Be a mindful eater to keep slim

Concentrating on your meals as you eat them could be the secret of managing your weight. Research by Harvard University showed that dieters lost an average of half a stone, when they focussed on their food rather than what was going on around them.

Eating without being distracted and concentrating completely on the food is said to help us stay in shape, as ‘mindful eating’ ensures that we are able to tune in with the body to enable us to hear when we are actually full.

The Buddhist principle of focusing on the present inspired the term mindful eating. Mindful eating has been said to help binge eaters cut their number of bingers from eight a fortnight to three, keeping them more under control.

Researchers say that it takes about 20 minutes for the brain to register that the body is full, as digestion involves a complex series of hormonal signals between the nervous system and gut. Therefore, the signals will lag behind if people guzzle their food down too quickly, which can lead to over-eating.

A recent study by Bristol University concluded that eating at your desk could also make you put on weight as distractions such as checking email, playing computer games or reading websites make it harder for us to remember what we have eaten and stops us from feeling full. It is thought that a key role of dampening our appetite is remembering what we have eaten.

People are advised by the Kallo Food Academy, an online healthy eating forum, to savour their food and chew it slowly.

Kallo spokesperson, Elaine Underwood said “Simple measures such as moving away from the computer for a few minutes at lunchtime, or finding some time to eat out without being distracted by newspapers or TV will allow people to enjoy their food more by noticing the texture and flavours they’re eating”.

If you’re eating out in a restaurant, you could try ordering your starter before the main meal to see how hungry you actually are, after you’ve had the starter. You could also wait for a bit before ordering a dessert so your body can tell you if it’s full. Many restaurants will have 2 for 1 offers or deals to get more people eating out as it can help cover their cost of supplies, energy, restaurant insurance and hiring staff, but don’t let them tempt you into ordering more than you can eat!

Not only may eating slower help you to enjoy your food more, it could also help you lose weight.

Are you scared of sushi?

Outside of Japan, sushi is probably the most famous Japanese dish that we know. Sushi is said to be high in protein and low in fat as the main ingredients of sushi is raw fish and rice. However, the same cannot always be said of the sushi that we buy in the UK, as they increasingly feature ingredients like avocado, crab sticks and mayonnaise which are non-traditional.

A couple of us at Quotesearcher are fans of eating sushi for lunch, which is usually just a pack from a supermarket. So when we saw an offer that came through in our inbox for a discount at Satori Sushi, we decided to go for it!

Once we got to the restaurant, we were seated next to the sushi conveyor belt and were not exactly sure what the different foods or fish were. Then the waitress handed us the sushi menu which made us even more confused, as there was a wide range of sushi to choose from including Sashimi, Temaki, Gunken, Nigri, Maki and Temakie.

However, after studying the menu I took a couple of the Nigiri sushis off the belt, which can be described as vinegar rice topped with a nice slab of raw tuna and salmon. They were delicious and it seems I found a new love for the kick of wasabi! Off the menu I ordered the Sashimi sushi, which is raw fish sliced and served by itself. The meat was chunky and tasted fresh which surprisingly made me quite full.

We also decided to order a portion of mixed tempura to share between us, which consisted of lightly battered mixed fish and vegetables including asparagus, carrots, courgettes and peppers which all get a thumbs up.

When people think of a sushi restaurant, they usually think of raw fish. However, this isn’t always true as my colleague discovered after ordering a Katsu Curry alongside the tempura. This admittedly, wasn’t very adventurous coming to a sushi restaurant and not ordering any fish! However, she enjoyed her food!

There aren’t as many authentic sushi restaurants around as the Quotesearcher team would like. This may be because it takes a while for chefs to be trained on how to make sushi, the costs of running the restaurants including hiring staff, the rising cost of energy, finding cheap restaurant insurance and the cost of supplies.

We love sushi but don’t want to place unnecessary harm on the environment. Therefore, finding out more information about the fish that you eat and making sure they are not on the risk list will make a difference. Also, it’s good to find out how restaurants monitor their sustainability and if they offer approved and sustainable wild fisheries products.

Visit some fun food festivals this summer

It’s summertime, a great time to get out and take advantage of the good weather whilst it lasts! One way to enjoy the summer sun is to get out to a food festival and there are loads happening all around the UK this year. If you are still looking for something to do in June, Quotesearcher has scoured the internet to find a few interesting events happening this month.

The BBC Good Foods Show Summer at the NEC Birmingham (15th–19th) is a great example of a food festival, as the event will provide you with entertainment from top chefs such as James Martin and MasterChef Champions Gregg Wallace and John Torode. The show will also feature the very best fresh summer food and drink, as well as the TV Chefs cooking up dishes to inspire all food lovers. This is a great event for the whole family, as kids go free over the weekend.

Another good food festival is the Cheltenham Food and Drink Festival at Montpellier Gardens in Cheltenham (17th -19th), which is a fabulous 3 day food and wine festival, showcasing fine food from around England. Visitors will be able to meet the producers at this unique festival and discover tantalising wines from around the world. This event is great for foodie explorers looking to tickle their taste buds and learn more about food and drink.

A big food festival event is one that Regent’s Park will be hosting, which is the Taste of London Event that is happening between the 16th-19th June. This event is said to be the world’s greatest restaurant festival with world class chefs, restaurants, drinks and produce being present at the event, as well as representatives from all areas of the food industry, including wholesalers, restaurant insurance providers and business investors. If you are in the capital this summer, treat yourself to an indulgent foodie day out.

Another event in London is the brand new Farmers & Fine Foods market in Portobello Road, which will be launched on the 18th. This wonderful festival will include food from more than 30 stalls, as well as wine tasting and face painting. Farmer’s and Fine Food Market offer a wide range of quality and organic food produce to reflect today’s Londoner diverse palate. Sounds good to us!

Food festivals are a great place to go out if you are looking for food inspiration, love food and drink or just want a fun day out for the whole family! It’s a place where communities can get together and suppliers can showcase their latest food creations. The best bit is that visitors can sample and taste all the different foods and drinks!

Let’s hope that the good weather will hold out this month so foodies and families can enjoy the festivals. Which ones will you be attending?

Food bills increase at their fastest for two years

Food that some people usually see as a necessity such as bread and pasta, have soared in price by 25% in the last 2 years.

In May, the annual rate of increase for all types of food hit 4.9%. The increase was driven by the boost in cost of commodity crops such as corn and wheat. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has said that it is the droughts throughout many parts of Europe that have added to the cost, as there has been a slowdown of the crops growing.

Stephen Robertson, BRC director general, explains that “The recent instability in the price of key commodities such as bread, which is linked to global demand and dry weather, is now making its way through to other foods throughout shops”.

As the cost of animal feed is more expensive, it has a knock-on effect on the cost of dairy products, eggs and meat.

Many households have already started cutting down the amount of groceries they buy from supermarkets and official figures show households are making serious changes to their shopping habits. Figures show that supermarket own-branded bread and pasta has increased by 25% as wheat prices are up by 72% in a year. Snacks, cooking oil and processed food have increased as corn prices have raised by 112% in a year.

Restaurants are feeling the struggle to get people to eat out at their establishments. We have seen many businesses offering 2 for 1 meal deals and other special offers to try and entice people to eat out. Not only has supply prices increased for restaurants, but so has gas, commercial restaurant insurance and electricity bills which has all had an effect on the general running costs of restaurants.

Supermarkets have also resorted to promotions to keep customers coming to their stores, according to retail analysts Nielson.

Senior manager for retailer services, Mike Watkins, said “Due to weather related or seasonal fresh foods, prices have increased this month.

“Retailers are offering deeper price cuts and an increase in promotions, as other rising bills such as gas and electricity is still more of a priority to shoppers”.

However, as many of us feel the squeeze on our household budgets and spending, low cost supermarkets such as Lidl and Aldi has seen an increase in sales.

Hoorah! Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant makes a profit

According to the accounts that have been filed at Companies House, the celebrity Chef, Gordon Ramsay has posted a return to profit which means that things are looking up for him after a terrible couple of years for his business.

In the previous accounts, the turnover had fallen quite steeply at his restaurant in Claridge’s hotel and there was a reduction of how much each person was spending at his Maze restaurant, which showed that people have cut back their spending on eating out.

With the falling out with his former business partner and father-in-law, Chris Hutcheson, the business year could also be financially hit. Hutcheson was said to be the financial brains behind the business and was the former mentor to Ramsay for 13 years, was discovered to be leading a double life with another woman and fathered two children, was sacked.

In the coming year, significant professional and legal costs will have been and are likely to be incurred to resolve issues. Despite this, Ramsay has however significantly improved financially after struggling a few years ago by cutting costs.

Ramsay cut costs by finding the best agreements with suppliers, restaurant insurance providers, reducing staff and trimming the salary bill from £11 million to £9.3 million. Neither Hutcheson nor Ramsay took a salary during the year and pre-tax profit for Gordon Ramsay Holdings was £2.05 mill in 2010 compared to £567,000 in 2009.

Murano, the popular Italian restaurant was also sold to its head chef Angela Hartnett for £2.5 million, helping Ramsay’s business.

Gordon Ramsay Holdings International stretches over two separate sets of accounts. The second set of accounts includes Ramsay’s more newly opened restaurants, including the bistro Foxtrot Oscar based at Heathrow. The accounts show that he has managed to cut losses at these places.

In the 12 months to August 2010 losses were £1.85 million compared to in the previous year when losses totalled £8.3 million.

Adding the two businesses together, Gordon Ramsay Holdings International has returned to a profit of £0.2 million, up from a loss of £7.7 million the year before.

“Gordon Ramsay Holdings International’s performance for the coming year is healthy and meeting expectations despite the economic climate remaining uncertain. The group has reported a considerable turnaround for combined profits before tax, regardless of the hospitality industry facing challenging conditions” explained a spokesperson of the group.

However, Ramsay has lent the business £7.9 million during the year, which shows that the company is relying heavily on personal loans made by him.

Restaurants should be more innovative with mobile technology

Nowadays, nearly everybody in the UK owns a mobile phone or smartphone and won’t leave their home without one. The chief marketing officer at web-based restaurant reservations and marketing service operator Livebookings, Andris Berzins states that, “To provide a better service to customers, restaurants should take more advantage of mobile technology”.

The Quotesearcher team has actually been in a situation where we’ve made an impromptu trip to central London and needed to make a restaurant booking whilst we were there. Being able to use a mobile phone to search for a particular restaurant and access their booking page was handy. It was also easy to change the reservation time via our phone when we were running late with our pre-dinner drinks.

Berzins said “It’s vital that restaurants respond to consumer behaviours to deliver a high quality user experience by embracing mobile technology.

“Consumers have high expectations and demand instant access to the services and products they want 24/7,” he explained.

In May, the Livebookings Restaurant Index was launched which tracks dining trends and examines the international growth of mobile and online reservations. “Many European markets are taking advantage and benefitting from mobile technology to drive online reservations.

“Reservations made via mobiles have been fuelled by the popularity of smartphones across Europe” Berzins added.

According to the Livebookings Restaurant Index, there has been an increase of two-thirds of online booking through mobile devices over the past 6 month as 6% of all UK online bookings are made on mobile devices.

With the increased popularity of iPads and tablets, restaurants should seriously think about providing an online mobile booking system to drive more reservations to their restaurants, as it does not affect their restaurant insurance quote and may be worth investing in. Of course, people may still want to phone up restaurants to book reservations, but at Quotesearcher we believe that it’s about giving the customer different options and choices.

Quotesearcher visits Byron

Over the bank holiday weekend, a couple of us from the Quotesearcher team headed to Westfield Shopping Centre. After some serious shopping, we were feeling quite peckish and spotted Byron. There was only a small queue and as it smelt good, we decided to wait. It wasn’t long until we were seated by a friendly hostess who introduced us to our waiter.

When it came to ordering the food we had a list of ‘proper hamburgers’ to choose from. My colleague ordered the classic ‘Byron’ and I chose the blue cheese burger. We also decided to order some French fries, onion rings and the unusual sounding courgette fries between us.

It may have been greedy but we also shared some tortilla chips while we waited. The tomato salsa and guacamole dips were delicious and we just had enough to satisfy us without getting full.

Not long after, our main meals came. We understood why they were listed as ‘proper hamburgers’ on the menu. They looked proper and just the way hamburgers should be; big, quality juicy meat, with just enough fresh salad and the pickle left on the side. They were messy to eat, comforting and just what we needed after hours of trawling the shops. The sides were also good. The onion rings were first-class and dressed in a nice crispy batter. The French fries were also the way we liked them- skinny, crispy and golden. However, we were split between the courgette fries. I thought they were a great alternative to French fries or chips and tasted really good but on the other hand, my colleague wasn’t a fan of the soft texture. It was a good idea sharing the sides as we didn’t manage to eat it all.

The whole meal came to just over £15 per head which is over what the Quotesearcher team would usually pay for burgers but overall, it was worth it. The decor made us comfortable eating there and we were very satisfied with our meals. We were fuelled up and ready to carry on shopping!

If you fancy visiting a Byron, they are dotted all around London. However, the burger chain has announced that they will be targeting festivals and events with their pop-up restaurants across the country.

Tom Byng, the founder of Byron said “We feel Byron would work well in locations like Cambridge, Oxford and Brighton, but we’re in no great hurry to expand out of town”.

We understand that it will be expensive to expand permanent restaurants due to the rising costs of energy, staff, restaurant insurance quotes, decor, supplies and rent but we are hoping that there’ll be more Bryon Burgers across the country soon! Have you tasted a Byron?

Pop down to a pop-up restaurant

Like the majority of other Britons, it’s the time of year where the Quotesearcher team rejoice that the British summer is upon us. We flock to the parks or head to the seaside on the weekends to take full advantage of the sunshine.

As well as the long days that we have, another thing that’s great about the fine weather is that we can enjoy eating our lunches outside or have a nice alfresco dinner.

This summer, keep an eye out for the burst of pop-up restaurants that will be dotted all over the country. Pop-up restaurants are temporary outdoor restaurants that are based in various locations.

Sara Chambers, who runs her Squisito pizza pop-up restaurant in Warwickshire relies on the weather being good. She says, “We have a massive chimney for the pizza oven which wouldn’t work in the rain as we cook outside”.

Chambers makes sausages and teaches cookery from her Warwickshire home. She describes her Italian food business as being in the middle of nowhere, but if we ever found ourselves around her area we would definitely take a visit to her pop-up pizza restaurant as her passata, homemade sausages and crisp pizza topped with mozzarella as well as her homemade desserts including ice-cream made with eggs from her rare-breed chicken, all sounds divine.

Pop-up restaurants have also been a choice for established and high profile chefs who will be relocating their restaurants this summer once they have sorted out their restaurant insurance quotes. If you fancy visiting an urban beach, Dishoom Bombay Cafe will be occupying the South Bank until the 4th October.

If you are heading to any festivals this summer, keep a look out for Mark Jankel of First and Jun Tanaka of Pearl Restaurant who will be taking their Street Kitchen to various locations.

Alternatively, if you prefer something more glamourous, visit Somerset House as Tom Aiken will have a pop-up restaurant with river views, posh barbeque food and cocktails up until the 25th September. Dreamy!

We are definitely going to take advantage of having the pop-up restaurants while they are around, as it sounds like a great alternative to just having sandwiches in the park. Have you visited your perfect pop-up restaurant this summer?

Mitchell and Butlers turning to food for more sales

Food sales have overtaken drinks sales for the pub and restaurants group Mitchells & Butlers. The group reported a fall in half-year profits and said that they will moderately increase their food prices. However, they have stated that they are also raising the quality of the food on their menus. With this they hope to ease the effects of the rising costs to run the restaurants which include hiring staff, restaurant insurance, supplies, rent, energy and other general costs.

Mitchell & Butlers pre-tax profit for the 28 weeks to 9 April was £43 million, which is down 40% on the £73 million that was recorded a year earlier.

The groups interim Chief Executive, Jeremy Blood explained that “The better food we put out there, the more happy people will be in spending more in our restaurants. It’s not inflation that’s driving food sales, it’s better products”.

Blood wants to improve the menus in all the chains that the company owns which include All Bar One, Toby’s Carvery, Nicholson’s and Harvester.

The company has already spent £53 million in the six months to April on opening 29 new venues and converting 31 premises to be more customer friendly to serve food.

Even though Mitchells & Butlers has sold three hundred and thirty three drinks-led pubs to Stonegate Pub Company for £373 million in November last year as part of this massive restructuring strategy, the company still owns almost 1,600 restaurant and pubs.

Blood notes that the restaurant chain that has been doing particular well is Harvester. This isn’t surprising for us at Quotesearcher as we love that they have an ‘early bird’ menu that is available all day between 12-10pm and that the salad bar is included in the price! We hope that they won’t increase the prices too much, as at the moment we think that Harvester is a great place to take the family out without having to break the bank.

Would you be happy to spend more money on food in Mitchells & Butlers restaurants? Let us know your opinion.

Fast Food to Become Faster

McDonald’s Europe hopes to shave three to four seconds off each of their transactions by allowing customers to order their burgers on screen and pay by simply swiping their Visa cards via the Visa Paywave system. The fast food chain wants to make their fast food faster by deploying touch screen kiosks across its 7000 European outlets which will be the start of a very expensive process in terms of bringing in the new technology and also the restaurant insurance. Not only will more money pass though to McDonald’s, it will also enhance McDonald’s data on what customers like to eat and record their ordering behaviour and trends.

In a published review, the president of McDonald’s Europe, Steve Easterbrook stated that “Ordering food has not changed for 30 or 40 years”. The whole idea of the change is to make ordering food at McDonald’s more efficient, easier and quicker for customers.

Could this be the end of cashiers working in McDonalds? Thankfully not, as the fast food chain also wants to introduce waiters with handheld terminals to take additional orders from customers. They also need staff to maintain the upkeep and presentation of the restaurants as well as make sure customers know how to use the touch screen kiosks.

KFC are already trialling touch screens in their fast food restaurants. However, they have no plans to expand their touch screens throughout Europe just yet. The other top fast food restaurant, Burger King do not have current plans for touch screen kiosks to be featured in their restaurants, however they are currently trialling the Visa Paywave with an outlook to roll out more in the future. In other fast food technology news, Burger King is also trialling SoundTube pods in one of their branches.