Posts in Food News
The pictures changing plates

"Most businesses are embracing our obsession with amateur food photography. Put simply, it’s free publicity. "

From fine dining to street food, most of us are guilty of a cheeky food snap. Just Google food photography and you’ll be lost in pancake stacks, sushi and pasta for hours.  

Apps such as Instagram have had immense impact on how we share food photography and manipulate it. Anyone, no matter how skilled, can capture their own food art in just a few clicks. Bringing food to life on screen has never been easier, with Instagram filters achieving the perfect ‘colour pop’ many strive for.  

Whether you enjoy in-situ food photography or think phones have no place at the dining table, one thing is for certain. It's a driving force for innovation and creativity in the food and drink industry. 

how has this changed our food, plates and restaurant experiences?

Most businesses are embracing our obsession with amateur food photography. Put simply, it’s free publicity. So, both high end chefs and fast food chains have cooked up ways to be increasingly visual, engaging and memorable.  

Think colourful combinations, creative food styling and scientific Blumenthal-esque surprises.


food styling and crockery

Simon Hulstone, chef proprietor, at the Michelin starred Elephant Restaurant in Torquay said: “I think the use of social media has increased the presentation and styles of chefs’ food immensely. Crockery has become a major focus and getting the right crockery to frame a dish is almost as important as what’s on the plate, ultimately though it’s the quality of the photography and camera that decides how good a dish looks on social media, so chefs have really worked out how to promote their skills by taking a semi professional picture.” 


flavour experimentation

Andrew Klimecki, VP design at Steelite International said: “There have been some interesting trends in food fairly recently where traditionally ‘beige’ food types have been given the black treatment: bagels, burgers, hot-dog buns, macarons, croissants – even ice cream. This is being driven by the need for novelty in the hospitality industry to engage and fuel the Instagram generation.”

fast food finds

Fast food joints across the globe are cooking up increasingly creative food, such as Poptata, drizzling bright pink garlic mayo over delicious parmesan fries.  

For Taco Bell’s chefs and food scientists, Instagram is also always front of mind. When the team develop new menus, how products look on Instagram is a key consideration. It takes just a few Instagram complaints (notably, that the cheese isn’t as stringy as portrayed in adverts!) for the social media team to intervene with food preparation reminders. They even track of the most-Instagrammed menu items, and last year relied solely on diners’ Instagram snaps to advertise and build trust in a niche new product, the Naked Chicken Chalupa, setting up launch parties with bright lights and props to encourage photo opportunities and all-important recommendations.   

setting the scene

Ambience is also key. Upserve Restaurant Insider' s report #FoodPorn Instagram Marketing for your Restaurant encourages restaurants to consider lighting, installations, and branding opportunities to make their décor more appealing and memorable for Instagram. Many upscale London restaurants wow diners with immersive interior design, such as Clos Maggiore’s spectacular garden room and Sketch’s opulent and colourful furniture, walls and curtains. Unsurprisingly, they are often recommended as the most Instagrammable foodie spots to visit.  

 Clos Maggiore

Sure, foodie photos are nothing new, but the Instagram revolution has undoubtedly given hospitality businesses another tool to boost their operations. Whether this is most useful for promoting new products, interacting with existing diners or getting food in front of new customers, businesses that fully embrace this creative culture of sharing will surely give consumers something to remember.

Ice cream will be the next big sweet trend. Guaranteed.
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“We’re certain ice cream’s going to be the next big trend. Why? Because it covers every other major trend imaginable.”

Summer may officially be over, but ice cream is the only thing on our mind. Like an overeager ice cream man, it just won’t leave us alone.


We’re certain it’s going to be the next big trend, whatever the weather. Why? Because it covers every other major trend imaginable.



First up, indulgence. Our world is full of more fitness freaks and health conscious consumers than ever before. But, all of that looking after yourself means when you do have a treat, you really indulge yourself.


Ice cream is pure indulgence. Scoop on top of scoop (on top of scoop) of pure naughty goodness. So, as more of us want to indulge, more of us will fancy a scoop or two.



The next big trend of this year and beyond: bright colours. We’re simpler people than you may think, and just like magpies with any remotely shiny object, we are immediately drawn to bright colours, especially when it comes to the sweeter side of food.


And is there anything in this world more colourful than an ice cream bar? It’s enough to make a rainbow blush. Which, in all fairness, would just make the whole rainbow a bit redder…



Flexitarians, both veggie and vegan, are continuing to grow in number. This means flexi-innovations and vegan-friendly NPD are continuing to grow right there with them.


Brands are adding flexi options to their ranges, often with sorbets leading the way. But, the fully vegan ice cream scene is certainly growing. There’s an influx of flexi-friendly flavours and favourites finding their way into the market. And that’s just a taste of the alliteration we could put in this blog, but we’ll leave it at that.



OK, it’s a big ‘ish’, but ice cream is jumping on the health bandwagon. An ice cream is unlikely to ever be truly healthy, but healthier options are popping up more often. Low calorie, dairy alternatives, protein-filled – you name it, ice cream claims it.


This is an even better option for the sweet-tooth-having health-conscious consumer, who can still indulge, but without the guilt.



What was your favourite ice cream growing up? I was always partial to a Screwball. It sounded a bit rude when you ordered it and it meant I could sneak in some bubble-gum without anyone knowing. Win-win.


I ask because ice cream is nostalgic, and while the industry innovates and changes with every passing month, people adore nostalgia. They love the familiar with the crazy, because as much as we all want to try something new, we all have our favourites. Even if my childhood passion for Screwballs hasn’t stood the test of time.


That’s what makes ice cream so special, it’s as nostalgic as it is new.


On the go

Cone or cup, ice cream is designed to be enjoyed on the go. With the buzz around street food just continuing to grow, consumers always want food that they take with them. The days of sitting down and taking a break are long gone. We’re all far too busy for that.


A platform for future trends

Above all else, ice cream is a platform for flavour. On our searches we’ve seen everything from bacon to mayonnaise flavoured ice cream. This means whatever the next big flavour trend is (hopefully not mayo), ice cream can provide it. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.


This is just the tip of the understandably chilly iceberg. Ice cream will come back as one of the leading figures in sweet treats in the near future. And we’re willing to put our money where our mouth is. If we’re wrong, the Screwballs are on us.

Does Michelin matter anymore?
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"The Michelin Guide has been around for an astonishing 118 years. But, has it run its course?"

The Michelin Guide returns later today, but it’s not been the best year for the guide. With chefs giving stars back and politely requesting inspectors don’t enter their premises, it begs the question: does Michelin matter for chefs or consumers anymore?

Before we get to that rather big question, here’s a quick run through of what’s been going on.


A recent guide to the Guide

Last September, Le Suquet restaurant in southern France was the first restaurant in history to have itself removed from the Michelin Guide. It had held an incredible three Michelin stars for 18 years, but chef Sebastien Bras said enough is enough, and requested to be removed. He found the pressure of retaining stars was too great and held him and his team back from serving the food they really wanted to.

More recently, The Checkers in Montgomery, Powys, also handed back their one star, which it’s held since 2011. Their reasoning was to “put family first” after “years juggling the kids with working split shifts and late hours”.

And then there’s Marco Pierre White – the original rock star chef who continues to own the news. The enigmatic chef told an Asian lifestyle website “I don’t need Michelin and they don’t need me”. He’s stated that the Michelin Guide does not have permission to visit and inspect his new Singapore restaurant, The English House.


Why are chefs turning their backs?

So, it’s been a tumultuous year for the Guide, which for so long has been considered the pinnacle of restaurant reviews worldwide. It’s famed for high standards, incredible expectations and brutal honesty. And therein lies the problem.

Getting a star is still an exciting achievement for any restaurant and head chef. But retaining it becomes as big a part of the job as pleasing customers. An inspection can happen at any time, meaning all-year round, a restaurant has to tick the many boxes that Michelin is looking out for.

Not knowing when a restaurant could be reviewed makes trying out something new an even more terrifying ordeal. What if the inspectors arrive on the day a new menu is introduced, and it’s just not quite right? The star’s gone.

So, it’s best to just stick with what you do.


Does the Guide take everything into account?

The judging criteria used by inspectors is a mystery to most. In a recent tweet, Michelin said that it’s the food on the plate that’s judged, which is why street food vendors have an equal chance of winning a star.

In a way, this is great news. The food is what matters most and great food deserves praise, wherever it’s from and however it’s served. But, speak to any chef and you can be sure that it’s not all they care about. Food is experiential, more so than ever. The décor, the feel, the atmosphere, the restaurant as a whole, they all play into the dining experience, not just the food.

If the Guide is purely critiquing the food, is that really enough? Because food today is much more than just what’s on the plate, however pretty the plate may be.


The cost of creativity

Chefs are inherently creative individuals. They want to cook and create the perfect menu that represents them, their tastes and their culture. Holding back a creative person is like locking a cheetah in a cage. It doesn’t want to be there, it’s not going to be happy, and the moment it gets out, you know it’s going to run.

The constant pressure of inspection causes even longer hours and even greater expectations in an industry that’s already full of long hours and great expectations. And these hours and expectations often occur at the detriment of profit, with margins often said to be lower at Michelin-focussed restaurants.

But, is that why chefs and consumers are turning their backs on the Guide? Or is it because the world of reviews has changed?


Reviews beyond the Guide

The Michelin Guide has been around for an astonishing 118 years. But today, there’s a world of reviews beyond the guide.

Bloggers, journalists, TV critics and review aggregator websites such as TripAdvisor have changed the face of reviewing. The Guide sits at the top, but for the average customer, why would they listen to a Guide that’s criteria for success is a secret, when they could just see genuine peer-reviews?

Restaurant A has a star, but the last 20 people that visited had a dreadful experience. Meanwhile, Restaurant B is star-less, but has page after page of flawless reviews. Where would you eat tomorrow?

We live in a society where everyone is now a critic, and everyone has a platform to share comments, pictures and reviews. This happens every day, not just once a year, making the Guide essentially behind the times as soon as it’s released.


Who is the Guide really for?

This begs the question, who is the Guide really for? Is it for chefs or for consumers?

Consumers undoubtedly want to enjoy the best cuisine and cooking possible and the idea of eating at a Michelin-starred restaurant still has a great appeal. It has pulling power, but it’s no longer the only factor a consumer looks at.

For chefs, winning a star is still one of the highest culinary accolades out there. It can change a career in a heartbeat. But, as we’ve seen, retaining a star is often a step too far for many creative chefs. It limits them and stifles creativity; two things that a lot of chefs won’t enjoy very much.

At the end of the day, the Michelin Guide isn’t perfect. But, it still matters a great deal to chefs and consumers alike. As Adam Coghlan, Eater London Editor, puts it: “Like driving a car on a treadmill, Michelin appear to be moving forward all the time, but really, they’re standing still. The thing is — they’re still driving the car.

One thing’s for sure. We’ll still be watching to see the updated list, because today it still is the pinnacle. The question is, how long will that last? And will we see any restaurants ask for their star to be removed in the same week the Guide’s released?

The art of changing your brand perception
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"Perceptions can change, it just takes a change in approach to food, marketing and messaging in equal measure."

It was another successful year for the Lunch! show, with an event full of vibrant food stalls serving up some delicious samples and great insight.


Nutrition’s impact on brand

There was a clear theme this year with every stall looking to emphasize the health benefits of the food. In the past food could just taste good, now it has to do good. And this has a big impact on marketing, messaging and brand.

David Ross, head of category at Greggs, spoke about the difficulties of changing the perception of your brand. As soon as you read Greggs, I’m sure your head filled with the thought of sausage rolls and doughnuts. This is a brand association that Greggs has spent the last 4 years trying to change.

Ross said that if you are part of the obesity problem, you need to be part of the solution. In 2014, Greggs launched a balanced choice menu, contributing to 42 products on the menu. Ross referred to the fact Greggs is committed to meeting the Public Health England 20% sugar reduction on all products by 2020.

If it keeps going down this path, read the word Greggs in a couple of years’ time, and there won’t be a sausage roll in your head.


How to change the perception of your brand

Jack Hinchliffe, innovation director at KFC, was having a similar problem to Greggs. They were being marked as junk food that uses mutated chickens to make their food. Not the best image. So, how could they change that?

Hinchliffe felt that to make a real difference they needed to be disruptive, so they launched the campaign ‘the whole chicken and nothing but the chicken. The eye-catching campaign featured a live chicken, something that had been avoided in previous campaigns as they were keen to avoid the link between a live chicken and their fried chicken. After much deliberation the advert was launched.

It became the most complained about advert of 2017 in the UK with 755 complaints. Despite this, people were no longer associating the fried chicken with battery hens or mutated chickens, they were associating it with a live healthy chicken that happens to love east coast hip hop. It caused disruption and it got people thinking. Marketing doesn’t really get better than that.

The truth is, being the company they are people will always have a bone to pick. So, they stopped trying to appeal to them and worked to change their perception in order to not get left behind.

And even after some well documented delivery issues stopped a lot of their chickens crossing roads all across the UK, their brand is looking stronger than ever.


A changing approach to marketing

Both Ross and Hinchliffe alluded to the same point; the foodservice industry evolves so quickly that if you are not ready to adapt you will get left behind. KFC is continuing its new look and feel, updating all of their restaurants and promoting the story of Colonel Sanders. Meanwhile Greggs is becoming an innovator in the way it presents its menus, showing the traffic light system on all products online as well as in store.

And their approach to marketing is shifting. Instead of spending millions in TV adverts they are focussing on marketing stunts. ‘Gregory and Gregory’ saw the brand go undercover at a food festival, to the shock and awe of guests. Meanwhile, ‘Ministry of Greggs’ saw a massive rave in a Greggs store, with attendees enjoying steak bakes and doughnuts. This had a huge reach. My invite must have got lost in the post.

What this all shows is that perceptions can change, you just have to change your approach to food, marketing and messaging in equal measure.

Timing and technology: today's takeaway takeaways

“Your pizza is on the road.”

Well pick it up will you, we’re all watching…

Takeaways are always a guilty pleasure. I’m fairly sure it’s impossible to order a takeaway without a little guilt. Haven’t bothered shopping? Takeaway. Have food but can’t be bothered to cook? Takeaway. Hungover? Bacon sarnie… then a takeaway.

But, you’ll be pleased to know you don’t have to feel too guilty. Everyone dabbles in the odd takeaway here and there. And new research has shown that wherever you are and whatever the reason for your order, one thing is almost always the same. The time you order. In fact, time is everything for today’s takeaway-er.

A timely takeaway discovery

Nicolas Scrutton Alvarado and Tyler J. Stevenson, from the School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen, have looked into takeaway-based Google searches. The searches show a “remarkably consistent rhythm of people wanting to find food online at about 7pm and again at 2am.” This is the same in the UK, US, Canada, India and Australia.

The two also commented on how unsurprising this really is, because of habits first seen a long, long time ago. These timings, attitudes and food-based behaviours match the foraging habits of our pre-historic ancestors – despite the takeaway industry really struggling back then. Hard to Deliveroo anything without the wheel…

Time matters when people order. But it’s also the one thing on people’s minds after they order.

Deliver on time (people are watching)

Zonal and CGA’s latest ‘Go Technology’ report has revealed that 33% of consumers want to know their exact delivery time as soon as they order.

In today’s ‘Just-Eat’ world, takeaways have more competition than ever before. Long gone are the days of digging out the pre-circled menu, dialling up and reciting your picks like lottery numbers. A meal arriving late, however great the taste, may not be good enough.

If a site can consistently deliver good food on time, it grabs attention. If not, reviews may plummet. And if reviews plummet, it will be very difficult to compete.

As with tricky photos and every risky joke ever told, timing is everything.

Technology’s growing role in takeaways

Technology and takeaways go hand-in-hand like that hungover pizza and a sense of regret. The Go Technology report also revealed that 22% of consumers think ordering through artificial intelligence (Alexa, Siri, etc.) will become more commonplace in the near future. The other 78% just felt embarrassed about screaming ‘Pizza’ at their Amazon Echo.

What this all shows is that while the takeaway market continues to grow – Just-Eat recently announced a 30% increase in orders in the 6 months leading up to June 2018 – the impact of technology within it is growing too. From GPS delivery tracking, to reviews and comments online, a takeaway site that doesn’t stay on track with the latest tech trends could see all its loyal customers taken away.