National Frozen Foods Month

March is national frozen foods month which is a good excuse to try new healthy options that you can find in the freezer.

Frozen foods are a lot more convenient so make sure you plan ahead and have a variety of flavours, textures and colours in your freezer. Also make sure you have a range of food groups so each meal has added nutrients.

To go with these frozen delights you will also need something to eat them with so make sure your cupboards are stocked with staples like, brown rice and spices for seasoning.

Frozen berries are a great way of having seasonal fruits all year round and the best part is, they have the same nutrients from frozen as they do fresh. Another bonus is they are also less expensive from frozen. The same goes for vegetables, however, do make sure that there has been no added fat, sodium and sugar to your produce.

Fish and meat are great frozen, although many companies add sodium, which preserves the produce for longer, so to balance a meal that does have this added sodium, make sure you add vegetables that have no salt added and grains.

Some restaurants already know the benefits of using frozen foods, and although many customers feel this option is not as good as fresh, it is just as nutritious. It is possibly better for the restaurant industry, as saving money on as many areas as possible is vital in the current economic climate. So by switching from fresh to frozen, restaurants could be saving those all important pennies. Other area’s that they can save on are, restaurant insurance, staffing costs and the wastage of food.

Killer Virus Wiping out Britain’s Lambs

LambFarms have been hit by a horrible virus called the Schallenberg virus which causes lambs to be born with serious deformities or born dead.

It also effects cattle and has killed thousands of animals after hitting 74 farms in eastern and southern England.

In Europe 1,000 farms were affected by the virus, and some farmers in the country have reported losing 20% of their lambs since it arrived in the country last month.

The lambs that have the virus have horrendous deformities such as misshapen heads, twisted necks and fused limbs, which mean they can’t survive. The others are stillborn.

Scientists are urgently trying to figure out how the disease is spreading to stop it killing the livestock, which is what happened with the foot and mouth disease in 2011, which resulted in millions of animals being slaughtered.

Humans who have been exposed the virus have not experienced any adverse effects and the Food Standards Agency say that the risk is low to people. However, it is still a “potential catastrophe” say the National Farmers’ Union, which like everyone else in the food industry like suppliers, UK restaurant insurance providers and manufacturers, are suffering from the economic downturn.

The disease is understood to have been brought to Britain by midges and is named after the small German town where it was first spotted last summer.

Ewes show no sign of the disease or illness until they give birth to their young, by which it is too late to save them.

The impact of the disaster is likely to be felt in the next coming weeks, as the lambing season has only just begun.

One farmer has said how he had to put down more lambs than any point over the last 20 years and others have described it as being ‘soul-destroying’. Farmers have had to shoot the deformed lambs as they are unable to suckle to save them from a slow and painful death.

Alistair Mackintosh of the National Farmers’ Union said, “For any business to lose 20 per cent of your stock would be a huge blow. For a farmer it is catastrophic. If it was 50 per cent you would be put out of action.

“I know one farmer who says 10 per cent of his 6,000 ewes have become barren, so that is 600 animals producing nothing.”

The counties in the UK which have been worst affected so far are Kent, Norfolk, Suffolk and East Sussex, but the virus has already spread to parts of South Wales and Cornwall.

Farmers are concerned that a vaccine for the disease does not exist and could take nearly 2 years to develop.

Orange UK Launches Quick Tap freebies for NFC Users

Samsung galaxyThe mobile network operator Orange says 200,000 customers in the UK have now been equipped with NFC phones to receive special rewards by tapping smart posters.

Orange has partnered up with EAT, food chain, to allow Orange customer with an NFC handset to get a free “Eat treat” each day from the beginning of March.

Customers just need to touch their Quick Tap phone to posters located in EAT restaurants to play a game with a guaranteed treat at the end of it, such as free fruit, coffees and baguettes!

You’ll be able to download the game from the Quick Tap Treats app from Orange World as well as Ovi, BlackBerry and Android stores.

The offer will run until mid 2012 and can be accessed by 200,000 customer swith a Samsung Galaxy S II, Blackberry 9900, Blackberry 9360, Samsung Tocco Lite, Samsung Wave 578, Blackberry 9790, Blackberry 9380 or Acer LiquidExpress NFC phone, which Orange says is set to ‘rapidly grow’.

Everyone with an Orange NFC handset will receive an SMS message to let them know about the rewards service, to help promote the programme. A marketing campaign will also start at the beginning of March.

Chief marketing officer for Orange UK, Pippa Dunn, says, “Last year we started a whole new movement in the way consumers make payments on the high street, and with Quick Tap Treats, we’re continuing this with a new and innovative way for our customers to receive rewards for their loyalty,

“So whether it’s a free coffee on the way into work, or a free baguette at lunchtime, you really do get more with your mobile on Orange.”

At QuoteSearcher, we love new technology and think this is very exciting! The office is divided between these phones and iPhones (which usually wins the debate) so it’s a good push for this side of phone users!

Food Prices Could Rise Due to Drought

The Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman, has suggested that water could be diverted away from golf courses as farmers warn that food prices may be about to rise due to the drought predicted this summer. This is not good news considering the restaurant and food industries are already struggling with the economic downturn. They have already had to resist the increased cost of restaurant insurance, cost of hiring staff and other factors like the increased cost of supplies.

The President of the National Farmers Union, Peter Kendall has said that with the drought in the South East and Anglia still on going prices, will be forced to make up for the lack of produce. He stated “As sure as night follows day if it doesn’t rain, food prices will go up. I can guarantee you that. If there is less water across bigger areas of northern Europe food will cost more money.” As well as the South, the Midlands have also been warned about being at risk of drought.

In order to avoid a drought we need 120 percent of rain between now and March, however, the Met Office predicts a dry spell.

In the past, according to Peter Kendall, farmers had been ignored during a drought. This was shown when golf courses were still being watered but farmers were told they couldn’t irrigate their crops.
Caroline Spelman also agreed that farming should be top priority in a drought. She said “The most important thing we can do it catch the water when it comes. Water capture and storage is the key to building resilience, not just for agriculture, for everyone in the country.”

One solution to this used to be tax relief to business that built reservoirs, however the Treasury has made the decision reverse this which is not an incentive for farmers to store water, even though this water could mean that their produce will survive over the summer.

The fear is that this lack of water is going to become normal due to the recent history of dry winters caused by climate change. A solution to this could be genetically modified crops.

Teenager will be Head Chef at his own Restaurant

Sanctum on the GreenLuke Thomas has worked with top chefs, cooked for the Prince of Wales and now he is to be a head chef – and he’s still a teenager!

The award-winning 18 year old chef will launch Luke’s Dining Room at Sanctum on the Green in Berkshire next month.

Thomas will have a say of running the restaurant such as the hiring of staff, supplies, manufacturers and commercial restaurant insurance providers, as well as being the head chef. He said, “Cooking is not just a passion, it is my life,

“I am fully committed to the hard work and long hours in the months and years to come.  “I know I still have a lot to learn, but this job is both a challenge and a wonderful gift.”

Thomas has won FutureChef 2009 when he was 15 years old, beat 10,000 high school students across the UK to win the Active Kids Get Cooking competition, holds silver and gold medals in Welsh lamb cooking at the Welsh Culinary Olympics and has also previously worked at the five star Chester Grosvenor Hotel. 

The new restaurant will seat 45 people and will be open for dinner from Tuesday to Saturday, lunch on Sunday and will be open for breakfast 7 days a week. It will be located at Mark Fuller’s nine-bedroom hotel in Cookham Dean, near Marlow.  In 2011, Thomas worked at Noma in Copenhagen, which was rated the World’s Best Restaurant in 2010 and 2011 by Restaurant magazine and he has also worked with Gary Rhodes and Heston Blumenthal.

Thomas previously worked at Vaughan’s Family Butchers in Penyffordd during his summer holidays.

Steve Vaughan, the owner said, “Luke was very good. He had the idea he wanted to be a chef but he wanted to know where the meat came from. “Even when he was here you could tell he was going to go places. “He was very bright and intelligent and knew what he wanted.

“I helped him along as much as I could. I’m pleased he is doing so well.”

He added, “It was a shame he didn’t want to become a butcher.”

A Woman Contacted by Police after False Restaurant Reviews

TripAdvisor is feared by many business owners. However, a woman has made a public apology in the Times newspaper’s announcement page to the Good Life, a vegetarian restaurant in Shrewsbury, after admitting to writing and posting fake online reviews on TripAdvisor and other websites.

The apology came after the police contacted Helen Griffiths, who had tracked her IP address down to her work place in Warrington. Griffiths was issued with a caution after it was discovered that she made false complaints that there was hair in her food and the staff were cold and not attentive.

She made the comments and reviews because of a personal grudge, after a legal dispute with the restaurant’s owner, Joanna Langfield, a previous partner of Griffiths’ husband.

Griffiths, who is a marketing manager from Salford, admitted in the Time’s announcement page, “misrepresenting the quality of the food and service of the restaurant which, from other reviews and nominations, does indicate an exemplary track record.”

Langfield, claimed that profits at the Good Life fell by 25% because of the negative reviews, which is a significant amount with the economic downturn and the cost of supplies, staff and other expenses like restaurant insurance is high. Langfield said to The Times, “It started off quite extreme. Someone posted a review calling me ‘arrogant’ and making other nasty references. TripAdvisor actually took one down.

“One of her last reviews was on a local site, and the chap who ran that was really helpful. The IP (internet protocol) was linked by police to Warrington, which is where Ms Griffiths worked.”

The bad reviews have now been taken off the websites, including the ones on TripAdvisor, however Langfield said she had difficulty to get some of the reviews removed. TripAdvisor said in a statement,

“We’re obviously appalled to hear about this incident last year and urge any business who feels they may be a victim of bullying to contact us immediately. We have a zero tolerance approach to this and will investigate every issues fully.

“Since this issue we have made significant steps forward in how businesses can contact us. Previously they haven’t always been able to pick up the phone and speak directly to someone on our team. We agreed we could do better, so we have now expanded our customer care team and in November 2011 set up a dedicated toll-free UK phone line with a UK-based customer service team so that businesses can reach us quickly and easily. This is a major update to TripAdvisor’s customer support program following the appointment our Director of Customer Care in March of last year (2011) and part of a broader effort to make our service more responsive.”

The Number of Restaurants Shutting Down Increases

Moshi MoshiAccording to research by Wilkins Kennedy, the 21st largest accountancy firm, the number of restaurants going bust increased by 31% to 194 in the last quarter of 2011, up from 148 in the last quarter of 2010.

This is the biggest figure of restaurants going bust in any quarter since the first quarter of 2009, which was the start of the last recession.

A total of 684 restaurant businesses became bankrupt over the whole year of 2011, an increase of 19% from 576 in 2010.

Wilkins Kennedy says that the economic downturn has led to consumers cutting their discretionary spending on dining out.

Restaurants have also been struggling with the rising food costs to their customers, the increased cost of restaurant insurance UK, the latest increase in minimum wages and the increase in VAT.

Partner at Wilkins Kennedy, Anthony Cork, said, “It is the proverbial “perfect storm” but the sheer number of restaurant groups that have been sunk by it is still surprising.”

“When income is falling businesses can normally bail themselves out by cost cutting – but restaurants have a very high percentage of their costs fixed by the property leases that they have to sign with their landlords.”

“Under the terms of most UK restaurant leases, rents can only ever go up – even if the real rental value of that restaurant has plunged. That means that falling turnover can quickly plunge a restaurant into loss.”

Other stakeholders and the banks were forced to pull the plug on many struggling restaurants in the run up to Christmas, Wilkins Kennedy said.

Anthony Cork says, “If a restaurant can’t trade profitably in the run up to Christmas, then banks and other stakeholders might think it best to cut their losses sooner rather than to wait until January – and incur more losses. Also, some restaurants might have shut down simply because the owner decides to throw in the towel.”

“Sales to corporate clients, which are traditionally high during the festive season, were cut last year with a lot of public sector and financial service businesses undergoing a display of austerity. Entertainment budgets are still well below their pre-recession levels and are likely to remain so for some time.”

“Restaurants have also had to face some one off problems last year such as the interruption to trade caused by the summer’s riots. This year they will have the uncertain trading conditions caused by the Olympics to contend with – especially in the London area. Restaurants might benefit from the influx of tourists but could also lose out if their regular, local customers shun the Games and go on holiday abroad.”

In addition to the previous reasons explained, the rise in alcohol tax in April 2011’s budget has contributed to the erosion of restaurants’ profit margins, according to Wilkins Kennedy.

The most recent restaurant businesses that have closed down include Little Chef and Moshi Moshi, which introduced the first conveyor belt sushi restaurant to the UK.

New Jamie’s Italian Opening in York

Jamies Italian St Martins CourtyardTV Chef Jamie Oliver will be opening a Jamie’s Italian restaurant in York, next to Guildhall later this year, which is to create around 100 new jobs.

The new restaurant will be built over two floors in an unused part of the building that houses the Lendal Cellars pub, which will remain there as part of the development.

Building work is currently taking place on the building, which is Grade 2 listed and the restaurant is due to open in July.

The restaurant has already got its restaurant insurance quotes, suppliers and manufacturers and has already begun the search for new front of house staff and chefs.

Jamie has said that he had wanted to open a branch in York for some time now. He said, “York is such a beautiful city – I used to go there on holiday as a kid and I’ve wanted to find the right site there for a while.
“We’re in a fantastic location and it’s really going to be a wonderful place to eat, one of the jewels of the Jamie’s Italian collection.

“We’re now recruiting and starting to train the very best local waiting staff, chefs and front-of-house staff, so we hope people will come and join us.”

The Tudor roof trusses, exposed brick walls and its other original features would be preserved, says a spokeswoman for the firm. The restaurant will also have an open kitchen and have an outside dining area.
Michael Hjort, York restaurateur, who is a secretary of York Hospitality Association and also organises the yearly York Food and Drink Festival, said “York has a large number of chain operations, of which the Jamie’s Italian restaurant will be another one.

“There is certainly no harm in competition and I think it will be a welcome addition to the offer York gives to its visitors.”

The parts of the building where the restaurant is taking place have previously been out of use for a few years.

There are currently 26 other Jamie’s Italian restaurants across the UK, as well as branches in Dubai and Sydney.

Trading Historically High according to Shaftesbury

ShaftesburyDespite the economic downturn, business is booming as the West End in London faces a year of “unique challenges and potential opportunities.”

Property company, Shaftesbury, said that trading and occupancy levels in the West End are at “historically high levels” with “good” demand for all uses.

Shaftesbury owns over 500 restaurants and shops in the West End, including large parts of Covent Garden and Carnaby Street.

They said, “Trading in London’s West End has been buoyant throughout the important Christmas and New Year period, with resilient visitor numbers and spending.”

Only 0.8% of Shaftesbury’s properties are empty according to a trading update.

Shaftesbury is planning to press ahead with developments this year, to provide new restaurants and shops in the area, including a 50,000 sq ft development on Carnaby Street. This will help the whole industry including commercial restaurant insurance providers and provide jobs which will boost the economy.

London is benefitting from its position as a global city as more foreign visitors come and stay, which is leading to an influx of spending.

However, Brian Bickell, chief executive said London will have to put up with “short term disruption to the usual patterns of life” during the summer months.

He said, “2012 is a year of unique challenges and potential opportunities for London and the West End. Hosting three major global events between June and September – the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, World Pride and the Olympics – presents many logistical and public safety challenges to an already busy and crowded city,

“This will lead to short term disruption to the usual patterns of life during the summer months.

“However these events will promote London and the West End to a global audience.

“We expect our portfolio, underpinned by the West End’s unique features, will continue to deliver long term out-performance in income growth and capital values.”

Harry Ramsden’s Restaurant Taken Over

A fish and chip restaurant chain, the Wetherby Whaler fish and chip group, revealed today that they would invest £500,000 and save the original Harry Ramsden’s restaurant in West Yorkshire.

Last year, Harry Ramsden’s said that they were going to close its first ever restaurant opened in the UK in Guiseley, after 83 years of being in business.

However, the Wetherby Whaler group said that would return the restaurant to its “glory days” after it takes over the premises.

Last year, it was announced that its flagship restaurant, Harry Ramsden’s in Guiseley, Leeds, which opened in 1928 was losing money due to less people eating out, the cost of supplies, the cost of refurbishing, hiring staff and the increased cost of restaurant insurance. Harry Ramsden’s said the restaurant needed significant investment before it could become profitable.

The Wetherby Whaler group which has four fish and chip restaurants in Yorkshire, said it would invest £500,000 on refurbishing the premises to become its flagship branch.

A spokeswoman from the Wetherby Whaler group said that it was hoped the original ‘shed’ of the building could be preserved and that their famous chandeliers would be updated with new fittings.

The Wetherby Whaler group’s Phillip Murphy who opened his first restaurant with his wife Janine is 1989 said, “The famous fish and chip restaurant in Guiseley is the spiritual home of fish and chips in England. It would be a national scandal if it were to close at this time of economic uncertainty.

“Our investment has saved a Yorkshire landmark and will ensure the tradition of fine fish and chips continues at this important location.

“The new Wetherby Whaler in Guiseley will be our flagship restaurant. We expect it to recapture the atmosphere and flavours of Harry Ramsden’s best years.

“We are confident that with the right investment, careful attention to detail, great-tasting fish and chips and excellent value for money, we will make a lasting success of this new venture and return the restaurant to its glory days.

“Our family-owned business is built on solid foundations and this has given us the confidence to invest. It fits perfectly with our business strategy of controlled growth and accentuates our belief that Yorkshire is a great place to do business.”