Weekend on a Plate

The weekend digested: sales of disposable coffee cups rise and Wasabi hunts for funding

All the news, reviews and trends from November 3-4, including consumer demand for more transparent food labels and the Casual Dining Group’s new bid for rental cuts.

5 November 2018
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Food news

Casual Dining Group seeks rental cuts

The Casual Dining Group is hoping to come to a fresh deal with landlords through the use of a restructuring adviser, as it continues to struggle in the “tough operating environment,” reports the Sunday Times. “A small number of our sites are loss-making due to high rents and rates, and we are taking action to ensure that the core business is in good shape for future growth,” said Steve Richards, the chief executive.

 

Plant-based cooking classes

The Vegan Chef Institute has launched a programme to train professional chefs how to make plant-based dishes, as demand for those with experience of meat-free cooking booms, reports the Guardian. The London Vegetarian and Vegan School will also begin offering a similar course aimed at upscale catering.

 

Wasabi chases funding

The founder of Wasabi has asked PwC to find suitable investors for the business, as he seeks a cash injection to help fund refurbishment and American expansion, writes the Sunday Times.

Consumers misled by food labels

The Sunday Times takes a look at how food labelling confuses consumers who are seeking British ingredients. Items labelled as produced in the UK may mislead customers into believing they are made from local meat and vegetables, but that isn’t necessarily the case – though the situation is set to change in 2020, when new EU laws regarding the labelling of country of origin come into effect.

 

Patisserie Valerie chair gives up his slice of the cake

Patisserie Valerie chairman Luke Johnson has waived his pay of £60,000 in light of the continuing scandal over the business’ £40m black hole, reports the Guardian, while the Telegraph notes that despite Johnson’s claims that he will refocus his attention on the scandal-hit bakery chain, he remains a director at 30 companies.

 

Wetherspoon CFO salary queried

There is no “acceptable public explanation” for the increased salary of JD Wetherspoon finance director Ben Whitley, according to shareholder advisory service ISS. The body has suggested investors vote against a proposed 12.3% raise, which would take his total income to £192,000 (£469,000 with all the benefits and bonuses), according to the Sunday Times.

 

Is the Restaurant Group using its noodle?

Questions continue to swirl around the Restaurant Group’s proposed takeover of Wagamama, with one of the company’s largest institutional shareholder telling the Telegraph: “We would be more interested if they first turned around their legacy business properly.” The size of Wagamama’s debt and the price tag are also concerns, said the anonymous source.

Persian cattiness

Another supermarket’s magazine editor is under fire after being accused of “lazy, casual racism,” according to the Guardian. Following the resignation last week of Waitrose Food’s chief editor over comments made about vegans, Sainsbury’s Magazine was forced to apologise for a recipe labelled Persian that sent social media into a frenzy over claims it had little resemblance to the cuisine.

 

Sales of disposable coffee cups continue to rise

“Sales of single-use coffee cups have surged by more than a million a day despite the industry's pledge to reduce the number going to landfill two years ago,” reports the Daily Mail, which quotes figures suggesting that almost 3bn disposable cups will be used in the UK this year, up 250m from 2016.

 

Food interview

Paula MacKenzie, Managing Director of KFC UK & Ireland

While the infamous chicken shortage that forced hundreds of KFC closures gets plenty of column inches, the Sunday Times interview with KFC’s UK & Ireland MD also covers the fried chicken chain’s plans to cut 20% of the calories from all of its products by 2025 – including by reformulating its chips and offering rice boxes – as well as working on a “top secret” vegetarian option.

 

Food reviews

Pasta Ripiena, 33 St Stephens Street, Bristol BS1 1JX

Marina O’Loughlin tucks into “edible origami” pasta parcels, which contain surprising ingredient combinations not found in traditional Italian. These include spinach ravioli “stuffed with parmesan-rich polenta — double-carb heaven — heaped with more parmesan, fennel-scented sausage ragu and fronds of cavolo nero,” as well as triangoli filled with wild prawn, crab and mussels, “all bound together with rich shellfish bisque and a crunch of pangrattato (fried breadcrumbs).

Canto, Manchester M4 5DH

While nailing the oh-so-popular pastel de nata (egg custard tarts), most of the Portuguese food here is overpriced small plates, according to Jay Rayner: “Clams turn up in a thick, garlicky broth. It’s nicely prepared but for £11, it’s on the ‘Are you having a laugh?’ side of meagreness. Worse is the chargrilled chicken, with Savora mustard sauce… It’s such a shameless punt at poor value that I’m really not minded to tell you whether it’s any good or not.” 

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