The Barman, January 4, 2019, by Jeff Hoyle
When I am not checking out pubs on our readers’ behalf, I am involved with the Worker’s Educational Association (WEA).
We have a new course, Hooray for Hollywood, starting on Thursday, January 17, at 10am in the Quaker Meeting House which promises to be interesting, but before we begin, we have to sort out lots of paperwork.
One of the requirements is a risk assessment and the form we need to submit runs to several pages.
We need to show that the premises have all kinds of certificates for things such as gas installations, fire safety and even Legionnaires disease.
Fortunately, the Meeting House is a fabulous venue and has everything in place so we are confident that our attendees will not be stricken by Legionnaires disease.
However, it does provide an insight to the amount of paperwork that businesses such as pubs must complete.
The latest proposals are for calorie counts to be mandatory against the items listed on the menu.
There is no doubt that many of the population are overweight and that this a threat to the health of some people as well as a significant cost to the NHS.
The official position seems to be that customers will see how many calories are in the various choices and pick the low-calorie options.
This seems at first glance to be a good thing, but I have my doubts as to the effectiveness.
I credit people with enough intelligence to realise that if they have the mega breakfast it has quite a lot of calories and that, if attempting to lose weight, the salad may be the better option.
What are the implications for the pub?
If you are a large concern with many outlets serving the same menu and your food is delivered pre-packaged and microwaved in the kitchen, this will be of little consequence.
The suppliers can calculate the number of calories in each portion and you can add it to the menu.
If you are a small pub and you cook your meals from scratch, these calculations are much more difficult.
Not only do you need to find out how many calories are in a lamb chop, or pea foam, you also need to regulate your portion sizes and weigh out your chips rather than just slapping them on the plate.
How do you even calculate the calories? I have no idea, but my guess is that it will involve significant extra work.
I think that the effect will be to simplify menus – if it takes a few minutes to calculate each meal, why serve 10 choices when you could have five? Pop down the market to see what is available and then make up some specials?
Sounds a lot more difficult, and how long will it be before there is pressure on retail outlets to declare the calorific content of their carrots or samphire?
I guess that we will all have to chip in for people to inspect and enforce the regulations as well.
So, more cost, effort and form filling are on the horizon, which will impact on the profits of your local pub or café if this idea becomes law.
I am all in favour of making more information available to the customer, but this seems to me to be a step too far.
Make it voluntary, and indeed some restaurant chains already publish this information.
If it is important to customers, those that do will prosper, but my instinct is that no one will walk out of a pub because there is not a calorie count on the menu.