Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Jam or Cream on Top?

The Devon County Show saw the 'world's largest scone' being made - 8 ft wide, topped with strawberries and serving 1,000 people.  A publicity stunt as the county tries to get protected status for its 'Devon Cream Tea'. 

Difference between a Devon and Cornish cream tea?  I had no idea.  In Devon it is cream and then jam on top; in Cornwall it is jam and then cream.

My thought - just ensure the scone is fresh in the first place.  Easily said but so often not the case.  Hurray for those that guarantee scones baked off every day and never, ever sell one of yesterday's left-overs.

Monday, 30 May 2011

High Chairs

Helo highchairs at Peter Jones that have castors on the front so Mum (or Dad) doesn't have to bust their back lifting a highchair into position.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Creative & Unique

Albion Caff's Bourbon biscuits
Peyton & Byrne's Fig Rolls

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Premium Condiments

Good to see that the mobiles at Chelsea Flower Show had communual condiment  tables full of  quality products.

Ok the selling prices were steep but at least there wasn't any obvious penny-pinching.

The bad and sad old days

Friday, 27 May 2011

The Only Tea Grown in England

Tregothnan's tea plantations in Cornwall would be worth bearing in mind if you looking for a distinctive and UK local product.  I am a 'builders' tea' person but their Manuka tea is delicious. www.tregothnan.com

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Power of a Brand

Cappuccino £2.50 at
Posh 'brand' in a high footfall location at Chelsea Flower Show.
Virtually no queue.

Cappuccino £2.70 (20p more) at Costa's nearby unit in a secondary location.
Big queue.

Chelsea Flower Show 10.15 on 25.5.11

Go to Chelsea for the Buns

The big guys - Sodexo in this case - don't always get it right but their Chelsea Buns at the Chelsea Flower Show are great - fresh, not too big, tasty and dense with fruit.  Not cheap at £2 but worth it.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Cafe des Plantes

Pershore College's Cafe des Plantes at Chelsea Flower Show was about Beverage Botanics and all the drinks that can be fermented, infused and distilled from plants.  Sadly, no actual cafe but interesting nonetheless.

Edamame Beans

 A soybean that can be eaten fresh and best known as a snack with a nutritional punch and apparently responsible for Posh's 23" waist.

Now mainstream (i.e. in Pret).  Tasted one yet?

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

The New Mini

Clever idea - mini bitesize versions of your favourite cakes at a maxi price (80p in this case) - seen at Peter Jones' rooftop cafe.

Monday, 23 May 2011

The Latest Cafe Accessory

Wood burning stoves are the latest 'must have' to generate that informal, relaxed, back to nature, cosy feel that so sum up the appeal of cafes over more formal catering ventures.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Pork Pie & Piccalilli

Peyton & Byrne's clever sale of a traditional staple plus the added value of piccalilli

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Biscuits, not Cookies

Another bright idea from Peter Jones' cafe - Nutmeg & Custard Biscuits at £1.95 a pop.  Different, determinedly British and a full price.

Friday, 20 May 2011


The £5.95 Ploughman's at Langford Garden Centre's Ival Valley Coffee Shop in Bedfordshire.  Opened a year ago and sales climbing rapidly.

The local pubs better watch out.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

The Cold Drink Conundrum

Those smart trendy bottles of cold drink are popular but don't do much for your margins.

Solution: Decant bulk-bought quality juices (or your own lemonade) into plastic cups as done here on the eye-level top shelf at smart operators Pain Quotidien.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Fresh Scones and Tree Stumps

The sign on entering Highgrove (the Gloucestershire home of HRH The Prince of Wales) says: Beware!  You are now entering an old fashioned establishment. 

The gardens are quirky, fun and show the amazing artistic potential of tree stumps.

The catering by William's Kitchen at Calcot (Manor Hotel) was simple but good - tea and scones.  The owners, Richard & Cathy Ball, guaranteed me £100 that their scones will always be freshly baked and you can't argue with that.  They came up trumps with creme patissiere for a guest who couldn't eat cream.  Lovely china but not sure tea bags are old fashioned or up to the overall quality of the experience.

Welsh Dresser at Waddesdon

Don't let anyone tell you that expensive custom-made counters are required to display cakes attractively.  Waddesdon Garden Centre has kept it simple, colourful and on next to no budget.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Fresh Fruit Display

Fruit provides colour and that healthy glow to your food display (even if sales will be low) but baskets are generally so unimaginative.  Couture has brought some creative thinking to the fruit display at their Canteen at Pinewood Studios as befits a world class film studio location.

Monday, 16 May 2011

More on Macaroons

We had the giant macaroons at Peter Jones - see blog post dated 12th April - and now we have Macaron Frappes courtesy of Paul.

You may also have seen the Unifine food and bake ingredients flyer in your Caterer magazine publicising their French Macaroon Mix - mix with hot water for 4 minutes and bake for 20 minutes - and all the colourful things you can do with a macaroon!

Friday, 13 May 2011

Jamie's Success

Enter the Jamie's Italian in Liverpool and it's theatre - live pasta making.  This hugely successful, fast-expanding restaurant chain has much to teach us.  I note and applaud:
  • Kitchen cloth type serviettes
  • House wine in tetrapaks
  • Lots of food and product out on display
  • Planks/platters/boards used to serve food
  • "Humble" green salad
  • Wood and metalwork artisan fit out with an inexpensive, basic ceiling
  • "Posh Chips" - truffle oil and parmesan, funky garlic and parsley
Keep an eye on this one.  Customers love the unpretentious feel of it all.  Jamie's 'get it', are full and are on the money.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Best Eccles Cake Ever

OK it's subjective but the 'made daily' eccles cakes at St John Bread and Wine off Spitalfields are fab - it's more of  a restaurant than a cafe but they do take-away sales.  Get in touch if you know anywhere that might rival their quality and taste!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Colour Me Beautiful

Wells-next-the-Sea in Norfolk has a new Beach Cafe sporting colour, windbreaks and quality food.

Simple touch - different coloured napkins to engender that seaside buzz ........ plus an appropriate paperweight!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Proud Purveyors of Cake

Photo:Michelle Meiklejohn

Is there a problem?  
Check out the most chilling set of powerpoint slides -
and although it is the USA, something similar is happening here.  Cafes are proud purveyors of cake so what can we do? 

The British Hospitality Association is recommending caterers provide calorie information as part of the government's Responsibility Deal.

Suggestion: have one or two items that you always sell marked with their calories - or Weight Watcher ProPoints - so that you show willing, inform customers and take a small step to being part of the solution.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

The Food Issue

I have been asked to lead workshops at the Caffe Culture Show - Olympia 18th & 19th May, noon to 1.30pm - on 'The Food Issue':

"How we can produce distinctive food in a small space with minimal equipment??  A workshop where we learn from the participants led by an expert cafĂ© consultant, Chris Brown of Turpin Smale Catering Consultancy.
Bakery cafes are the rage throughout Europe and innovative, distinctive food is a must.  Easily prepared and fresh is the mantra..

Obesity is a real challenge – how can we sell something that few of us should be eating?  The challenge of calorie count menus and pro-points.

The big chains have specialist food development teams and huge purchasing power – how the independent can compete, flourish and win out."
The sessions cost £50 and bookings are via the organisers at http://www.caffeculture.com/Content/Workshops/40/

Friday, 6 May 2011

Cafe's Best Friend

Dogs = Owners = Walks = Potential Customers

Do we welcome them? 

The best - Doddington Hall, Sandbanks Cafe - feature quality dog bowls, lead securing points and dog treats.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Effective Signage

Signage can be more memorable than a banner.

Seen at Tissington Village in the Peak District - a case of attracting (and humouring) the visitors rather than scaring the crows.

Caterer Couture's 'Milk & Honey' cafe brand at Pinewood Studios

What a Cafe isn't

£40, eight course, set menu served at a fixed time.  Three types of butter.  Credit to the food, service and effort but .....

The Dining Room in Ashbourne, Derbyshire has the quality but not the customers - seven on a Thursday night.

It brought home to me what cafes are so good at - a range of good value food served throughout the day and, generally, lots of customers.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Edible Flowers, Figs & Exotica

How do you make the ordinary extraordinary?      

Bill's Produce Store - Brighton, Lewes, Reading and now Covent Garden - puts edible flowers, figs and exotic fruit on top of desserts such as cheesecake and pavlova.  A treat for the eyes.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Worth a £1

£1 child food items - great value and, apparently, hasn't taken away from £4.50 child theme boxed meals.  Given the 'children eat free' seen at many outlets nowadays it is probably a clever move.  Seen at National Tramway Museum in the Peak District.