What a great way to spend summer, visiting some of the brilliant visitor attractions in the East of England. As a trained freelance assessor I will test everything before I go including the website, promotional material, social media streams and leaflets. Then there is the visit itself where I mingle with the other visitors and assess every facet of the attraction, interacting with all members of staff, testing the cafe, shop, experiencing the whole visitor journey. Once I have made myself known at the end of the visit, there is the detailed feedback and debrief, followed by a written report, including any recommendations that I feel are relevant. All areas must meet the high standard required to be awarded VisitEngland's Quality Rose Marque. I love my job!
The Prince's Trust helps get young people into work. Their Enterprise programme helps turn big ideas into business reality for 18 - 30 year olds. The site is well worth a visit and has some great templates, business tools and resources to download whether you plan to apply for their help or not.
Online reputation matters so try to stay at the top of the rankings. Don't ignore TripAdvisor it has over 50 million monthly visitors worldwide!
It's not always about fine dining. It's really important to be able to assess "quality in context". Recently I have been working on the Motorway Services, assessing quality in service stations for VisitEngland. This includes the forecourts and service areas. It might mean buying more than my fair share of McDonalds, KFC, Harry Ramsdens or burgers like this. And always a newspaper from WHSmith and a yoghurt from M&S or Waitrose (to see if I get offered a spoon)
A glimpse of the blinding obvious
Understanding services from a customers point of view is so important. What is blindingly obvious to a customer isn't always so obvious to a business owner. So you need to step back and take a good look at yourself sometimes and listen to your customers! Or consider a mystery guest visit to get some really valuable feedback about your business.
Suffolk County Council approached me to create a short five week cookery course teaching young, vulnerable, single parents to cook. Each week while the children were entertained in the creche the parents created a delicious, healthy and simple lunch to sit and eat together with their children at the end of the session. We covered basic cookery skills and worked within a set budget. When I asked for feedback at the end of the course the favourite lunch proved to be "Let's cook a Chinese Takeaway" Not only nicer than the local takeaway but also about a quarter of the price!
I always try and keep up to date with what's going on in the food and drink world, especially what is happening in East Anglia. So today I'm off to Menta's Food and Drink Seminar at The Cookhouse. Suffolk Food Hall.
Just to keep my hand in and because I love to keep involved in running a food enterprise I am currently setting up my Christmas Pop Up Cafe at Blackthorpe Barn in Rougham. It seems a little early to be thinking about Christmas. I'd be delighted to help you set up a pop up cafe!
I was delighted to be asked back this year to join the judging panel for the Suffolk Food and Drink Awards. It is always good to work with the Suffolk Magazine. The judges, who all work within the food industry had some difficult decisions to make. I was judging the Customer Service Award. My winner was Turners Fish. The father and son run a mobile fish van sell fresh fish from Lowestoft at various locations in the county. Runners up were The Lighthouse Restaurant in Aldeburgh and The Copper Kettle at Kersey Mill. All are well worth a visit.
Today saw the launch of the Eating Out in the Broads guide. I visited and assessed (with a little help) most of the eating establishment situated within the Broads Authority. The launch took place at one of my favourite hotels. The Norfolk Mead Hotel in Coltishall.
For those of you that think I have a dream job. Here are the figures. In the last two months I have dined out on more than 60 occasions. I ate belly of pork 6 times, 8 curries, 8 fish pies, a handmade burger on 9 occasions, endless sausage rolls and cheese scones. Not to mention the 4 lemon possets, 5 slices of cheesecake, apple crumbles and cheeseboards. I think I added it up to 67,680 calories. No wonder my trousers are tight!
Well I can tell you that PettaFiesta decided on a western theme for their boutique festival in Suffolk. I curated the catering for the three day event and organised the Friday night supper for 100 people, all cooked on the camp fire. Cowboy Beef Stew and homemade baked beans also went down well with the Saturday night revellers. I'm a personal license holder so oversaw the bar provision with the Tequila girls proving to to be extremely popular.
We created a Little House of Cooking Cafe to serve the campers a revitalizing breakfast in the morning and give them the energy to join in the Sunday morning barn dance.
I can't tell you who I will be working for this month as I will be incognito. I will be accrediting food outlets of all styles and size, from cafes, tea rooms to fine dining restaurants for a regional tourist authority. Oh well someone has to do it ...
I was invited by Quality in Tourism to present a workshop on Taste and Food Trends for the VisitEngland annual conference in Broadway. Worcestershire.
We discussed the sensoriality (made that word up) of food and our five senses. I used different types of honey to carry out a taste test and to find out who was a taster and who was a non taster.
Talking about food trends created a lively discussion. Titled from the cramen burger to the cronut we looked at what was hot and what was not. Chicken Tikka Martini anyone?
Today I've been working on an article for the Herb Society magazine. I write a regular column and this time the title is "My Desert Island Herb". I chose Dill. It's easy to grow and self seeding. It likes sunshine and will tolerate drought so perfect for my hot and arid desert island. I always provide a recipe and made these mushroom, dill and cream cheese pastries. Most of my recipes are published on my SuffolkFoodie blog.