This month we are not going to divulge the latest grains or beans to hit the foody press. Instead we are looking at what is hot in style. The biggest double-whammy ever is poised to take the UK away from its reputation as being the cheap man in Europe for a dining experience and put it right up there with all the other countries.
In the next month the minimum wage increases, and along with it, rent and rate rises are poised to catch up after almost ten stagnant years. So how will the restaurants cope? Will the prices rise by 20% overnight as some predict? And the customer just has to accept it? Or is there a room for absorbing some of the increases and not passing it on to the diner
According to some financial gurus the margins are too tight to allow anything other than passing on the full hike in costs to the customer. Reducing staff and perhaps tighter margins on food suppliers may ease some of the strain on the pocket, but the strain on the catering team will, in the long term, be unsustainable. So how will this affect the majority of restaurants offering local, seasonal, sustainable food?
Well two things seem to be happening:- firstly a greater emphasis on the flavours on the plate and a more rustic approach presentation. Secondly a step towards long cooking processes for cheaper cuts of meat, looking further for sustainable seafood and fish which may be less attractive to the eye; the rise in the wonky vegetable movement and a return to more substantial dishes, which require less presentation than multi-taster menus.
There will always be a requirement for high-end dining, but as Aberdeen has recently found out, anything which alters the fine balance between demand and supply in the all-important modern-British gastro-pub dining experience, can blow a very cold wind without much warning. Despite the fact that restaurants may not in the future be producing these labour intensive ,expensive menus, however, isn’t necessarily going to impact on cookery schools – the lack of newly qualified commis-chefs continues to feed students into private cookery schools. Whether the role of executive head chef may become vulnerable remains to be seen.