In a day and age when many restaurants and cafes are struggling to make ends meet and are closing their doors in ever expanding numbers, one has to admire those who continue to come up with interesting new ideas with which they can make a profit from the hospitality industry.
We have, of course, often spoken about home delivery services such as Uber and Deliveroo, which have certainly taken a wack out of the restaurant business and left many premises fairly empty. There is also the success of produce delivery services, such as Marley Spoon, which are seeing more customers steered away from the hospitality industry. (A mate of mine, who has always bemoaned the lack of BYO restaurants because he has a wonderful cellar, uses both services as he would “like to drink a few of my special bottles before I die”.
But my prophecy is both the restaurant home delivery and the produce ones are going to have their 15 minutes of fame before they gradually fade away, because I have recently noticed that some of our better restaurants are pulling out of same. And, to be fair, you may get a recipe along with Marley Spoon and the like, but to me both the produce and recipes are not up to the standard of a visit to a local market and a dive into Jamie’s latest. And, above all, neither avenues of ordering are anywhere near as much fun as going to your favourite restaurant or cafe – and, to be fair, as my father in law George commented recently on visiting a restaurant from where we often get takeaway, “the food is so much better in the restaurant itself”.
So, now that I’ve given the flick to home deliveries of all types, what about other ideas from which clever entrepreneurs are making a buck? First of all, there is Steven Premutico, who started the restaurant booking service Dimmi, which he has recently sold to Trip Adviser for a reported $25 million. Dimmi, which was supposedly taking 20% of all restaurant bookings in Australia, negated the problems associated with no-shows and the like. Now Premutico has moved on to a new app – Me & U – which, according to him, is eliminating two of the more awkward elements of dining – getting the waiter’s attention and splitting the bill, neither of which I’ve ever found insurmountable. The Me & U app lets users view menus and order and pay for their food via their phone, instead of placing orders at the table. I am not sure whether this means that a la Uber and the like, the food is prepared and sits around waiting for your arrival? If so, it’s a bloody awful idea. But, I most probably have no idea about what people want (speed, speed, speed), because he has some big name backers, including Neil Perry, the new owners of Rockpool, Facebook Managing Director Will Easton and, interestingly, Uber Australia co-founder Mike Abbott amongst others. And since it’s soft launch a couple of months ago, it has processed more than half a million in transactions.
Will be interesting to see how it progresses. But with Dimmi, he has certainly got the runs on the board and, as I said, even after 50 years in the industry, what would I know?!
The next idea is not, at this stage, a commercial enterprise, but I think it could be. Kaley Chu will soon embark on her 150th Linkedin lunch – shared meals with people she met via the networking platform. The aim – to have lunch with successful people (all of them strangers) to improve her professional and personal capacity. This business development manager unashamedly has contacted dozens of business people asking if they would mind if she picked their brains over lunch (I hope she pays) and has lunched with varied people such as Tansel Ali, four time Aussie memory champion and Ray Malone from crash repair group AMA. I would have found him fascinating, as here is a man who left school at nine, took over a crash repair company with $20 million in debt and turned it into a company which is now worth $700 million.
Chu’s book ‘108 Lunches with Strangers’ is next on my list, but wouldn’t you agree that she could turn this into a commercial enterprise?
SEAR & SIT ROAST LEG OF LAMB
A fascinating way to cook lamb – I must admit I was pretty surprised when it worked!
Preheat oven to 230°C fan forced.
Put needles from 2 rosemary stalks on a board with 3 plump, peeled garlic cloves and 75 gm diced pancetta. Chop very finely and put in a bowl with sea salt, freshly ground pepper, ½ cup olive oil and the juice of 1 lemon.
Place 1 x 2.7-3kg leg of lamb in a heavy-bottomed baking tray, fat side up, and cut 3 deep slashes crossways. Rub in the rosemary mixture, including in the slashes, add 1 cup packet beef stock and cook in the oven for 20 mins. Then turn off and leave for 3 hours (DON’T OPEN THE DOOR!)
Remove the lamb and loosely cover with kitchen foil. Add 1 cup white wine and 200 gm diced canned tomatoes to the tray along with a bit more stock, if dried out. Boil rapidly to reduce.
Then carve the lamb and strain over the sauce.
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