Food and Ingredients News

T.G.I. Friday’s expanding rapidly and recruiting 700!

Would you consider your cooking to be up to scratch to serve at the fastest-growing casual dining outlet in the country? Well, be prepared to dust off your CV (or get yourself booked onto some of our cookery courses if your culinary expertise needs a dust-off) as T.G.I. Friday’s is ‘bucking the trend’ in the face of austerity, growing at an unprecedented rate.

It’s been a busy few years for the American restaurant, that has gone from strength to strength incorporating three new key criteria: bosses, burgers and belief.

First and foremost, they appointed a new UK Managing Director in the shape of Karen Forrester. Firstly, she has guided them through fourteen consecutive quarters of growth, not bad when you consider that period of time covers, nay, almost mirrors, the times of hardship we have encountered since the banking world collapsed in 2008 and the global financial meltdown that ensued and will not go away.

Secondly, she has seen the chain grow to over fifty restaurants in the UK last year, with an additional six planned for this year. Three confirmed sites are Halifax, Manchester and Wembley with three to be pinned down later in the year. There will be around 700 jobs created in total, including cooks, front of house staff, waiting staff and, often over-looked but nevertheless key to an outlet’s success, experienced, quality management.

Many of these positions will be sourced from outside the existing chain as their second ingredient for success is investment in high-calibre staff across all roles. It is their intention to continue this ‘people-led strategy’ and emphasis on the ‘team members’, according to UK Operations Director Tim Cullum. They will be looking to employ the best in the market for the roles they envisage available before the restaurants open their doors, so now’s the time to get your accreditation at the cookery school of your choosing to stand you in good stead when the time comes.

The third and final element attributed to the chain’s turnaround in the face of adversity is a complete overhaul to their burger range, which now accounts for one third of all meals the chain serves. In actual terms, this means 50,0000 main courses of the new burger range are served across the fifty+ outlets every week, combining to help growth whilst showing initiative and innovation by identifying with the market and meeting that demand.

If you have the management skills or proficiently high experience in other roles to meet a ‘rewarding and challenging career’ opportunity, you can get in touch through their blog: TGI Friday’s Blog

Food and Ingredients News

Oliver Peyton OBE – restaurateur, entrepreneur, gentleman

To many of us, Oliver Peyton is the often overly-critical judge on the increasingly-popular TV show, The Great British Menu. But he’s much more to the hospitality industry than that, a fact that has been recognised in the Queen’s birthday honours list for this year with the Irish-born entrepreneur being awarded an OBE for his services to an industry that, by his own admission, has served him well, too.

His UK career started not so much in cookery trade as the critic and restaurateur we know of today, but in a the far-removed vein of the same industry of running nightclubs. In the eighties, when he’d have not been so old himself, he ran both Brighton’s The Can nightclub and RAW in the capital.

It seemed a natural springboard then, once he’d dipped his entrepreneurial toe into the drinks supply consumer-end of the market, to step up a level and import beverages for resale onto others within the trade. His distribution and promotions network is accredited with bringing both Sapporo, the Japanese beer named after the city in which it originated and a spirit that needs no introduction, Absolut Vodka.

In the nineties, Peyton’s career emigrated from wet sales to dry as he opened the Atlantic Bar & Grill in London’s West End, his first restaurant (closed 2005). During his time there, he latched onto the notion that the world was about to begin being conscious of from where its food was sourced and the effect upon the planet that the food we ate had. The result was St James’ Park’s ‘Inn The Park’, a restaurant recognised for both its original architecture and its eco-friendly values.

Peyton and Byrne, the partnership of which Oliver is both Founder and Chairman of, are now the leading lights in providing open-air dining experiences, a trait all too familiar with anyone who watches The Great British Menu. After several regional heats, four chefs are chosen to invent, prepare and deliver in feast-sized quantities the dish of their creating to an open-air extravaganza for whichever cause is the beneficiary of that season’s show.

But the tall, gaunt Irishman with incisive wit does not stop at bringing the best out of the nation’s chefs. The Peyton & Byrne brand owns bakeries and cafes and Peyton Events is his own foray into providing exclusive dining facilities to some of London’s finest establishments. In typical fashion, when asked of his reaction to be awarded such a special accolade, he said it was ‘the icing on the cake’ to his wonderful career in an industry to which he is both indebted and that owes him a great debt of gratitude for his foresight and services to it, too.

Food and Ingredients News

Unilever to instigate UK healthy eating out campaign

Although the UK is still officially a fair way behind the U.S. in the obesity stakes, our rise in overweight children and adults alike is very much a cause for concern. As things stand, a quarter of our adult population are clinically obese – compare that with one report that suggests that by as soon as the year 2030 90% of Americans will top the scales over and above regulatory guidelines, and you see just how bad the problem is.

Although celebrity chefs like Jamie Oliver have tried to instil healthy eating practise through school menus, little will change until one of the global conglomerates jump ship and decides it really is time to start educating the world that ‘we are what we eat’ by example. And as they don’t come much bigger than Unilever, we may well be at the dawn of a bright new day in nutrition for healthy living.

Lisa Faulkner, Celebrity Masterchef winner, has been chosen to spearhead the Unilever Food Solutions Ambu-lunch campaign. The initiative has been launched to cut half a billion calories from the UK’s eat-out menus. In theory, they have deduced that by slashing just 24 calories per meal will go a long way to resolving the obesity issue.

As such, Lisa Faulkner will be out and about in the Ambu-lunch itself, starting with the launch of its healthy eating campaign outside the Houses of Parliament (where it is rumoured the Secretary for Health has been invited to hop on board the pimped up ambulance) before setting off around the country driving home the campaign’s message to eateries, catering colleges and cookery courses.

Choosing Lisa Faulkner, a veritable champion of the healthy eating cause, was a stroke of genius by Unilever, a move instigated by their most up-to-date World Menu Report 3 that suggests over fifty percent of consumers crave healthier options on the pub and restaurant menus across the nation.

The report, tagged ‘Seductive Nutrition’, revealed exactly what improvements customers want to see. The answers were not only an eye-opener as to how clued up customers are, but also by how far the hospitality trade was second-guessing – and missing – its target audience’s tastes. In descending order, here’s what the UK public want to see more of on their menus (a must-see for all cookery schools who are looking for their next promotions):
• A wider choice and greater serving of vegetables
• Portion control adjusted down to recommended calorific sizes
• Less fat used in cooking and on served meat (now, that’s bad, see – everybody needs good fat – that’s where media have blinded the market it seeks to control)
• Fresh ingredients over frozen
• A reduction of calories (hence the launch of Ambu-lunch, one would suggest)
• And finally, grilled food over fried

In an attempt to bolster interest, chefs who sign up for the deal have access to all sorts of online information produced by Unilever, like healthier options for individual ingredients, calorific calculators and portion sizing to name a few, all designed so that taste isn’t impacted. No doubt, healthy eating in the UK just took one giant leap in the right direction.

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Food and Ingredients News

Food and Farming Awards so important to local communities

There are many different types of cookery courses – from independent cookery schools out in the sticks to inner-city restaurants that open up their kitchens for their professional chefs to pass on their culinary expertise.

Likewise, there are many different outlets for the food we learn to cook; the afore-mentioned restaurant, pub grub, take away food and fine dining around the table at home, impressing friends and family ourselves being probably the main reason many of us attend cookery courses.

With so many chefs awards, The Good Food Guide praising eateries up and down the country and EatOut ezine keeping tabs on the hospitality trade from a front of house perspective, there is very little that makes the headlines in the way of the food producers and the actual quality of the raw ingredients themselves. This week sees the thirteenth Food and Farming Awards begin, with nominations being invited for the best local and national produce suppliers to, for once, step into the limelight and gain the recognition that often gets overlooked when the spotlight falls on crisp kitchen whites or brass-polished hostelries.

The popular TV show Great British Menu not only recommends that the qualifying chefs choose produce from their local suppliers but that aspect is a huge weighting factor in the overall marks that the chefs attain en route to whatever national or royal event it is chosen as the theme for the annual cookery demonstration visual feast.

Angela Hartnett, a judge for the Food and Farming Awards and a Michelin-star chef in her own rite rates this competition as one of the more ‘credible’ appraisals of British food, given the way that the whole process of farming and how is brought to market from its very roots to the locale in its given region is at the heart of the competition and the communities the farms serve.

Food – like many a good ale – tastes better if it doesn’t have to travel

The general consensus is that food that doesn’t have to travel, i.e. unlike supermarket-stacked produce, tastes better, has a more direct and swift route to market and benefits the community from which it is grown, picked and prepared for sale.  And nothing perhaps exemplifies what the competition is all about better than the winner of one of  last year’s awards.

The ‘Small Retailer’ award at the twelfth outing of the competition went to a village shop in Wales in a project tagged The Brockweir & Hewelsfield Village Shop (funnily enough).

The shop as it was was closing down as a viable business concern, leaving the only alternative a trip to the supermarket. In the face of produce being grown all around the villages, the villagers themselves were having none of it, as the manager, Alison Macklin, explained.

The staff is made up of volunteers who keep the shop ticking over, the only pricing concern being that the profit is enough to pay the bills and buy more stock. There is even a volunteer allotment on the back doorstep, tilled and kept by the villagers, from which produce is picked and literally carried yards before it is on the shelf ready for sale. And the independence, according to Macklin, is contagious. The more food they sell, the more suppliers want their produce to be on the shelf next to the other locally grown produce.

It is at events like the Food and Farming Awards that projects such as this one and smaller suppliers get to showcase their business. In these hard times, a good event can be the difference between make or break – not just for the owners but for whole communities, too.

So, if you’re running a cookery school, looking for suppliers who would be interested in supplying smaller volumes than perhaps the local supermarket, get involved with this year’s awards. Full details about the competition and how to nominate businesses are on the website at:

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