Costly Christmas in store for hospitality, warns Lynx Purchasing

October 2019

There is likely to be a costly Christmas in store for catering and hospitality operators, as price rises kick in for many festive menu staples, warns buying specialist Lynx Purchasing.

Both turkey and Brussels sprouts, essential components of a traditional Christmas dinner, are forecast to see higher prices in the run-up to the festive season. Other food items, from lemon for the pre-dinner gin & tonic to cream for the Christmas pudding, are also in the inflation firing line.

“While we’re still waiting for clarity on how Brexit, in whatever form it takes, will affect the supply chain, other factors are having an impact as operators get ready for the peak trading season,” says Rachel Dobson, managing director of Lynx Purchasing. “Extreme weather, from the spring floods to the summer heatwave in Europe, has affected many crops, and there are various other challenges facing meat, seafood and dairy.”

The advice comes as Lynx Purchasing publishes the Autumn/Winter 2019 edition of its regular Market Forecast, which offers operators an in-depth look at pricing and product trends over the coming months, using exclusive data gathered from the range of suppliers who work with Lynx Purchasing.

“All in all, operators who haven’t yet secured the essentials they need for their Christmas menus may find some items in short supply,” adds Dobson. “Even where they have placed firm orders, they’re likely to have higher-than-expected bills to pay when it comes to settling up with suppliers in January.

“There is some good news. While there were concerns about the quality of the potato crop, in fact supplies are looking to be up to scratch in terms of quality, as well as good value. Most customers probably won’t object to a few more roast potatoes and not so many sprouts, but that won’t be much comfort for operators trying to manage margins across the whole menu.”

Areas highlighted in the Market Forecast include:

Turkey: Turkey prices have been higher than usual for much of the year. This was initially driven by concerns over lack of margin that prompted some farmers to switch to other types of poultry. In addition, there has been a constriction on seasonal workers needed by producers, due in part to Brexit, as well as to the improving economy in Eastern Europe.

Pork: African swine fever continues to spread in China, as well as other parts of Asia and Europe, creating high demand for unaffected supplies. Pork prices set a new record in August and are expected to rise further.

Farmed fish: Overcoming any concerns chefs have about using farmed fish is important in supporting sustainability initiatives in the hospitality sector, and farmed fresh and smoked trout is a useful and tasty alternative to salmon on Christmas menus.

Salads: Recent storms in Spain, thought to be some of the worst in over 100 years, led to some fairly extensive crop losses. Prices will remain high for the foreseeable future as growers try to ‘catch up’. The tomato is now the most expensive crop to cultivate in Spain, with reports suggesting that costs have increased by 20% in the past season.

Brassicas: Record rainfall in the spring, followed by a sustained period of record-breaking temperatures, has affected cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage harvests, and volumes of Brussels sprouts are also expected to be lower than usual as the peak season approaches.

Fruit: July’s heatwave across Europe did little to help fruit growers, with the World Apple and Pear Association forecasting that the European apple and pear crop will be significantly lower than last year. Additionally, heavy storms in some parts of Spain have caused extensive citrus crop damage.

Dairy: Increasing demand for dairy from manufacturers in the run-up to Christmas, combined with seasonally lower production, is putting upward pressure on prices. The UK imports considerable amounts of cheese and butter, and whatever the impact of Brexit, European suppliers have other markets for their products as global demand grows.

“There are fewer opportunities to use specials boards to make the best use of changing availability in the run-up to Christmas,” says Dobson, “as operators have often published menus and taken bookings well in advance. However, any flexibility that can be built into menus will help businesses make the most of the best value produce available.

“Equally, suppliers are just as concerned as operators about the ongoing political uncertainty and the resulting consumer caution, and will be grateful for any certainty they can get, so operators who can give forecasts of their potential orders to help suppliers plan will be in a stronger position when it comes to price negotiations.”

The Autumn/Winter 2019 Market Forecast is available to download free from the Lynx Purchasing website at Lynx Purchasing Market Forecast Autumn Winter 2019
Lynx Purchasing works with more than 2,200 accounts in the hospitality and catering sector, on a no-membership and no-contract basis that offers like-for-like products at lower prices and often better quality than operators could obtain by negotiating alone.

As purchasing professionals, Lynx works with leading suppliers in the hospitality and catering industry. These include specialist fresh food suppliers, wines & spirits, catering equipment providers, utilities, and specialist service providers such as telecom, business rates consultancy and waste management.

For more information on Lynx Purchasing, visit call 01325 710143 or email

New Hogs Back Brewery Bar gains Cask Marque accreditation

October 2019

Hogs Back Brewery has gained accreditation from Cask Marque after passing a rigorous inspection of the beers served at its Brewery Bar, located next to the brewhouse in Tongham, Surrey.

The accreditation carries special significance for Hogs Back as the brewery’s managing director Rupert Thompson was one of the founders of Cask Marque in 1998. Despite championing beer quality for more than 20 years, this is Thompson’s first bar and his first opportunity to apply for Cask Marque accreditation.

The Hogs Back bar opened earlier this year, in an area just outside the brewhouse with a canopy, lighting, sound system and seating for 30 people. Initially created as a summer bar, it has been so popular locally that Hogs Back is planning to keep it open year-round.

All cask beers served in the bar are poured through handpulls rather than direct from the barrel, which is the more usual practice in brewery bars. Beers served include Hogs Back’s flagship ale TEA and Surrey Nirvana in cask, as well as Hogstar Lager, Hog IPA and Little Swine lower strength beer in kegs.

Two decades ago, as brands and brewing director of Oxfordshire brewer Morland, Thompson was part of the small group that founded Cask Marque to address quality concerns. He said, “Since helping to establish Cask Marque in 1998, I’ve been part of the movement to improve the quality of draught beer in pubs and bars. We’re delighted that the Hogs Back bar has passed the Cask Marque inspection, and our plaque is in pride of place at the Brewery Shop entrance.

“There’s no doubt that standards now are higher than they were, meaning more drinkers are enjoying a pint of beer served as it should be – and are therefore more likely to order another. This is good news for drinkers, licensees and brewers, and I’m proud both to have been there at the start, and to continue to work to consistently serve great tasting, high quality cask beer.”
He added, “It’s been wonderful to see local drinkers enjoying our Summer Bar, which we are imaginatively renaming as the Winter Bar as we go into the colder months, equipped with heaters, more canopies and a changing selection of beers which will include Advent Ale closer to Christmas.”

Paul Nunny, Cask Marque co-founder, said, “It gave us particular pleasure to present Hogs Back Brewery with a Cask Marque plaque, given Rupert’s contribution to the scheme’s success.
“The Cask Marque plaque is now recognised by 77% of UK consumers as a guarantee of good beer, and many now use the CaskFinder App when choosing a pub to visit. It’s good to know that the Hogs Back Brewery Bar is now one of them, and part of the World’s Biggest Ale Trail on the app.”

The Hogs Back Bar will be open on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings and at weekends and Hogs Back are planning to hold exclusive TEA Club events. For opening hours and details of events, visit the Hogs Back Facebook page.

(l-r) Hogs Back Brewery managing director Rupert Thompson and Brewery Shop and Bar manager Liam Davies

Keep sea bass ‘special’ to support sustainability, says Direct Seafoods

October 2019

Chefs should keep sea bass for specials menus, despite an improvement in its sustainability rating, says Direct Seafoods.

The new ‘Good Fish Guide’ from the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) gives line-caught sea bass from British waters a yellow rating, meaning it can be used with caution, upgrading it from a ‘don’t use’ red rating.

With the species popular on gastropub and restaurant menus, Direct Seafoods director of sustainability Laky Zervudachi is advising chefs to use the MCS guide and its ratings to plan a varied and regularly changing seafood offer, rather than rely on a few species.

He said: “It’s great that line-caught sea bass has recovered, showing what we can achieve as an industry when all of us – the fishing fleet, suppliers, chefs and retailers – work together.
“However, it would be a concern if sea bass simply went back on menus as a core, year-round dish, or if chefs were less careful about how the sea bass they buy is sourced – not all sea bass on the market is sustainably line-caught.

“We also have to bear in mind that quotas which strictly limit the amount that can be landed still apply, and that with conservation an important consideration, strict catch limits are liable to remain in place, meaning sea bass will continue to be a high value menu choice.

“We’re encouraging our customers to recognise the diversity of the fish and seafood available with menu descriptions such as ‘catch of the day’ and ‘market fish’. Sea bass can easily be rotated on special boards with other popular species such as plaice, sole and sea bream.”

The new Good Fish Guide from the MCS has changed the ratings for a number of species, including a new red rating for North Sea cod. Zervudachi adds: ”The Good Fish Guide should be seen as an opportunity by chefs rather than a restriction. We have stocks available from other fisheries as an alternative to North Sea cod, and equally there are other high quality white fish species such as coley and hake available.

“There is also good news in the new ratings, for example on mackerel. There were concerns that it might have to be downgraded, but stocks from Britsh waters are still well-managed, and can be used as part of a varied seafood menu. In addition, some monkfish fisheries have moved into the green zone, and john dory is off the fish to avoid list By working together, we can ensure that we continue to have a wide range of high quality, sustainably-caught fish available.”

Direct Seafoods is a national fish supplier, made up of 1 regional fishmongers, and part of the Bidfresh group. It sources from all major UK fishing ports, as well as globally, and supplies 12,000 chefs and businesses on a regular basis.

Customers receive regularly updated sustainability information online, via the monthly ‘Catch-up’ newsletter and social media, and through advice and support from the sales team. Specialists in each location can prepare fish to order, to customer specifications, maximising value and minimising waste. Direct Seafoods leads the way in seafood sustainability in the foodservice sector, offering more than 130 Marine Stewardship Council certified products.

Make festive drinking safe drinking, urges Drinkaware

October 2019

How pubs and bars can help their customers to avoid alcohol harms

Ahead of the festive season and the drinking occasions that come with it, Drinkaware is encouraging pub, bar and club operators to take steps to create an environment where customers can enjoy themselves without suffering alcohol harms.

Drinkaware Chief Executive Elaine Hindal said: “A visit to the pub with friends, family or workmates is part of the fun of Christmas for many people, and most will enjoy a glass of wine or a pint of seasonal ale responsibly.

“However, the sheer number of people coming into pubs, clubs and bars over the festive season inevitably means a heightened risk of alcohol harms, especially as it often involves drinking over a long period of time – the office Christmas lunch followed by drinks, for example – or group drinking, where people feel under pressure to join rounds.

“Responsible operators will be aware of these risks and plan now to mitigate them. They’ll also be looking at how customers who choose not to drink alcohol – whether because they’re driving or for other reasons – are made to feel just as welcome as those who are drinking.”

Peer pressure

Festive socialising in groups can lead to people feeling peer pressure to drink more than they intended. Latest research from Drinkaware 1 revealed the scale of the issue, with more than a third (35%) of drinkers saying that pressure to drink is common in their age group, rising to 60% in the 18-24 age group.

The survey found that peer pressure is exerted mainly by friends and co-workers, with 43% of drinkers saying they felt pressure to drink when out with colleagues. Men report pressure to drink from bosses or superiors (13%) more than women (8%).

Helping customers to moderate their drinking

Drinkers who want to moderate their drinking employ a number of techniques to achieve it. According to research by Drinkaware 2, 72% of drinkers choose certain drink free days in the week to stick to, around half (52%) set themselves a limit and the same number alternate alcoholic drinks with soft drinks.

The same study showed that 34% of drinkers have cut down their drinking by choosing a lower strength alcohol drink, and 29% a non-alcoholic beer, wine or spirit substitute. As the range of low and no alcohol drinks continues to expand, choosing them is set to become more popular as a way of moderating alcohol consumption.

Drinkaware’s tips for an alcohol harm-free festive season

Offer an interesting selection of no and low alcohol drinks. This will be welcomed by customers who are choosing not to drink alcohol, including drivers, and it can also help customers who are drinking, if they alternate alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. There’s never been more choice, so incorporate no/low alcohol beers and wines, non-alcoholic spirit alternatives and mocktails into your drinks list and make sure customers know they’re available. It’s also great to offer self-serve tap water on the bar, for customers who want a glass of water in between, or instead of, alcoholic drinks.

Review your wine list. Drinking large glasses of wine can quickly add up to a harmful amount of alcohol. Offering smaller serves, and lower ABV wines, can help customers to stay within the Chief Medical Officers’ low risk drinking guidelines of 14 units of alcohol a week. For example, a 250ml glass of a 14% ABV wine contains 3.4 units, while a 125ml glass at 11% ABV contains 1.4 units. Make sure customers know the 125ml serve is available.

Make food available, where possible. Food helps to slow the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream. Ideally, make sure customers can order food for the same hours as you serve drink.
Make customers aware that you will not serve alcohol to any customer who is drunk, or who you think may be buying alcohol for a drunk friend; the latter being something to look out for if you have a large group in your pub. Drinkaware and the British Beer & Pub Association have produced two posters – ‘Can’t Get Served’ and ‘Mate’s in a State’ – that are useful in communicating this to customers, and can be downloaded free from the Drinkaware website

Train your staff. Without the right training, your staff team may not be able to identify and support customers who may be at risk of alcohol harms, particularly when your venue is busy over the festive season. Drinkaware’s Alcohol Vulnerability Awareness e-learning course equips team members with the skills and knowledge they need, with practical advice on dealing with a range of scenarios including sexual drunken harassment. For more information, please contact

Look after designated drivers. Pubs and bars should be welcoming drivers in festive groups and making sure they enjoy their visit as much as their friends or colleagues. This could include offering free soft or no alcohol drinks for designated drivers.

For more information please visit

1 Survey by YouGov for Drinkaware. Total sample size was 2145 adults across the UK Fieldwork was undertaken between 11th – 12th July 2019. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

2 Survey by YouGov for Drinkaware. YouGov interviewed a representative sample of 8,906 UK adults aged 18 to 85 online, between 14th May and 5th June 2018. Data have been weighted to be representative of the UK adult population (aged 18 to 85) according to gender, age, social grade, and region.

Fresh Food Hub Appoints E-Commerce Director to Drive Growth

October 2019

Mark Farrant has been appointed E-Commerce Director of Fresh Food Hub, the new online portal which enables chefs and caterers to order fresh products from specialist suppliers around the UK.

Farrant moves to the role from Direct Seafoods, where he was Sales Director, and has previously held a range of sales roles within the foodservice sector. In overseeing the roll-out of Fresh Food Hub, one of his key goals is to add products from an even broader range of independent suppliers to the service.

Fresh Food Hub already brings together trusted suppliers used by more than 15,000 chefs across the UK hospitality sector, offering fresh produce, fish, meat and dairy from established regional suppliers, and backed by the national resources of Bidfresh. Businesses brought together on Fresh Food Hub include Direct Seafoods, Kingfisher, Daily Fish Supplies, Neve Fleetwood, Southbank Fresh Fish, Henson Meats, Campbell Brothers, Taylor Foods, Rustic Cheese and Oliver Kay.

Farrant said: “Fresh Food Hub brings technology into the kitchen in a friendly, intuitive way. It’s an uncomplicated ordering platform that gives chefs access to an amazing range of produce, while also enabling them to get on with their jobs.

“There are more great regional and artisan suppliers out there who would benefit from the nationwide access to chefs that Fresh Food Hub provides. Equally, as the branded casual dining sector struggles, there are real opportunities for independents and small groups to grow share. Fresh Food Hub give them access to products that give menus a real point of difference, all prepared to the chef’s exact specification.“

Chefs can access the hub at or by searching for ‘freshfoodhub’ on the App Store or Google Play. Benefits of Fresh Food Hub include:

• Specialist ‘anywhere, anytime’ ordering system tailored to chefs and caterers
• Order all fresh ingredient requirements – produce, fish, meat and dairy
• Order via mobile phone, tablet or computer
• Pricing and full product information including nutritional and allergen information
• Immediate proof of order, easy repeat orders, and access to order and invoice history
• Access to special offers and the latest market information
• View order cut off times and avoid voicemail order errors
• Add exact product specification at check-out

Second Drinkaware Cup attracts more walking football teams

September 2019

Growing sport delivers health benefits for midlife players

The second annual Drinkaware Cup, held earlier this month, attracted more participants this year, with eleven teams from across the country competing in the tournament, hosted in partnership with Derby County Community Trust. Nottingham Forest were crowned champions after beating Doncaster in a heated final.

Drinkaware has worked with Derby County Community Trust since 2017, providing alcohol education and advice to midlife men and women playing walking football across the county. Results so far have been impressive; at the outset of the programme, 55% of participants were found to be drinking at risky levels, but by the end of the first season, this had reduced to just under five percent.

Chris Grayson, Head of Account Management at Drinkaware, said: “We’re grateful to Derby County Community Trust for hosting the Drinkaware Cup for a second year. By working in partnership, we can offer tailored support to help people make better choices about their drinking.

“Taking part in team sport can be transformational, improving the physical and mental health of those taking part, as we’ve seen in the positive changes in the health of some players in Derbyshire. That’s why, as part of our Drink Free Days campaign, we champion activities like walking football, which are great alternative activities to make drink free days fun.”

As well as cheering on the teams, the Drinkaware team was on hand to offer information and advice to the players. They were given the opportunity to use Drinkaware’s drink compare calculator to measure their drinking habits and received tailored information on how to make lasting changes to their lifestyle in order to reduce their risk of health harms from alcohol.

Dave Harris, a Derby resident and Derby County walking football team player, said: “Without the support of Drinkaware we wouldn’t be where we are today. We take our fitness very seriously. I’m not saying we don’t drink, we do, but we’re aware that if we want to put in a performance then we’ve got to cut down. I’m fitter now, since I started playing, than I have been for the last 20 years.”

In October 2018, Drinkaware became the research partner of walking football in Scotland, supported by the Scottish Football Association (SFA) and Walking Football Scotland. Through the partnership, Drinkaware distributes information on drinking and its effects on health to walking football participants in order to educate them on the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption and the benefits of regular exercise.