natural’ contain the chemical glysophate.


Michelin chef’s €17 menu

Michelin-starred chef Thierry Marx is hoping to tackle the cheaper end of the market and raise Parisian food standards with Marxito, which opens today. The restaurant has been described as “premium fast food” and specialises in buckwheat pancake sandwiches, with set menus topping out at a maximum of €17.

Off with the heads

“We would be surprised if the CEO stays. Someone is going to have to fall on their sword” – so says one of Patisserie Valerie’s leading institutional investors days before a shareholder meeting. While the Telegraph focuses on calls to replace the chairman, CEO and CFO following the discovery of a £40m black hole in its finances, the Times reveals that restaurateur David Scott is launching a takeover bid, backed by a family-run private equity firm.


Food trends

Seaweed comes ashore

While the argument over insects as food continues to rage, there’s no doubt that seaweed has been wholeheartedly embraced. The Sunday Times looks at how three garlanded Irish chefs are using the ingredient – from cured sugar kelp to sea spaghetti – while also noting that big corporations have bought up chunks of the coastline specifically to farm seaweed.


A guide to ethical eating

Giles Coren holds forth on provenance and sustainable eating in a bit of self-promotion for a restaurant guide he has edited. Truth, Love & Clean Cutlery deals with good food in good (read: ethical) restaurants. Among the places highlighted in the catalogue are London’s modern Chinese eatery A Wong, Bath’s vegan spot Acorn and Nottingham’s experimental fine dining experience Alchemilla.

Food reviews

Restaurant Folium, Birmingham B3 1TR

Coining the term “Scandi-Brum," Marina O’Loughlin dives into an austere tasting menu that opts for big flavours over modish presentation. Pink fir potatoes are transformed into a stock-enriched emulsion that cradles “nuggets of almost fudgy smoked eel,” topped with crisped chicken skin. Rich, fatty lamb’s neck oozes “lip-sticking” meat juices, while sheep’s milk yoghurt is offset with “the green astringency of spruce and lemon thyme, and white chocolate like a pneumatic, chewy Aero.”


Clam & Cork, Doncaster DN1 1NJ

Utilising fresh catch from nearby Grimsby, this seafood stall reminds Jay Rayner of the joys of eating at a classic market. Fat scallops with crisped pork bell and apple sauce are offered alongside fat tempura crab claws with chilli, with further Asian influences coming through in the south Indian fish curry.

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