Caterer Letters

05 September 2003 by
Caterer Letters

It's an employer's job to keep the workers cool

I write with regard to your article, "Kitchen staff bake and TUC calls for new law on high temperature" (Caterer, 14 August, page 6). Employers should be aware of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, which lay down requirements for conditions in the working environment to protect the welfare and health of workers.

Regulation 6 states that all workplaces shall be effectively ventilated with a sufficient quantity of fresh or purified air and Regulation 7 states that the indoor temperature of any workplace shall be "reasonable".

Although occasional high temperatures in the kitchen may be tolerated because of extreme weather, persistent "unreasonable conditions" - owing to inefficient or defective ventilation or indeed inadequate cooling systems - could well be interpreted as a breach of these regulations, resulting in possible prosecution of the employer.

Richard Hannay
HSQC, Health and safety consultants, By e-mail

The customer is king in the screwcap debate

I write in response to the letter from Douglas Wregg (Caterer, 21 August, page 16) regarding the issue of screwcaps for wine bottles.

First, I would say that I am not a wine-drinker particularly, and as such do not have an informed opinion as to the merits of screwcaps.

But in my view, Douglas and his antipodean producers are missing the point. If consumers do not wish to take these products, why should they? Some consumers will have listened to the debate and formed an opinion contrary to that advanced through the pages of Caterer. Some people will not be aware of the advantages of screwcaps, and some will even prefer the ritual and tradition associated with corks.

Surely, the important point is one of choice. The traditional method is more expensive and can taint the wine in some circumstances, but if consumers are content to live with that, then why should they not do so?

In a commodity market such as wine, there will be plenty of competition from other suppliers seeking to satisfy consumers' requirements in terms of price and quality should the nouveau producers not provide the traditionally bottled products.

If this makes producers' and distributors' lives more tricky, and reduces the possible marketplace for this type of wine, then that is simply something they have to contend with.

The debates within both the UK and the EU regarding issues such as GM products illustrate the difficulty of persuading consumers to change their behaviour. Those attempting to persuade them are viewed with distrust and cynicism, especially if there are vested interests at play.

John Leighton
By e-mail

Catering helps colleges to attract the best

While newspaper headlines continue to feature the always controversial results of our A level students, perhaps we should spare a thought for universities and colleges that are trying to attract the best of the best.

As today's students generally have to fund their education, their expectations have increased. The facilities on campus play a big part in their decision-making process. After all, they are investing probably three years of their lives - and money - at their chosen college.

The recently published national report on catering management in higher education from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) recognises this new-style student, and has raised a number of fascinating issues.

"Catering services," says the report, "in conjunction with other services, support the provision of a stimulating and supportive environment."

One key question posed is: "Are we providing a service or a commercial operation?" The answer, surely, has to be both. Yet many caterers, the report reveals, are operating at a loss, and are underfunded when it comes to refurbishment and new build. "This results in a poor student experience and loss of potential revenue, which has a detrimental effect on the institution's image and ability to retain students."

And when colleges lose students they lose revenue.

So let's support our catering colleagues and provide them with all the tools that we can, to help them drive their own revenue stream.

Peter O'Brien
Nescafe Student Coffee Bars
By e-mail

Ed's Easy Diner was first with smoking ban

I read your article "Pizza Hut leads with smoking ban" (Caterer, 21 August, page 10) with interest. I would like to point out that Ed's Easy Diner, although a smaller chain than Pizza Hut, banned smoking in the restaurants from the beginning of the year. Pizza Hut may believe it is the first, but we beg to differ.

Beaty Thalmann
Managing director, Ed's Easy Diner
By e-mail

Creative writing puts the theatre into eating out

Restaurateurs are losing the art of the dramatic, of creating a mood or expectation, of theatre. They are forgetting we are not necessarily hungry, but desire an experience.

Three times in the past two weeks I have lit the candle on restaurant tables to which I have been shown. Twice in the same period I have been asked to taste the wine my wife selected.

Yet consistently the biggest single disappointment in the whole experience is the dullness of the menu. We are not talking about the technical ability to balance and complement dishes, their structures, colours, seasons or fragrances. We are talking about the joy and vibrancy of the description.

Everyone tells me the chef writes the menu that appears before the customer. But has the chef been trained in creative writing, the use of emotions, the craft of creating pictures?

I seldom eat desserts. Yet recently I ate a dessert each evening at the wonderful farmhouse La Era Restaurante in Yaiza, Lanzarote, because the wording on the menu implored me to.

Take one example. La Mousse de Chocolate Van Houten was described: "You may have tasted many mousses in your time but we can assure you, you will never have tasted one this good. Made with dark English chocolate and fresh egg yolks. Named after the famous Dutch researcher who devoted his life to the study of the cocoa bean." Not Shakespeare or Milton, but words that appeal to the senses.

Recently I was advising a hotel in a stunning setting with a restaurant overlooking a tranquil, sunlit, sandy bay. On my first morning I observed the restaurant was filled with couples clearly on romantic breaks. In this wonderful setting the breakfast script should have read like the opening page of a romantic novel. An all-inclusive package price had been bought. Now was the moment for the scrambled eggs and smoked salmon, strawberries and Champagne to be offered in some style. Yet the menu simply said: "supplements".

On his recent tour of the UK, Rick Stein explained how he was excited about tasting Aberdeen Angus in the Highlands. "I arrived in Glasgow, went into a restaurant and it just said ‘steak'," he bemoaned to the viewers.

We need to move the drama from the kitchen to the culinary theatre of dreams.

Stuart Harrison, By e-mail

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