Restaurant consultant and industry veteran Roy Ackerman runs online food magazine programme Cool Cucumber TV and was one of Caterer's Best for Business series mentors. He caught up with Kerstin Kühn.
Caterer What's Cool Cucumber TV all about?
Roy Ackerman It's a high-definition TV channel that's available on the internet. Each month we publish a new show, which is basically a modern-day review programme of restaurants and hotels. It's designed for both the consumer who is interested in eating out and staying at hotels as well as the trade to keep operators in touch with what's happening. Each programme is divided into six segments including a new opening, a cookery section and a celebrity interview as well as a history of food and cafés in Europe.
Caterer What is the next programme on?
RA The next programme includes a segment on the Chinese Cricket Club restaurant at the Crowne Plaza hotel in the City as well as one on Cantina Vinopolis, the public restaurant at London wine tasting venue Vinopolis. There will be interviews with Scottish chef Tom Kitchin and Michel Roux as well as a cookery segment by Cyrus Todiwala of Café Spice Namasté and a piece on cafés in Madrid.
Caterer How can people get involved?
RA It has been pretty passive to be honest and so far it has mainly been about people who have approached us or people we know well. It's a bit like the old Ackerman Guide in the sense that we feature only people whose reputation we know. We do a lot of research beforehand and if we don't like something we don't put it in.
Caterer 2009 was a tough year for many hospitality businesses. Do you think 2010 will be easier?
RA I certainly hope so. I think the first quarter will be sticky but hopefully things will pick up through the year. It all depends a lot on the election and on what the Sunday papers say - if they're preaching doom and gloom then that will have a big effect on UK consumers. The biggest word of advice I can give operators is to look after their existing customers: cherish them and spend your money on retaining them rather than trying to woo new ones.
Caterer You were one of the mentors of Caterer's Best for Business series. How did you find the process?
RA I enjoyed it tremendously and really loved watching my business, the Mulberry Tree in Kent, grow from strength to strength last year. The restaurant won a few awards, which helped to boost business, and, despite the tough economic climate and its location in the middle of the Kentish countryside, increased turnover by more than 50% year-on-year.
Caterer Would you encourage operators to take part in the next series?
RA Absolutely. The business advice offered by the many mentors and the publicity from being covered in Caterer so extensively is invaluable.