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letters

01 January 2000
letters

Accentuate the Asian positives

THE Asian catering subsector has come under the spotlight recently, but one of the main things we have failed to realise is the positive aspects of Asian cuisine.

Having carried out a recent survey in the Midlands, I have discovered that more and more pubs are now serving Asian food and beverages, from cold beers to miscellaneous hot curries.

At the first Ethnic Food Show at the NEC in Birmingham there were many new developments and innovations. Some catering establishments are now serving curried pizza and pasta and, at the House of Commons, there is now a Parliamentary Curry Club.

The beauty of Asian food is its wide diversity. Let's not forget that.

MANISH SOOD

Youth and student officer,

Labour Party,

Leicester.

Police canteen is just criminal

THE article "Force feeding" (Caterer, 16 July, page 30) states that there are some distinct differences between the two services at Charing Cross and Buckingham Gate. I question why all photographs accompanying the article depict scenes at Buckingham Gate.

It would appear that Charing Cross provides room for officers to play cards and read newspapers while consuming their meal from a salad bar.

How I feel for the officer who takes his meal at Buckingham Gate. He appears to be very much the poor relation, with conditions that take us back years. No salad bar here, merely a stainless steel container set on a servery counter dispensing hot meals. So much for presentation.

The senior catering manager states that the restaurants may appear to be understaffed. I suggest that they are understaffed.

The scene in the photographs of long lines of tables with virtually no space between them, cluttered with prepackaged items, and long queues of officers waiting to be served, smacks of institutional catering of many years ago. All that appears to be missing is an attendant to direct each officer to where he should sit and to check that they have washed their hands.

The statement that, on the whole, plates are wiped clean appears to conflict with the photograph showing officers taking their meals at Buckingham Gate. I estimate more than half of those who appear to have finished their meals have left a substantial portion of them.

I believe it is high time the Metropolitan force is provided with a modern facility to take it out of the dark ages.

HJ SMITH

Rockcliffe,

Carlisle.

Can the BHAstill claim impartiality?

FURTHER to your news story about the BHA council (Caterer, 11 June, page 9), the council is unrepresentative of our industry, consisting as it does of 14 group members and one independent member, the chairman.

The latter will eventually step down to be replaced by a representative from Whitbread. Then there will be no independent on the BHA council, and ministers would be wise to question its ability to lobby for the whole of our industry.

The BHA executive, in its response to your article, suggests that the national executive provides the balance because "half its members are independents". Of the 18 members, and by the BHA's own definition, only five are truly independent hoteliers - 27%.

Finally, I want to see a strong BHA as an umbrella organisation for the whole of our industry. It matters little to me and democracy that the "big boys" want their own playing field - they can't have it, and if they force it we will all lose.

A wider debate is necessary, and would be possible if we could only keep it up with who owns who among the would-be global groups.

Martin CUMMINGS

Proprietor,

Amberley Castle,

Near Arundel,

West Sussex.

Stay with those you can trust

YES, the world has gone mad, as stated by Jeremy Rata (Caterer, 16 July, page 21) - gone mad for skilled people.

Having been around this circle of boom and bust in our industry before, I have noted that many agencies clamber into the ring during high demand time and disappear when it's over.

Do you think they might just be doing so for money, or because they are seriously interested in the industry?

Stick to those who were here before and want to be here after this difficult period.

CHRIS CHAPMAN

Chief executive,

Catering Recruitment & Consultancy,

Honiton,

Devon.

keep employment options open

I AM writing in support of Jeremy Rata's letter regarding recruitment agencies.

It has long been my opinion that, as employers, we are sometimes our own worst enemies. While I am fully aware of the difficulties facing the industry, I am not convinced we spend enough time exploring other recruitment possibilities.

It remains all too easy to pick up the phone to an agency and place a vacancy, and regret the fee at leisure. The reality is that, by doing this, we narrow our options significantly.

I would not dispute for a minute that there is a place for recruitment agencies in the industry. I would, however, question whether it is pure coincidence that so many agencies advertise their vacancies, yet so few people answer directly to independent advertisements.

SIMON TUCKER-BROWN

Operations manager,

Nutfield Priory,

Redhill,

Surrey.

allergens must be properly labelled

I WELCOME any initiative to increase awareness within the catering industry of anaphylaxis and the dietary needs of allergic individuals, so I was interested in Hazel Gowland's comments ("Awareness can save lives", Caterer, 2 July, page 23).

However, having been involved with allergy issues for the past five years, my findings confirm that there is not only a need for increased awareness but also a need for mandatory food labelling, so that potent allergens, eg, nuts and sesame, can be identified wherever they are used.

Minute amounts of potent allergens may result in severe reactions. Because peanuts and sesame, which are common in our diet today, are often hidden ingredients in processed foods, the risk of severe reactions is substantial.

Another risk lies in the reuse of cooking oils, a common practice in the restaurant sector. Most people with potentially life-threatening allergies tend to keep the offending food out of their homes so that there is no risk of contamination, so it is hardly surprising that the majority of fatal and near-fatal reactions to food occur when eating out in restaurants.

Finally, allergic individuals owe it to themselves to be extremely cautious when eating out. Speaking with the management is the best policy, and carrying the prescribed medication is essential.

MAGGIE SPIRITO PERKINS

Radlett,

Hertfordshire.

more than just a place to sleep

I AM sure that many hoteliers will sympathise with Martin Cummings, who reported on his staff accommodation problems in your Viewpoint page (Caterer, 2 July, page 24).

An alternative to the B&B option he suggests is offered by the PM Club in Earls Court, London. We offer accommodation for 106 hotel employees aged between 16 and 23, in single, double or triple rooms. Rooms are cleaned daily throughout the week, so problems are picked up quickly, and having four resident staff means that not only are noisy gatherings dealt with quickly, but also that young people have someone available to talk to when they have problems.

We feel that we offer more than just a place to stay, we offer a social life and home comforts, advice and support, as well as the necessary discipline.

The unsocial hours of many hotel workers mean that it can be difficult for them to build up a social life in a strange city. Unhappy employees going home to poor-quality accommodation or to lonely bedsits are unlikely to stay in their jobs for long or to work as well as happy employees living in good quality, central accommodation with the facilities for recreation which we are able to offer.

Because we have a big building funded by a fairly large number of residents, we are able to offer a multigym, laundry, snooker room, two TV lounges and 24-hour-a-day staff presence.

I feel that hoteliers should consider funding more such establishments, and that their staff turnover would be reduced considerably if they did so. Once a building is purchased and furnished, it is self-financing. The PM Club is a registered charity and is non-profit-making, but it does cover all its overheads on rents of £56 per week.

We have an open day on Thursday 3 September to celebrate our 50th anniversary, and if hoteliers are interested in seeing the club, please telephone the Hotel and Catering Benevolent Association (Events Department) on 0181-946 7561.

PETER POUND

Manager/youth worker,

The PM Club,

Earls Court,

London SW5.

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