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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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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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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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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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Thinking about food as fuel

For many of us, good quality food and nutrition are such a part of life, we can almost take them for granted. We enjoy so much, and can be fussy about our options, we forget that food is at it’s most basic level fuel to support the mechanics of our bodies.
Since reading about the devastating food crisis in East Africa, and the millions of families facing starvation due to the droughts we felt the need to contribute in some way. Thread have started regularly supporting Oxfam’s appeal to help provide life-saving support in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia with our charity donations in 2017.
This action got us to thinking about the people living below the poverty line in the UK (it’s 1 in 5 people now) and in particular to those in in our local area. After some research, we found that Stratford-upon-Avon foodbank is focussed upon helping local people in crisis. Their belief that “We don’t think anyone in our community should have to face going hungry” really resonates with the Thread team, so we support them with donations to help them provide nutritionally balanced emergency food and support to local people who’ve been referred to them as in crisis.
Sally Davis said “Thread Consultancy prides itself on creating storylines for others; connecting our beliefs with positive actions. We wanted to be involved with both of these charities to be able to share the benefits we see that food brings to us with others less fortunate than ourselves.”
Both Oxfam and the Foodbank rely heavily on the volunteers, time and donations and we’re proud to be doing our bit to support their movements and appeals.
If you’d like to know more, see:
http://www.oxfam.org.uk/what-we-do/emergency-response/east-africa-food-crisis
https://stratforduponavon.foodbank.org.uk/

 

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Thread does Disney!

Last month we talked about Britain’s second city and its new food establishments, this month, one of our team went to Florida, sampling the delights of Disney. It’s an intoxicating experience on many levels – but we wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t pass some comment on the food, the style and the innovation; some of which could be translated into other environments.

“The first thing I couldn’t help but be impressed with was simply the range of food and beverage available.  Even at a quick, first glance there is just something for everyone; from fast food outlets to table service restaurants, fine dining menus to an unlimited array of snacks and drinks for food on the go. Providing this level of choice takes structure, robust procurement processes, and great customer service, and it’s evident that the organisation and processes implemented within each park are designed to ensure a smooth and efficient service at all times.

The majority of queues within the counter service restaurants are managed by people, politely moving guests into the shortest line and providing a friendly face and a “pause” you welcome rather than are frustrated by. The menus, although somewhat limited, are designed to be easy to read and order and the meal packages are clearly displayed making food selection speedy and easy. Given the volumes of customers going through each outlet, the payment process has been streamlined with guests being able to scan their Magic Bands (wristbands) which are linked to a prepaid dining package or the guests’ credit card.

In addition to efficient processes, product clarity and great customer service, Disney do theming very well as you might imagine! Creating the environment that takes your senses out of the ordinary or away from your expectations. When booked into the Italian Restaurant Mama Melrose, we were met by authentic music, menus and décor.  There are certainly no half measures, the staff (known as cast members) were in character, knowledgeable about the menus and the numerous Disney dining packages that guests had purchased.

All members of staff are referred to as cast members as Disney see them as an integral part of your experience and the “show” that is Disney.  The idea being that they are part of a team, no one job role is more important than another, and each has a part to play at each stage of the customer journey. In addition, we noticed that there are a refreshing number of older cast members throughout the parks.  The sprightly concierge who greeted us with a friendly good morning each day was well into his 80’s; his experience, style and nature in dealing with families was fantastic and personal.

Within such a large scale destination, the majority of fast food and counter service restaurants used disposable plates, bowls, cups and cutlery to provide options for customers to enjoy food inside or outside, and to reduce costs of washing up.  Recycling bins for cans and bottles were located around each park but all other rubbish was simply placed within one large rubbish bin.  When questioned about their recycling policy, the hotel advised that all rubbish is taken to a depot and sorted into the appropriate categories by the State of Florida.  This provides a quicker and easier option for guests but we wondered if such limited recycling sends the right message to us, and to our children in such a sustainability conscious world?

It’s common knowledge that Disney strive to give their guests the best possible experience but how do they react when things don’t go to plan?  On one occasion, we were left waiting one hour for our dinner in a table service restaurant which then made us late for the firework display. After voicing our frustrations, we were apologised to by three different members of staff numerous times and given a free fast pass voucher, which allowed us to bypass the queue at any attraction within the Magic Kingdom in an effort to give us at least some of our time back.

We had a magical holiday and despite it being a very costly adventure, the perceived value for money, and our overall experience was enhanced by the high level of service and enthusiasm that the Disney cast members seem to have in abundance.  A smile, a show and a sprinkling of fairy dust – a learning point for hospitality businesses everywhere!”

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Second city suppers

While the team travel all over the country, Birmingham is the closest city to “home” for the majority of them and as such, the new restaurant, café and bar openings are always a hot topic in our office!

The last year has seen the openings of some great new eateries in England’s second city – not just those within the major developments of Grand Central (Leon, Pho, Square Pie and Tortilla among others) and Resorts World (High Line, Robata, Sports Bar, Sky Bar as well as mainstream brands Nando’s, TGI’s, GBK and Pizza Express) but also great independents all over the city.

From the messy and atmospheric Nosh & Quaff, tapping into 2015’s biggest food trend – the single dish (ish!) restaurant – to the popular with the work crowd Bodega, the Botanist, Cosy Club, Gas Street Social and Marmalade. They’re each using the city’s quietly grand architecture (the old Midland Bank and the REP Theatre among them) to be the perfect environment for their all day dining and drinking options.

Closer to our homes, we’ve seen the introduction of Meatcure, Coffee Architects, Bourbon Smokehouse and 33 The Scullery. Many of them have included “unlimited” options, incentives to dwell, and impressive kids menus; understanding the real shift we have seen in family and group dining in recent years and often outside “normal” meal times.

And it doesn’t stop there. 2016 has already seen the opening of Adam’s, Friska, Zizzi at Brindleyplace and we have Gaucho’s little brother – CAU, the Alchemist, Viva Brazil and Le Bistrot Pierre and a new Hotel du Vin yet to come. There really are too many hotspots, and too little time for us food lovers to get to them all!

The biggest changes we’re expecting to see come in the forms of the technology driven to service these restaurants; from Deliveroo to Quikr payment options, it’s likely to be the significant disruption in the catering sector in 2016. Plus, we’ve heard on the grapevine that Hawaiian food “poke” and Philippine cuisine will be hot this year, falafel will be appearing as vegetables in premium restaurants and menu kits from your favourite restaurants will be available for purchase. We can’t wait!

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Thread enjoys Regatta!

The port of Dartmouth welcomed thousands of visitors to the 171st Royal Regatta this summer. Thread team enjoyed a fun packed week experiencing the delights of numerous air shows, crabbing competitions, dinghy racing and rowing, with shopping and running events woven in between. Fabulous live music from the bandstand delighted spectators while they sampled a variety of street food. This soon became a piece of foodie research The Thread Team relished with enthusiasm!

The highlight of our experience was watching The Royal Navy display with The RNLI- Thread’s chosen charity. We continue to make donations throughout the year to support the vital part they play in saving lives. The RNLI have launched a new fund raising initiative in recognition of the many volunteers who risk their lives (and often their supper!) when they get called out to sea in an emergency. If you would like to support this worthy cause, please visit: rnli.org/howtosupportus/Pages/How-to-support-us.aspx and see how you can help.

 

 

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