Please send letters to: The Editor, Caterer & Hotelkeeper, Quadrant House, The Quadrant, Sutton, Surrey SM2 5AS. They may be faxed on 020 8652 8973 or e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed on this page are not necessarily shared by the editor or other members of the magazine's staff. We welcome views on any subject relevant to the catering industry, but request that letters be kept short and to the point. The editor reserves the right to edit and select letters.
The past 10 months have not exactly been the best that I have experienced during 30 years in the London restaurant business.
The awful events of last September brought an immediate downturn in the London tourist market, which was already suffering because of the effects of foot-and-mouth and, while we are not reliant on tourist trade at Porters, it still provides the icing on the financial cake.
We have considered ourselves quite fortunate to have a successful Web site, and this has contributed to our trade rising slightly in both May and June this year, compared with last year. It is certain now that a rise will not be achieved in July, thanks to the one-day Tube strike last week.
I am astounded and appalled by the decision of the London Underground workers to carefully time their industrial action to ruin at least two days' trade. The effect over Wednesday and Thursday was to reduce our takings at Porters by well over 60%, as Covent Garden visitors particularly rely on the Tube.
It also caused unbelievable problems for our loyal staff as they struggled to get to and from work.
We pay nearly £80,000 a year in business rates at Porters, and yet we cannot rely on the public transport service.
I believe that only a minority of the Underground workers actually voted in the strike ballot. Is that really a mandate for bringing London grinding to a halt, and causing irreparable harm to many businesses that are already struggling to survive?
With London in such a mess at the moment, we should all be pulling together to do everything possible to make living in, working in and visiting the capital as painless as possible.
Or is that just a North American attitude? When the subway workers in New York wished to air their grievances, instead of going on strike, they did not collect any money from passengers that day, inconveniencing nobody as a result, just costing their employers.
The Earl of Bradford, Porters English Restaurant, London WC2.
The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Tessa Jowell, threw down the gauntlet at the British Hospitality Association summer luncheon, calling for industry support for the hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism Sector Skills Council (SSC).
As manufacturers, we have been acutely aware of skills issues for a long time. Product development focuses on providing caterers with viable solutions, and sometimes that means easier routes to preparation.
We are very clear that these developments do not negate the need for appropriate skills and the pursuit of culinary excellence.
Angie Risley of Whibread was right when she said ("Take training to next level," Caterer, 4 July, page 17) that it is crucial that employers play a major role in the SSC. This is an important opportunity to influence education and training initiatives.
Investment in training for all employees is crucial if we are to continue to improve standards, increase productivity and remain competitive in an increasingly global market.
The proposed SSC will help to achieve this.
However, the range of skills used across hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism is broad, and the SSC must reflect this.
Caterplan's support for Caterer's Acorn Awards, where nominees come from a variety of disciplines, does just that, while demonstrating how one part can encourage excellence in all the others.
Come on, it's time to pick up Tessa's gauntlet.
Calum Ross, Business Group Director, Caterplan Division, Unilever Bestfoods, Crawley, West Sussex.
It ain't what you do, it's who you know
Am I an average manager if I run a three-star hotel, but an outstanding one if I work for Gordon Ramsay?
Reading the article "The future is female..." (Caterer, 6 June, page 10) reminded me that a common perception in the industry and among the public is that success is gauged by the number of stars, or amount of publicity, that an establishment has.
Are not the best managers those whose business is successful in its particular market? Or should we just accept that those who achieve status by virtue of a grand job title or association with a well-known establishment are automatically the industry's "senior" management?
Paul Rowe, General Manager, Le Friquet Country Hotel, Guernsey.
Yes, you can still make silk purses out of pork
It was good to read of so many chefs now endorsing the use of pork on their menus, be it for their function work or their day-to-day menus (Caterer, 11 July, page 48).
Pork is a wonderfully versatile meat that has been neglected for too long by too many, both chefs and customers.
While cooking pork at the recent Skills for Chefs conference, Shaun Hill said that British pork was "the finest you can get", and he concluded that the time had come to "celebrate all that is good about pork".
Naturally, I fully endorse what Shaun said, and would urge all caterers to add value to their menus by serving pork with a clear indication of its origin, be it by country or, ideally, by breed and locality.
Tony Goodger, Meat & Livestock Commission, Milton Keynes.