Coffee Break: Top Stories affecting Northern UK

Picture of Black tiger prawns
Black tiger prawns to cost 40% more
  • Prawn prices rise
  • Simon Rogan quits Midland hotel restaurants in Manchester
  • Harrogate Indie restaurants unite against chain operators
  • Fresh British veg ‘could be wiped out by Brexit’
  • D&D group owner says UK’s anti-immigration stance is “retrograde” and “bonkers”
  • Giraffe opens its doors in Newcastle
  • Star Pubs & Bars partners to reopen Edinburgh pub
  • Pizza Hut launches Scottish apprenticeship programme
  • Harrogate-based Chinese restaurant owner expands portfolio
  • Cumbrian country estate goes on the market for £3m
  • Irish leaders fear Brexit will bring economic disaster

Prawn prices set to hit all-time high

Extreme weather conditions blamed for prawn price hike – some species will cost 40% more.

PURCHASING firm Beacon says the average price of prawns is up 15% with many importers in Europe left with little or no stock. Black tiger prawns are currently costing 40% more.

Current average prices for king prawns is £12.75 per kilo, while North Atlantic prawns are £11.72 per kilo.

Beacon said that price rises would likely be felt by operators in December in time to affect Christmas menus.

M&J Seafood and Direct Seafoods’ have reported price increases at source due in part to a drop in Vietnamese production caused by a drought in the Mekong delta earlier this year. Low harvests in China have also increased local demand, driving up the price for European importers.

Meanwhile, cold water prawns have seen a quota cut of 42% in Canada, the equivalent to a reduction of more than 20,000 tonnes.

Beacon’s senior food buyer, Emma Warrington, said suppliers were doing all they could to mitigate price increases, but that prices would inevitably rise for operators soon.

“With the pressure likely to continue into next year, it’s only a matter of time before these price increases are passed on, meaning the classic Christmas prawn cocktail could be more expensive this year.

Traditional Classic Prawn Cocktail to cost more
Classic Prawn Cocktail to cost more

“The stock position for prawns in the EU market is currently incredibly low. Temperatures of up to 40 degrees in Bangladesh and Vietnam, two of the main producers of black tiger prawns, have led to high mortality rates. This combination of low supply and increased demand has meant that prawn prices have rocketed to an all-time high,” she said.

Simon Rogan quits Midland hotel restaurants in Manchester

SIMON Rogan is to step away from the Midland hotel in Manchester just three years into a five-year contract.

The restaurant will be renamed Adam Reid at the French from 1 November
Chef Adam Reid [pictured with Simon Rogan) will take over the French on 1 November
Rogan, as proprietor of Umbel restaurant group, and the four-AA-stars, 312-bedroom property, owned by QHotels, will terminate the contract at the end of October. The decision is said to be mutual and amicable.

Rogan was brought on board in 2013 to breathe new life into The French restaurant, which has existed since the Midland opened in 1903.

A year later, he opened a second outlet at the hotel – the more informal Mr Cooper’s House & Garden.

QHotels reported a 500% increase in bookings during the first 12 months of Rogan’s arrival to The French restaurant.

But Rogan’s hope for a Michelin star for the restaurant has not materialised.

The French originally held a Michelin star for two years following the publication of the first UK guide in 1974.

Adam Reid, head chef at The French during Rogan’s tenure, will remain in the role, while Robert Taylor, who joined the Midland as head chef of Mr Cooper’s in March this year; will also continue in his position.

The restaurant will be renamed Adam Reid at the French from 1 November.

Reid said he now has “a huge opportunity” to showcase his own cooking style which he has been developing during his career since working with Simon Radley at the Chester Grosvenor and Brockencote Hall in Kidderminster, Worcestershire, before joining Rogan.

“I want to make Manchester proud and ensure that the French will continue to evolve and impress its local and national customers.”

Reid recently reached the final of BBC TV’s Great British Menu, having won the North West heat.

Rogan plans to concentrate on developing and growing his businesses in Cartmel with L’Enclume and Rogan & Co (in Cumbria) as well as ensuring that Fera at Claridge’s (London) continues to be operated to high standards.

Harrogate Indie restaurants unite against chain operators

THE independent restaurants have joined forces to create a ‘Harrogate Independent Restaurants’ brand in a bid to promote the “passion and commitment” that a local operator puts into their business.

In July, award-winning restaurant Van Zeller closed for good. Chef Tom Van Zeller blamed brexit and the dominance of chain restaurants for its demise.

It is claimed the opening of new dining chains has reached an unsustainable level in Harrogate, which is having a direct impact on established and local eateries.

Harrogate Independent restaurants plan to develop a greater awareness of how good local independents can be. It’s a step to helping them maintain position against the influx of chain operators to the town.

The website, initially on soft launch, will feature information on each independent local restaurant, news and offers. It  is hoped it will become the go-to place for foodies hunting out indie restaurants.

harroage-indie-restaurants

The developing website can be seen at www.harrogateindependents.co.uk

The initiative has support from restaurants such as Deano’s Graze and Grill, William & Victoria, Nutrition Joe’s, Damn Yankee, Cattlemen’s Association, Cardamom Blacks, Luigi’s, Norse and Baltzersens.

Indie restaurants that would like to be involved should contact: admin@harrogateindependents.co.uk

Fresh British veg ‘could be wiped out by Brexit’

TAKING migrant workers “out of the supply chain” would result in there being no home-grown produce on shop shelves or delivered to restaurants it is claimed.

A leading farmer has warned that British vegetables will disappear from supermarket shelves or to the service industry if post-Brexit immigration controls prevent thousands of Eastern Europeans from working in the UK.

Guy Poskitt, who grows 80,000 tons of carrots, pumpkins and parsnips a year in Yorkshire, told Sky News it is impossible to find enough British labourers to do the work.

Czech labourers picking pumpkins in Yorkshire
Czech labourers picking pumpkins in Yorkshire

Last year the number of EU nationals in the UK rose by an estimated 180,000 but the Government is committed to reducing total immigration to the tens of thousands.

“If you took migrant workers out of the supply chain you would within five days have no fresh British produce,” Mr Poskitt claimed.

He told Sky News he pays agencies £9.50 per hour for temporary labourers and that without workers from Eastern Europe the industry would collapse.

“[My business] would have to close; we could not serve our customers without the availability of migrant workers,” he said.

Mark Straw whose firm Abbey Personnel Services supplies labourers to Yorkshire farms claims there is no alternative to Eastern European labour.

From his office in Selby he hires and transports 200 Eastern Europeans to work each day, and says locals will not take the jobs on offer in agriculture.

“It’s outdoor, it’s physical, you would say that there are little prospects for advancement,” he explained.

“It’s unskilled labour so [locals] do not want to do that kind of work.”

D&D group owner says UK’s anti-immigration stance is ‘retrograde’ and ‘bonkers’

DAVID Loewi co-ower of D&D London says putting up barriers to employing workers from Europe would halt the growth of businesses.

Around 60% of their workers at their restaurants come from overseas.

D&D group owns high-end London restaurants Le Pont de la Tour, Coq D’Argent and Quaglino’s. Loewi is also chairman of the Restaurant Association trade body. He believes erecting barriers to the employment of workers from Europe would be “extremely detrimental and would stop the growth of businesses”.

“The Government’s hard-line immigration stance is “retrograde” and “bonkers”, he said in an interview with The Guardian.

Loewi said the Restaurant Association would be “lobbying hard” against any block on employing talent from the EU and the government only had to look at the fall in the value of the pound in recent months to see how confidence in Britain was being affected by its stance.

The anti-immigration stance taken by the Government, combined with news reports of an increase in racist and xenophobic behaviour, had already made employing staff from abroad more difficult, claims Loewi.

His comments come as the government faces growing criticism over its immigration stance since the Conservative conference when the home secretary, Amber Rudd, said it was considering requiring companies to declare the proportion of international staff in their workforce. Rudd later backtracked on the proposal, saying it was “not something we’re definitely going to do”.

At the Tory conference she also announced a crackdown on overseas students and work visas, and pledged to prevent migrants “taking jobs British people could do”.

D&D recently revealed a 3% rise in sales to £107.8m and 16% rise in underlying profits to £13m. Last year it ditched plans for a London listing and saw its slowest sales growth in years as diners reined in their spending ahead of and immediately after the Brexit vote.

Des Gunewardena, Loewi’s fellow co-owner of D&D, said the government needed to be “armed very clearly with the positive impact of people coming from the EU on industries like ours and the NHS so they can negotiate rationally”.

He believes it is unlikely the government will ultimately block the hiring of skilled workers from the EU, although D&D is already working to train more Britons to work in its kitchens and dining rooms.

D&D, the vast majority of whose 34 restaurants are in London, is planning to power into north UK with hopes of opening in Leeds, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Birmingham.

The company opened its first UK restaurants outside the capital – Angelica and Crafthouse – in the Trinity shopping centre in Leeds in 2013.

Gunewardena said the Leeds sites had been much more successful than expected and two more restaurants would be opening in the city later this year in the Victoria Gate development. The group’s first site in Manchester opens next year and it is seeking sites in other major UK cities.

“In London there are lots of demand but lots of restaurants. There is not as much demand in Leeds or Manchester or Edinburgh but there aren’t as many restaurants,” he said.

Giraffe opens its doors in Newcastle

GIRAFFE Newcastle Eldon Square is the company’s first new restaurant to open with a brand new look, and one of the first to open its doors in the new Grey’s Quarter in Eldon Square Newcastle.

The restaurant will serve up a full range of global dishes. The new look includes an open kitchen and bar complimented by a Cuban style interior.

Star Pubs & Bars partners to reopen Edinburgh pub

HEINEKEN-OWNED Star Pubs & Bars and Edinburgh pub company Caygill and Smith have begun a major £280,000 refurbishment of Jock’s Lodge in Edinburgh, which will see the once troubled pub reopen as a blues fusion bar following a three-year closure.

The pub will be renamed Barrelhouse Bar and Diner to signal its change in direction. As well as hosting blues fusion bands from around the world, it will specialise in a menu of Cajun and barbecue food with a Scottish twist.

The refurbishment is part of a £2m investment Star is making in its Scottish pubs this year. Work is expected to take six weeks, with Barrelhouse Bar and Diner scheduled to reopen at the end of November.

Pizza Hut launches Scottish apprenticeship programme

PIZZA Hut has launched its Modern Apprenticeship Programme in Scotland, with the company committing to 250 apprenticeships during the next five years.

Pizza Hut has already invested £4m in Scotland in the past four years, refurbishing about half its portfolio in the country.

Offering apprenticeships from level two to three, the programme, in partnership with ITC Academy, covers areas such as food production and cooking, hospitality supervision, and leadership.

Pizza Hut director of HR and marketing Kathryn Austin told Eat Out: “We have a responsibility to help grow and develop the next generation and dispel the myth that an apprenticeship is a secondary choice. Quality apprenticeship programmes are an excellent route into the workplace, providing a high level of on-the-job training and support.”

Harrogate-based Chinese restaurant owner expands portfolio

RESTAURANT owner Cindy Cheung has started expanding her portfolio after acquiring her second site in the North Yorkshire town.

Cheung, who owns the Royal Baths Chinese Restaurant, has bought The Golden Coin in Station Parade through agent Christie & Co. Having been run as a Vietnamese and Chinese restaurant by the previous owners, which decided to sell to take on new opportunities,

Cheung plans to refurbish the site before reopening in the near future.

Cumbrian country estate goes on the market for £3m

SAVILS, on behalf of a private client, has brought to market Morland Hall, near Penrith, Cumbria, for a guide price of £3m.

The estate, which dates to the 19th century and centres around an old manor house, has been extensively restored to create a blend of self-catering accommodation and a country house with boutique hotel-style facilities.

Moorland Hall, Eden Valley, Cumbria
Morland Hall, Eden Valley, Cumbria

There is also an outdoor swimming pool, Jacuzzi and gym in the grounds, while further accommodation is provided in three four-bedroom houses that have been fitted to a high standard and all with private gardens. A popular wedding venue, Morland Hall is set within 15 acres (six hectares) of ancient woodland and private gardens.

Irish leaders fear Brexit will bring economic disaster

IRISH leaders have warned of an economic “disaster” on both sides of the border without decisive action to confront the effects of Britain’s impending departure from the EU.

Ireland’s Prime Minister Enda Kenny told The Guardian that the prospect of Brexit has already raised intractable questions about the border that runs across the island, and has vexed farmers who send half their beef to British dinner tables.

The slump of sterling is squeezing Irish exporters and the future of Northern Ireland, which relies heavily on EU subsidies, is uncertain. Some forecasters fear that Ireland could be harder hit than Britain by the tumult.

Such is the seriousness of the situation that the Taoiseach and the Irish foreign minister, Charlie Flanagan, have assembled a team of almost 100 people to work on Brexit, with embassies across Europe being beefed up to cope with the fallout.

“Brexit has been referred to as the biggest foreign policy issue facing the UK since EEC accession in 1973. In many ways, the same is true of Ireland,” said Flanagan

Martin McGuinness, Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister and Sinn Féin leader said that Brexit threatened devastating consequences for the island.

Former Taoiseach John Bruton says Ireland now has to “up its game substantially” in Brussels, lamenting what he says is the unravelling of centuries of common trade.

“We have been part of a common economic area for a very, very long time, only broken in the 18th century when Britain adopted anti-Irish trade practices and there was an episode in the 1930s,” he said. “The decision to leave is reversing 1,000 years of history between Britain and Ireland.”

Britain is Ireland’s largest export partner, while Ireland is Britain’s fifth biggest trading partner, with €1.5bn (£1.35bn) in transactions each week. The London-Dublin route is Europe’s busiest air link.

Bruton is among those warning of potential trade wars post-Brexit if Britain tries to increase market share through subsidies.

“If Britain avails of its exit from the single market to reintroduce subsidies to British food production, as was the case before the common market, this would cause serious damage to the Irish food industry and would probably necessitate retaliation by Europe,” he said. “Anti-dumping measures are part of the armoury of the EU and they have been used before and could be again.”

At the moment all Irish exporters, both north and south of the border, are grappling with short-term and long-term challenges. “There isn’t anybody in Ireland that has not been touched in some way by this. If you’re not an exporter, then you’re likely to be a supplier to an exporter. The effect of the currency slump is very serious,” said John McGrane, director general of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce.

Large food exporters to Britain have been able to insure themselves against sterling’s decline because they hedge their currencies.

But smaller firms are unable to shake of the fluctuations in the pound.

Large food exporters to Britain have been able to insure themselves against sterling’s decline because they hedge their currencies.

McGrane predicted job losses after Christmas on both sides of the Irish Sea, saying it was not possible to “pent up price increases without being able to pass them on”.

Last week the Irish government responded to desperate calls for help by announcing a €150m loan fund for farmers being crushed by the weakening of sterling.

“Food business works on extremely thin margins of around 2%. If you have to add 17% to your costs because of currency exchange, then you have a 15% straight loss. Irish industry is just looking on at this with great alarm,” said McGrane.

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