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Daylesford, Gloucester and now Stratford upon Avon?

We’re talking modern day farm shops. Each of the above locations is based around the principle of family owned spaces run by real foodies. At Daylesford the story began forty years ago, when the family farmland was first turned over to sustainable, organic farming, and Gloucester’s story began forty six years ago (although the current services itself opened in 2014), and in Spring 2019, The Farm opened on my doorstep in Stratford upon Avon.
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The concept of a farm shop isn’t new. Fresh produce – vegetables, meat (especially that christmas turkey!), breads and cakes have been expected farm shop fayre for many years. But the modern day farm shops offer so much more; substantial portions of brunch, lunch and supper served in on site cafe or restaurant facilities, delivery services to local addresses and beyond, a showcase and theatres style preparation units for local suppliers and independent wine merchants for tastings and sales. These are unique food destinations; places where provenance is king, artisan produce is expertly displayed and wholesome, home grown, sustainable food is available alongside options for gluten free, dairy free and sugar free – concepts that would have been unheard of for the farm shops of forty years ago!
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Farm shops are experiencing a boom in affluent areas, where they appeal to customers who want to know where their food comes from and to support the local community. Consumers are looking for transparency in the products they’re selecting to eat, expecting great quality and freshness as standard, and love the fact that they are helping the environment with low food miles simultaneously. Providing the owners keep their values at the forefront of the decisions they make, and continue to connect their business to their market in a way that supermarkets cannot do, we’re sure they will continue to flourish.
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All New Coffee – Six Key Themes for 2019

Coffee drinking has well and truly reached maturity. Recent reports (https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/drinking-coffee-live-longer-health-research-alzheimers-parkinsons-a8910636.html) and the world’s largest coffee drinker survey results dumbfounded people by concluding that drinking more coffee could significantly improve a person’s life expectancy. When a statement like that hits the consumer market, you know it’s only the beginning.

With that in mind, we’ve scoured the coffee market trends to pull out some key themes, innovations and elements of the “all new coffee” that our clients and prospects could consider to stay up to the minute with consumer expectations;

  1. Coffee menus are the new wine list

Coffee’s huge global audience is only just understanding all the possibilities and diverse elements that coffee has to offer. Appreciation of coffee quality is growing and alongside that, more attention is paid to the provenance and flavour notes rather than simply the roast.

The established production methods of natural, washed and honey are common across the globe, but being a barista is an art form, and some are seeking to explore coffees that are processed in new ways. Variations such as “shaded natural”, “Anaerobic Fermentation”, “Wine Process” and “double-soaked” have also been mentioned in coffee circles.

The specifics of the producing country are also creating differentiators – be that by production, flavour notes or the methods and times of drinking. It would come as little surprise to see Brazil, Vietnam, Columbia, Indonesia and India topping the largest producer rankings but research suggests that the world’s biggest coffee drinkers reside in Finland, Norway, Iceland, Denmark and the Netherlands where coffee consumption behaviour is thought to be quite similar. Market predictions are that the next big coffee flavours will come from the East.

And, much like a wine list price range and expectation, there are some that just set a new bar altogether. For example, in Melbourne a glass goblet of Jose Alfredo coffee will set you back $150 a cup! This exotic bean costs around $US5000 per kilogram and offers complex floral and fruit flavours with notes of lychee, passion fruit, cognac and cocoa.

  1. What’s your flavour?

Buttered coffee – yes you read right. Provider of an energy boost with no caffeine crash, mental alertness and appetite suppression. In America, young men are among the keenest followers of this addition to their coffee, and we think it won’t be long before it hits the UK!

However Starbucks’ top selling flavoured coffees include an iced white chocolate mocha, pumpkin spiced latte, cinnamon roll Frappuccino, java chip Frappuccino, green tea crème Frappuccino and a chai latte – some are very seasonal flavours which work well as limited time frame offers, and others are poplar year round.

A much sweeter coffee flavour is that of a cold brew, made by infusing coffee with cold water for long hours to reduce bitterness and acidity. It is smoother than an iced coffee that is somewhat bitter to the taste, thanks to its greater oxidization which avoids exposing coffee to heat. Millennials appear to view cold brew as a healthier alternative to soda and energy drinks and also use it more regularly in cocktails. In a bid to capitalize on this growing thirst for chilled coffee drinks, Lavazza plans to launch Nitro Cold Brew – cold brewed coffee infused with nitrogen – machines in 500 French bars, restaurants and hotels in September. Watch this space we say!

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  1. Not just a drink

Cascara are the red coffee cherries that are the rest of the coffee fruit and have become a popular superfood in recent times. They’re now being used in teas and flour for health-conscious consumers as they contain great levels of iron, fibre, antioxidants and protein – the holy grail of the healthy! Starbucks in the USA have already launched a limited-edition cascara latte so it is only a matter of time before others follow suit. In terms of wellbeing, this is a great addition to a menu board.

And of course, coffee is not only coffee – we see it flavouring chocolate bars, popsicles or lip balms,  mixed into beer, soda or liquers. Given the health benefits being promoted by consuming more coffee we expect more dishes and snacks to come to market that include coffee over the coming 12 months.

  1. Working 9-5

Given that after home, a workplace is the place where most coffee drinkers consume coffee, and that a coffee break before or between work has been proven to have an effect on efficiency, job satisfaction and employee experience, it seems 2019 could well be the time to ensure that coffee provision in the workplace has more than just a small part to play in employee wellbeing. Ensuring provision of quality coffee machines, franchise or contractor to aids performance and satisfaction will reap rewards with employees.

From a lifestyle, productivity and wellbeing perspective, there are now apps and online tools available to help drinkers plan their optimum coffee drinking based upon the sleep they’ve had, time they woke up and proposed coffee break times. The Coffee Kick Calculator will present users with a timeline of their likely alertness – what a great way to plan times for your meetings!

  1. Expensive taste

For coffee lovers, with premium comes unique taste experiences the coffee has to offer. The uniqueness can come from a rareness (e.g. micro-lot), a special processing method or rare, expensive or new beans (e.g. Esmeralda Special Auction).

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Just last week, The Caterer published an advertorial promoting a newly engineered coffee machine from Swiss espresso experts Thermoplan. Said to raise the bar for high street coffee quality and developed specifically for high volume operators this uses advanced technology to deliver quality and consistency at speed. Most machines sell capacity but this machine shows the real statistics tested on the high street and benchmarked against UK & Ireland’s best-selling coffees. We’ll wait to see more and will keep our eyes on – www.thefutureofautomation.com

6. Sustainable

Coffee & sustainability were one the biggest themes at the last London Coffee Festival and it’s likely to be a hot topic yet again. From big impact like large companies initiating actions such as 100% sustainable sourced to entry level initiatives like keep cup usage or recycling coffee waste, everyone can do something to improve the sustainability angle of their coffee production, serve or consumption.

However, there can be contradictions and challenges for operators. The arrival of the first coffee drone deliveries which will be part of Wing, a subsidiary of Google’s parent company ‘Alphabet’ could be seen as a contradiction to the environmental benefits of the sustainability initiatives being implemented, and while its good to see an increase in keep cup usage, some more advanced pioneers of sustainability – where reusable cups are the default option and consumers pay a premium for a china washable cup – are seeing a reduction of around 20% tea/coffee consumption.  It can be difficult for consumers to realise the value of the premium coffee option – when the cleaning element remains the customer responsibility. Boston Tea Party claims sales have fallen by £250,000 since it banned single use cups last summer but continue to urge major national and international brands to follow suit and to factor in losses to ensure they put the planet before their profits.

 

 

 

 

 

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Location, location, location. Or not…

Location, location, location. This popular phrase has become even more famous by the popular property TV programme with Kirsty and Phil. It dates back to the 1920’s in writing and is often incorrectly attributed to the real estate magnate, Harold Samuel. Back in my hotel management training I seem to remember it being Rocco Forte’s mantra. However, while location is of course critical, when it comes to experiences, is it enough?

On a trip to Devon recently I had the pleasure of visiting the beautiful setting of Hope Cove for a friend’s birthday treat – with a meal planned at the Lobster Pot. Here there are a series of unique glass walled dining capsules – kitted out with the latest sound technology and with the backdrop of beautiful and natural views. The perfect setting? It should have been quite an experience with our lovely friends and a stunning view of the sun setting over the cove.

However, the Lobster Pot ran out of lobster (major disappointment for all!), and unfortunately the standard of food was poor. While I appreciate they had limited kitchen facilities, in 2019 that is no excuse for poor quality. An expert could advise on a suitable menu revamp to match the proposition to the setting and the facilities available, guide on recruitment of a new chef to deliver at the level consumers expect and to improve the purchasing quality.

We appreciated the view, the service was attentive and our waitress delightful, and I would recommend a sharing board and wine to anyone interested, but sadly on this occasion the great location was simply not enough.

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All aboard the midnight train to Georgia?

The Eurasian cuisine has been mooted as THE cuisine of 2019 by a San Franciscan hospitality trend consultancy, and it’s largely down to the Instagram popularity of one regional dish, khachapuri; an impressive bread boat filled with cheese and runny egg. What’s not to love?! But is this a one time phenomenon or has it sparked our interest in the mountainous country sandwiched between Europe and Asia?

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It is Georgia’s location at the midpoint of the ancient East–West trade routes, that means that Georgians were seemingly able to hand pick the best of what the Turks, Greeks, Mongols and Arabs were cooking along the Silk Road. The influence from Turkish cooking, Russian dishes and Persian flavours, combined with one of the oldest Jewish populations in the world have resulted in an interesting range of dishes which make use of the country’s own organic produce, and which appeal to us as modern day foodies.

Perhaps surprisingly, walnuts are prominent in Georgian cooking. They are essential in popular dishes such as chicken bazhe and vegetable pkhali (chopped salads) but in a pulverized form it’s often used like the French use butter: whisked into soups and sauces to add richness and body, and when chopped and candied in honey it’s often seen as a simple dessert called gozinaki.

The Georgian table is a full one as their people are said to be very hospitable and love to treat guests to feasts, known as ‘supra’, which often last for hours. Georgia is one of the countries where wine was first produced and it features heavily in their meals, along with many cold and hot starters such as pkhali (chopped vegetables with walnuts and herbs shaped into balls and often spread onto freshly baked slipper shaped loaves), plates of herbs (more like salad leaves in Georgian meals – purple basil and tarragon being very popular and seen as incredible for health) and cheese, clay pot cooked dishes and stews, plus breads and pickles (such as Ajika – a fiery condiment that we’re told is very addictive but are yet to try!). The provenance and health attributes of the ingredients are critical to the Georgians, which is hugely in keeping with the trends we see on our High Streets and at our tables at home.

Unfortunately, the interest in Georgian cuisine seems to have failed to venture outside of London so far, although there are now a number of highly acclaimed restaurants including Iberia, The Georgian, Little Georgia Café and Mimino to name but a few.  We’re looking forward to seeing more options across the country over 2019/20!

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Beyond the fuel of the workforce…

On the official first day of Spring, the time for all things centred around “new”, “revival” and “optimism”, we have taken a fresh look at workplace dining. While there was a time when foodservice provision within the workplace was a fairly basic additional function, today the quality, value and innovation in the workplace restaurant, kiosk, café, or bistro is seen as directly impacting the recruitment, retention and engagement of employees for many organisations.

Employee engagement has been big news for possibly the last ten years, but “wellbeing” has been the buzzword of the last few, so it was only a matter of time before foodservice contracts were linked in to wellbeing promotions, efforts and employee benefits. Food may have been historically seen by employers as a requirement for fuelling a productive workforce, but it has remained emotional rather than functional for many of the end users of the service. The question today’s companies must ask themselves is whether they are aiming for food service to be a real welfare provision and benefit for their staff (and as such continually impress their prospects and staff) or whether they are primarily delivering a simple function – and some commercial benefit – through their catering contract? To be clear, we positively encourage and support clients to gain commercial improvements and introduce cost saving initiatives, to revisit operational methods and costs of delivery – but those companies with a sustainable quality approach, and with consumer led ideas – are the most successful at engaging their user and ultimately managing a more cost effective and valued service to their teams.

The companies with the most success at delivering the staff dining facilities are those with caterers who consider their menus and dishes from a regional, or even better – local, perspective and by demographic. Understanding not only the job that the employees are undertaking while on site but also their age group, family status, likely supermarket preferences and eating habits at home for example enables great operators to sell consumers what they want, where and when they want it. They consider how they’re eating all day not just at the point at which they may visit the workplace facility and they sell the right things according to what they may be looking for at that time. Those companies that are really successful – are the ones that work in partnership with their caterer – allow them access to the end user to promote offers and ideas in a way that adds value to the consumer, engaging in cookery classes and regular food forums, selling ingredient baskets for the emergency family supper complete with the recipe to recreate at home.

With all this to bear in mind, workplace dining operators have a difficult job on their hands. Competition in the form of off-site retail outlets close to, or en route to, workplaces is high and food-to-go is now seen as one of the most competitive segments of the eating out market. It has benefitted from a workforce that are increasingly time pressured but with higher expectations and greater knowledge of cuisines, quality and provenance than ever before, along with growing accessibility for many (through value, availability of diet specific and allergen free goods for example).

Big Hospitality recently implied that yet more opportunities in this sector are to be had by operators who execute with “conscious consumerism” and “ultra-convenience” at the forefront of their mind. In the USA, Silicon Valley corporates are already providing this in the form of nourishment on demand through devices such as LeanBox (smart fridges with grain boxes, salmon and greens type dishes) or services such as a virtual cafeteria with a digital menu of multiple cuisines akin to Deliveroo, that is then delivered to the workplace for each individual employee.

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In the UK, workplace restaurants have been slower to address remaining issues of the quality of food available and payment systems in these new vending formats, and to implement them, and are still reliant on traditional counter service styles.  However, they have been quicker to look at ways to provide popular and new flavours and cuisines and as such, we are still seeing variations on street food being evolved for workplace restaurants to compete with the pop-up markets in each city, town and even some out of town locations.

The Thread team have recently supported several repurposing projects of estate architecture that sees a move to more streamlined café and micro-market offers which are more labour efficient and lends itself easily to quick and healthy food on the go solutions.  We are seeing some consumer kick back away from high street branded coffee offers by workplace caterers allowing those consumers with an appreciation to choose their own artisan coffee blends and premium leaf teas through tastings and voting/focus groups. The desired choices can then be selected across national contracts to suit regional and varied tastes within a budget that will support multiple purchases. This level of personalisation across national catering contracts ensures happy consumers and can be utilised by the client as an area of engagement with employees.

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We have also seen larger caterers take a more bespoke approach and combine the might of their purchasing power and their ability to scale to deliver a more tailored solution to achieve great success for the end consumer and the employer – but there is still a long way to go. We believe companies and caterers need to work together to find capacity to ensure the offer on site is meeting the modern employee expectations around global food influences with quality of delivery – however simple the offer may be. Ultimately the more users of the workplace dining environment there are, the more the higher level of sales will sustain a more cost effective or profitable solution for the company.

Finally, with global companies announcing head count reduction more regularly than we would like, it may be that companies could go beyond using their foodservice provision as a benefit for employees, and also look to use their foodservice spaces better for wider collaborations such as art fairs, local markets or even food entertainment  (in the style of Lane7 or Flight Club or Bounce),  rest areas or relax/ research and meeting space to help futureproof the estate to accommodate potential workforce changes or reductions or to increase occupancy of the space outside of “usual” hours. For the younger generations, this more meaningful provision of facilities to encourage playful collaboration is an attractive feature and could have a direct impact on the recruitment, retention and engagement of employees.

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Happy birthday to us!

As we celebrate our fourth birthday this month, we’ve been thinking about the successes and
activities of the last year and it’s safe to say 2018 was our busiest year yet!

After being appointed to the London Universities Purchasing Consortium catering services
framework, we were delighted to attend their launch event at Student Central in April. The event
was a real opportunity for us to present our thoughts on the challenges with today’s often
transactional contracts which we believe should instead be an opportunity for transformational
partnerships with suppliers.

One of our major projects last year was a feasibility study to modernise a high-volume national
estate portfolio and its associated catering offer. As with many businesses change comes almost
quarterly with today’s dynamic markets and operating conditions, so the aim was to first evaluate
the estate and then the costs, benefits and opportunity to repurpose some parts of it over a finite
period to create a new catering provision architecture and food and beverage offer that will
continue to be modern and desirable to the various workforce segments, but also deliver optimum efficiency through the contract.

Other key projects the team have been involved in have included catering contract reviews at several universities, including one where a critical supplier dispute was settled; leading a project with a national utilities provider to create and implement new ways of working to collaborate with suppliers in the most innovative ways yet (watch this space!); delivering customer experience and touchpoint mapping particularly related to food service kiosks and hospitality of stadia and arenas and finally, supporting a feasibility study with elements of café menu design relating to a major corporate headquarters move to Canary Wharf.

We’re really proud that in keeping with our company and personal values, we have this year also made several donations to a local food bank to ensure that Thread Consultancy is continually giving something back to the community in a way that is tangible to them, and meaningful to us. We’re excited about what the next year has in store!

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Before you go on your Christmas break…

The Thread Consultancy team would like to wish all our clients, suppliers and prospects a fabulous Christmas and say a big thank you for either working with us or for us in 2018. We have had another incredibly busy year, which we’ll review upon our “birthday” in February, but in the meantime, eat, drink and be merry!

We’re pleased to say that this year we have donated to Stratford Upon Avon Food Bank – remembering how needing basic food is an essential requirement for some families, as many of us enjoy wonderful hospitality with loved ones this Christmas.

 

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You’re only as good as your last game or gig!

Today’s sporting arenas and stadia are well known destination venues. Consumer expectations as a result are for far more appealing fare than the historic pie and a pint, or traditional hospitality pre or post match or concert. Thanks to our widespread venue expertise, and delivery of solutions for global music and sporting arenas, we’re able to enhance customer experiences with the application of our touchpoint model, implementation of robust contract management programmes and ongoing auditing capability for clients in this area of the leisure sector.

Our love of sporting events, and football in particular, also extends to us once again investing in our local community. This year we will sponsor local U13s junior football team, Wellesbourne Wanderers FC, as they make their way up the Mid Warwickshire Boys league with super young talent, an excellent display of team work and looking good (and warmer!) in their jackets.

They continue to be the team to beat in their Warwickshire age band and we look forward to them going from strength to strength this season.

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Sustainability focus can now deliver a reduced spend for supplier AND customer

According to the National Restaurant Association’s 2018 State of Restaurant Sustainability report, improving sustainability within foodservice environments can deliver a reduced spend of around 20%. This is a figure now taken more seriously by the financiers and operators. We’ve moved on from changing front of house light bulbs and reducing unnecessary energy use in commercial kitchens to incorporating a responsible approach and a circular economy into production and operations where possible.

Reportedly largely as a result of David Attenborough’s recent documentary series, the ongoing use of plastics, styrofoam and other non-recyclable packaging is out of favour with most of the population. While suitable alternatives are not yet available for everything, cafes and restaurants can do a number of things to support change that can reduce cost for the supplier and consumer alike, such as promote campaigns that offer incentives for using refillable (and often branded) containers, remove single use plastic disposables, talk to suppliers about packaging and transportation options, and increase provision of water fountains and reusable water bottles.

From an equipment perspective, operators can consider their purchases and their ratings with regard to energy efficiency, waste management and water usage, particularly with regard to large items such as refrigerators, dishwashers and low flush toilets. Communicating the changes being made, and the impacts they are having on the local environment can also help to meet one of the customer expectations of recent years – helping consumers to minimise their environmental impact without a significant change to their own personal environment. We think that’s win-win.

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Thread appointed to London Universities Purchasing Consortium framework

Thread were delighted to be appointed to the LUPC framework for catering consultancy services in late 2017 following a multi-part process to source the best expertise and value.

The Purchasing Consortium’s aim is to secure best possible value for their Members in the procurement of goods and services, without causing harm to others. They work collaboratively with other higher education purchasing consortia in the UK to manage more than 100 EU-compliant framework agreements.

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