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Dine Back Better – Food for thought for future proofing 21st Century dining
‘Build Back Better,’ was this week’s clarion call, as a dazed hospitality sector drags itself forward under chronic labour and food shortages and a huge appetite for an immediate issue of short term immigration contracts to fill the gaps.
But, wait! Is this really the solution to what has long been a problem in the restaurant business?
Is this a perfect storm of opportunities, rather than a depressing series of crises. What if we could pick any newspaper headline, whether it focuses on Climate, Staff, CO2, Supply Chain, Farming, Stifled International Demand, Productivity and of course Fuel – and flip it into market innovation?
Covid, has been called many things, but let’s focus on one moniker in particular, ‘The Great Accelerator’. We all experienced lock down last year, and it has most assuredly accelerated our understanding of how finite the Earth’s resources are, and how our insatiable appetite for newness and all things disposable is having a devastating effect on our climate, our health and our future. As we climb out of the depths of lockdown and start to enjoy more freedom, it really does feel as good a time as any, to ask ourselves some particularly hard questions.
I’ll start the ball rolling with:
Is our industry prepared for Generation Z, The digital, environmentalists?
How are we future-proofing our supply chains to be carbon zero by 2035?
Are we ready for costs to spiral out of control in all manner of ways to reach for decarbonisation?
What does a carbon zero menu look and taste like – and how much will it cost?
Are we investing in training and retaining our staff – and paying them a fair wage with all the accoutrements of a great job?
Do the sums add up – can industry pay more when they’re not over the horror of 2020/21 and added costs of Covid compliance?
Are consumers prepared to pay more for values-led restaurant dining?
Are consumers ready to pay more now hyper-inflation notches up?
Will Michelin have to change their definition of culinary excellence for 2021 and beyond?
Who is leading the way and answering all these questions?
I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, nor do I know any restaurants emerging undamaged from the past year, or with a crystal ball of predictions, but I do see a chorus of positivity and unity from trusted brands to fresh-faced newcomers, collectively and desperately trying to press re-set.
Here are some that have caught our eye recently, some brilliant, some contentious, but all easing the situation:
Skye Gyngell’s Spring restaurant as the first plastic-free kitchen this year
Adam Handling’s commitment to zero-waste kitchens
Ugly Butterfly uniforms made from recycled plastic packaging
Chantelle Nicholson’s relocation of Tredwell’s to become a more ‘multi-functional space’ – a community hub with space for community events
Move to online bookings, only to cut labour
Local produce and foraging is not only de rigueur it’s essential
Restaurants who’ve moved from a minority plant-based cooking to equal or dominant share
Menus on QR readers – leading to more online ordering, less labour
Those who buy and invest in British – from foods to sparkling wines
Hotels such as Carbis Bay and restaurants such as Wildflower in Camden installing energy-efficient systems providing on-site electricity generation and heating
Please continue adding ideas and examples in our blog 💡 or email your thoughts for us to post on firstname.lastname@example.org:
At LRG, we hear both sides of the coin daily; from our members, who are frustrated because they cannot find availability at their favourite restaurants; when they do the menu has changed; and what they wanted is no longer available or the service is not as good as it used to be. And also from our restaurant partners who are struggling without key staff; the staff they do have are doubling up in all areas; they are operating at 60% – 80% capacity because off measures to protect staff and customers alike; and the food deliveries have been affected by driver shortages; even when food is locally sourced; and answering the phone is just not possible at times.
We have always been an industry with innovation at our core, and each contingency is making way for a cure – baby steps, but each getting us ahead. Whereas no one has a definite answer, I do think we need to start talking about it much more, and fast.
Love to hear your thoughts?
Tessa Shreeve, Founder of Luxury Restaurant Guide
There is clearly a current national staffing shortage in the hospitality industry – I personally think this is a combination of BREXIT and furlough. The former has led to a number of highly skilled hospitality staff returning to their home countries around Europe and the latter has affected the hard-working mentality of many in the industry. Getting young people excited about the industry and having more funding and support from the government for apprenticeship schemes is absolutely fundamental. The majority start in hospitality at a very young age and it’s super important to focus on training the young chefs and front of house, as they really are the future of our industry. I am so lucky with the team that I have in my group – my core team, my family – they will always stay strong, passionate and determined and, if we do face those inevitable staffing shortages now and then, they always push that bit harder until we overcome these challenges.Adam Handling, Frog Restaurants and Ugly Butterfly
We, like many others, are experiencing a number of new challenges. We are helped by having our own kitchen garden here at Le Manoir and using much of our own produce. We work with local suppliers as much as we can and continue to update our menu to ensure the best produce we can get; adapting dishes for the best in season.Chef Raymond Blanc