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Jamie Oliver’s challenge – food for thought

On 30/08/13 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

Jamie Oliver has ignited a lively ‘silly season’ debate with his comments about lower income families who are more willing to spend money on the largest possible television than they are on better quality food for their families.

This is not the first time that Jamie has made himself unpopular in some quarters by challenging lazy eating habits and calling for parents to give more thought and money to ensuring that we eat more healthily as a nation. It is easy to be cynical about the timing of his outburst – as it seems to have been timed to coincide with his new TV series. However, I for one think we should listen to his advice.

The growing interest in food which Jamie and his contemporaries have promoted, should not be seen as a luxury, only affordable when the country returns to sustained economic growth. As the pub sector has demonstrated, it is possible to eat well on a budget and we do not have to tolerate mediocrity when we eat out. Pub food has been transformed in much of Britain and a focus on fresh local ingredients or rejuvenated classic British dishes is driving pub profitability.

Where pubs come into their own is in offering consumers a range of options which cater for their differing needs and budgets. The trend in sharing dishes is not only more sociable but it also helps groups by offering great value for money. As with offering smaller serving sizes, flexibility is key to retaining a loyal customer base and attracting back customers who may have been put off in the past by less than optimal service and a more limited menu on offer.

Jamie started his illustrious hospitality career in his parents’ Essex pub. We have been working with the Hospitality Guild to develop a pub chefs campaign to encourage newly-qualified chefs to consider pubs as a career choice.

If we are to drive growth through investment in beer and pubs we will continue to create new opportunities for young people in particular to pursue a career in hospitality in a pub setting. As consumers demand more and more from their pub food experience it is vital we invest in our talent to offer the best service and better quality food for the discerning customer. Jamie’s campaign to encourage all of us to think more about the quality of the food we eat is both a challenge and an opportunity for pubs.


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