Putting the hospital in hospitality
Plus, navigating Tube map turmoil
The Jubilee is over. The Elizabeth Line is (largely) up and running… What the hell are we going to write about for the rest of the year?
Well, for today at least, we’re looking at the current state of London’s restaurant industry and the various problems people have with the new Tube map, and we’ve got even more map-related goodies coming up in our mid-week issue. See below for more on that.
The London Restaurant Festival, which started this past weekend. runs all through June with “35 restaurant experiences and Festival Menus at over 100 restaurants” creating a “city-wide celebration of the London restaurant scene”.
The elephant isn the room is the fact that the London restaurant scene isn’t in a very celebratory mood right now. In fact you could argue that it’s downright miserable.
Everything is expensive now
The former chief exec of Pizza Express said last week that the cost of buying chicken and fish has gone “bonkers”, while James Robson, the co-founder of Mayfair restaurant Fallow, reckons that, pretty soon customer bills “will have to go up by 20% to 40% to accommodate the rise in food prices”.
Some places are already feeling the effect. If you read our Weekend Roundup you’ll remember that Tom Brown has had to take his scallop starter off the menu at Cornerstone because he was going to have to charge £30 for it.
Unless you’re Asda and you can open cheap popup steak restaurants for a laugh, then the only other way of getting round the problem of rising food prices is to start getting two dishes out of every ingredient. That’s how Stuart Gillies, who runs the Bank House restaurant in Chislehurst, has managed to actually cut the prices on his menu. But we expect that he’s going to be the exception rather than the rule.
There’s no staff
It’s tricky to train your staff to adopt ‘zero waste’ approach if you can’t find any staff in the first place. According to the latest stats there are something like 171,000 vacancies in the UK hospitality industry right now, with fine dining restaurants (of which London has the highest concentration) among the worst affected.
When the Crown Estate (which owns all of Regent Street and around half of St James’s) surveyed its tenants recently it “found there was a shortfall of over 600 staff in the area”. To try and rectify that they’re holding a massive job fair later this month. But it’s not just restaurants who are suffering. Hilton Hotels has been holding “chef recruitment weeks” recently to try and fill the 100 or so vacancies they have at sites including the Hilton London Metropole, the London Hilton in Park Lane and The Biltmore Mayfair.
The other tactic is to steal talent from your competitors by offering them a massive salary and ‘joining bonus’. The Big Mamma group has recently been offering bartenders a £1,000 joining fee, as well as “£1,000 referral bonus scheme for friends they help to recruit”. And the Times recently wrote about a head chef job in South London with a £85,000 salary a year, “including bonuses”.
The hours are long and you might not even get to keep your tips
Of course, it doesn’t matter what the incentives are if the job itself is miserable.
At the start of this year we spoke to Kris Hall of the The Burnt Chef Project, a social enterprise that focuses on the mental wellbeing of those working in the hospitality industry:
This week, The Burnt Chef released a mobile app that’s designed to provide easy mental healthcare access to the hospitality workforce.
One reason that the industry needs its own mental health app is the long hours that people are generally expected to work. When we spoke to Kris, he said that it’s not unusual for people to “do between 60 and 80 hours a week with very little breaks for sustenance,” and the current lack of staff isn’t helping that situation. Last month a study found that ”existing employees are clocking up more hours than previously”.
The other kick in the teeth for restaurant workers came just last month when the bill that would have stopped “employers retaining tips and gratuities intended for staff” (aka the ‘Tipping bill’) was scrapped by the government in favour of encouraging “industry best practice”. But as we move to becoming an increasingly ‘cashless society’ (80% of tips are now given on cards) it’s hard to see how ‘best practice’ is going to magically make everything fair and right.
And the robots are coming to take your job
The other reason to be worried if you work in hospitality? Robots.
A company called Miso has been getting a lot of press in the States recently as their “AI-powered robotic kitchens” have been adopted by the likes of Chipotle and fast food chain Jack in the Box.
As there’s already a dozen branches of Chipotle in London, the smart money says that it won’t be too long before we see robot chip friers this side of the Atlantic.
Lunch is for TWATs
Of course, this being the Telegraph, we’re talking about the “hedonistic TWATs” (those who go into the office on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursday) of the Square Mile who “are bringing back the 80s-style long lunch”.
Although you have to somewhat admire the self-awareness of the “45-year-old financier” who admits to the Telegraph that he’s “been called a TWAT most of my life.”
Coming up on Wednesday… 🗺️
In our subscriber-only edition this week, we speak to Derek Lamberton, the founder of Blue Crow Media, the independent publisher who has brought us such delights as the Art Deco London Map, the Great Trees of London Map, and London Alleyways Map.
Subscribe to LiB today to make sure you don’t miss out:
Talking of maps…
The arrival of the Elizabeth Line didn’t just mean a new Tube line for London, it also meant a brand new Tube map, one which brought more changes than those double purple lines.
In an interview with the Standard, TfL’s Head of Design, Jon Hunter said that “Every single part of that map has been redrawn,” and that includes everything from the typeface to the placement of all 510 stations, 11 zones, 11 lines and five Ikea logos (by comparison, the original 1933 map had eight lines, 212 stations and no fare zones… or furniture store branding).
As you might expect, some people are not happy with the new ‘improved’ design.
Over at MapLab, Bloomberg’s dedicated cartographical site, Marie Partino wonders whether it’s “time for an overhaul of the London Tube map?” and singles out the interchanges at Liverpool Street and Paddington as being particularly confusing (which they are).
There’s also the fact that you can apparently get to Heathrow Terminal 5 on the Elizabeth Line without going through Terminals 2 and 3:
Partino quotes Max Roberts, a psychology lecturer and the man behind Tube Map Central who calls the new map “a piece of design garbage” and suggests that the goal should be “an all London railways map,” that represents the city’s complete railway services. Although Max stops short of suggesting how adding even more stuff will aid the designers in creating something more usable.
Or, if you want a reminder of simpler times, then Iconic Antiques currently has a framed first edition of Harry Beck’s station map from 1933 for sale. And they’re only asking £45,000 for it.
5 little bits
In case you’d forgotten there’s a Tube strike on today with “severe disruption” expected from this morning, through to 8am tomorrow. That includes the closure of “many stations, especially those in central and south London”.
Sadiq was on Sunday Morning on the BBC yesterday, and he didn’t hold back when it came to the Met. The mayor said there is “overt systemic sexism, racism, homophobia, discrimination, misogyny” in the force.
Khan also said that he’s “not at all” interested in leading the Labour Party if Kier Starmer is forced to resign. Which means he’s totally interested.
The climate charity Possible have created a London Noisy City Map, using data from the environment department which allows you to zoom in to street level to see what the decibel level is near you. Hint: If you live near Heathrow Airport or around the M25 then the news is not good.
Boris Johnson wasn’t only booed at St Paul’s over the bank holiday. Apparently he went for lunch at Morito on Hackney Road on Friday (his son, Theo works there) where he was heckled by some other diners (warning: that’s a link to the Mail as they’re the only ones with the story). The PM’s response? To flick them the finger and walk out. Classy.