Friday, 22 January 2016

Why the head chef needn't rule the roost

Certain celebrity chefs have built their careers and reputation around the way they rule the roost in the kitchen but do head chefs really have to be prima donnas to reach culinary perfection?

Award-winning food writer Romilla Arber doesn’t agree and has recently introduced a fresh way of thinking to her Honesty Group, of which the Crown and Garter in Inkpen is part. The team there believes that it’s vital to be upfront about where food has come from, what’s in it and how it’s cooked. Her ethos is a no-waste, ethically-sourced menu from local producers.

She also believes that the traditional hierarchies that are traditionally associated with chefs, stifle innovation and she prefers to encourage what she calls a “horizontal management structure” in the kitchen.

She said: “Many kitchens can play host to lots of screaming and shouting with the head chef having the last word. It is hard for some chefs to incorporate others’ opinions and people often wait for whoever is in charge. We decided to make the kitchen democratic, which means people can put forward their ideas and really be heard. The key is communication, communication, communication and people are encouraged to support each other,” she adds.

All of the kitchen staff meet every fortnight and they all have a voice in how to move forward, what ingredients and dishes are going to appear on the menu and are given the chance to experiment with flavours.

Chef and team member Dan Hellyer admits to a degree of trepidation when the new way of working was introduced.

“I was incredibly dubious at first!” says Dan. “In a lot of kitchens you just do what you’re told. The head chef decides what’s going on the menu and every last detail such as how it will be cooked, plated and presented. Even if that chef is away, it will be the same.

“However, anything is possible with the right attitude. It is a slightly unusual way of doing things, but there’s a safety net as you have different layers of people with varying levels of experience. Also, what’s the worst that could happen? You have something on the menu that no one orders, so you just change it!

“At our meetings, there are plenty of new menu suggestions. After all, no one thinks the same and everyone sees things on the plate differently and has different ideas about flavour. As part of our commitment to not wasting food, we use the whole animal and that’s meant that we’ve got some unusual things on the menu. We have included dishes that perhaps people in the country are more open to than people in the city, such as lamb faggots, chicken livers and pork scratchings.

“These are all our best-sellers, but are items that might not have been tried under a traditional management structure.”

Dan adds that the concept works because the team comprises the right mix of people. “We’re incredibly lucky to have a diligent conscientious team with great personalities.

“It relies on people taking the responsibility for certain areas,” says Romilla. “Everyone believes in in the system and engages with it. We are empowering people and putting them together with different strengths so they can learn from each other. It is incredibly good for people’s confidence.

“Every dish that goes on the menu is not created in isolation. It is the product of a number of skills and backgrounds. We believe in fairness for our customers and staff and we want them both to be valued. You won’t find anyone else doing the things we are doing.”

The Crown and Garter was voted Best Newcomer for the South East and London in the Great British Pub Awards 2015 and shortlisted for Food and Travel Magazine’s Readers’ Awards 2015.

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Thursday, 21 January 2016


By now, many New Year’s resolutions have been broken, but there’s an important one that you can make for your business.
Many small business owners think they don’t have the time or money to protect their business name and logo with a trademark. Others think that if the company bears their own surname, it belongs to them and can’t be taken away.
Dale Campbell is a European Trademark Attorney and founder of Trademark Tribe, based in Newbury. In 2015 alone, she helped many West Berkshire businesses to protect their name and branding against other firms trying to trade with the same name.
On the other side of the coin, when Dale registers a trademark for a company, she is then able to ensure that other businesses are unable to use the same name.
She said: “Most people know that they should trademark their business name but do not see this as a priority in the early days of development. Sadly, after investing time and money in their business, it’s possible that they could be hit with a trademark dispute which can involve expensive and long-winded legal wrangling. The outcome can often mean literally losing the company’s valuable name and I’ve seen many firms have to start again from scratch.
“Owners are astonished to find that proving they existed as a company before the challenger does not help. The decision goes to the person who has registered the name. So it is entirely possible for a competitor to take a fancy to your company name and check online whether it is registered. If not, in no time at all, they can be using your cherished title. Apart from the devastating effect on business this can have a deep emotional impact. One of the early joys of entrepreneurism is the creation of an identity which reflects your personal values as well as your business ethic. To register this immediately provides security and peace of mind. You may then focus your energies on building the business rather than looking over your shoulder.”
The process of registering is surprisingly smooth and inexpensive, especially when compared to the possible costs of failing to do so. Dale can advise on whether a name qualifies as a trademark, as not all names do. They will also check that your chosen name has not already been registered which again saves many headaches later. Trademark Tribe can also advise on how to choose a strong memorable brand name.
This could be your best ever New Year resolution and once done you will have no trouble keeping it. And your valuable name. Happy New Year.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

The numbers add up for.....

This must be some sort of record! I issued this press release at 10.08pm last night and it had appeared on the website by 10.30pm. Hurray!

Friday, 8 January 2016

Thursday, 7 January 2016

How to annoy a journalist

“And I sent a press release to the newspaper but they didn’t use it”….if I had a pound every time I heard this phrase…

The problem is this….the newspaper is under no obligation to use your release. The paper isn’t there to promote your business. Can you imagine what the newspapers would look like if they simply printed all the press releases they received, word for word?

Put yourself in the shoes of the journalist on the receiving end of your release. The key to getting them to use your press release is to offer them something that gives reader value. Papers want stories that are useful, that reflect what the community is talking about, things that are controversial. Think about what you would like to read in the paper, or conversely, what you don’t want to read.
Here are some more sure-fire ways of annoying a journalist:

1. Sending a release that requires the journalist to spend valuable time going through it changing it.

You wouldn’t believe the number of people who send releases in capital letters, or use exclamation marks excessively. People love to cap up their job titles only for the reporter to have to spend time changing it back to lower case. While “Operational Director of Corporate Internal Widgets Department” sounds great, it is often meaningless to everyone else. Pick up your nearest newspaper and have a look. You’ll see that even ‘prime minister’ remains in lower case.

2. Sending a release that sounds like an advert.

Don’t use words such as “unique”, “world-leading”, “exciting” or “FREE!”

3. Sending a release full of industry jargon and acronyms.

You might be comfortable with these, but other people are unlikely to be experts in the same field as you and will have to look all of these up. Keep things simple and readable – explain each acronym the first time you refer to it.

4. Not sending a photo or sending a bad one.

A photo enhances your press release and even if it doesn’t get used, it will draw an editor’s eye to your story. Make sure your photos are in focus, are relevant and are high quality.

5. Sending the same press release to 100 different journalists.
In the days when I was on the receiving end of press releases, I would simply delete any where my name was one among lots, particularly when these included our rival publications! Journalists want exclusivity, not to print the same things as everyone else.

6. Phoning on deadline

Know when the paper comes out and what the deadlines are. Or simply ask if it’s a convenient moment when you call.

7. Phoning without introducing yourself and saying “did you receive my press release”

Remember journalists can receive hundreds if not thousands of emails. They are unlikely to remember your press release.

8. Moaning that your competitors have been in the paper
Phoning a journalist and saying things like: “you NEED to include this” or “you need to do some PR for us” or “you never write about us”. Yes, people actually do this….

9. Leaving out contact information:

Include your name and mobile number so that the journalist can contact you if they need to follow up. Needless to say, many people forget to do this.

10. Cancelling interviews
I have worked with a couple of clients who have asked me to write a press release about them. We’ve sold the story in and a journalist has shown interest and asked for an interview; the client has then cancelled – sometimes without explanation. Journalists are highly unlikely to use your stories again if you let them down in this way.

11. And the last one. When a journalist has covered your story, instead of encouraging people to buy the paper, you simply put a photo of the piece up on social media. Sometimes this is accompanied by a rant about how they got a minor detail wrong and a line such as “typical newspapers”!

Good luck!

Monday, 4 January 2016

Tips on staying motivated in the Indy - happy new year!

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Friday, 1 January 2016

Thanks to Prima for using this

Kitchen Table Talent indeed - such a pleasure to work with the awesome MrsB!

Happy New Year!