Quarterly Update from Experiencing Scotland

One-to-one support to help you improve your Scottish food and drink offer

The first phase of Experiencing Scotland’s one-to-one advice and business support saw some 55 tourism companies, collectively reaching over 14 million visitors, committing to offering Scottish food and drink to their customers. The businesses involved report not only positive visitor feedback, but also significant improvements to their bottom lines, with an average yearly increase in food and drink sales turnover of £44,500.

Anne Mulhern of Willow Tearooms in Glasgow says: “Experiencing Scotland’s independent assessment of our operation has highlighted a number of innovative ideas which would give us a real competitive advantage in a crowded marketplace, at the same time helping to develop our partnerships with suppliers and to build on our existing reputation for high quality and service”.

Phase Two of the project is now open for registrations.

Dedicated one-to-one business support includes: an induction to business tools and support networks; expert review of menu offer, purchasing and service delivery, marketing, staff skills and financial performance; plus a bespoke action plan with benchmarks and growth forecasts.

To find out more or to register interest click here, telephone 0845 607 8787 or email enquiries@scotent.co.uk

Case studies......

Caledonian MacBrayne and The Royal Yacht Britannia – Two Years On

Caledonian MacBrayne and The Royal Yacht Britannia signed up to receive 1-2-1 expert advice and business support from the food and drink project in 2011, in order to review the current approach and identify new opportunities to develop, innovate and grow.

Experiencing Scotland’s Catering Consultant, Sandra Reid, recently re-visited the businesses to assess progress towards the targets outlined in their respective action plans, particularly in relation to purchasing, food stories and financial improvement.

Since Sandra’s initial visit, the CalMac team has made great headway, both in expanding the procurement of local produce and improving its promotion. They will be introducing a new menu in May 2013, which focuses much more strongly on the use of Scottish and local suppliers and includes specials such as Argyll Lamb & Rosemary Stew, Barra Landed Cod and Argyll Wild Venison. Taste of Arran are continuing to supply Arran cheese and Arran Ice Cream. Calmac are currently introducing a new supplier for bakery goods - Cobbs Cakes based in Drumnadrochit. Wooleys of Arran continue to supply the Arran Route with bread goods. Milk and bread are also sourced from local suppliers throughout the network.

Anne Mitchell, Retail Development Manager at CalMac says: “Although the overall percentage of local produce that we use has not changed significantly, our promotion of it has improved, with activity across social media channels including Facebook and Twitter raising awareness. Fundamentally, gross profit has also improved across the fleet, which we are delighted about”.

The Royal Yacht Britannia was already demonstrating provenance through menus and marketing material very well. Local purchasing was encouraged and seasonality well used in menus.

On Sandra’s second visit, however, she was delighted to see that the team had introduced several new locally-sourced drink products, including Thistly Cross cider and Edinburgh gin. They’re also continuing to work with Oban Brewery to roll out their new Bloodhound Beer.

In an exciting new partnership with Moet and Hennessy, the former Officers’ Wardroom has been added to their evening dining portfolio. Guests will enjoy a culinary experience where they can enjoy Krug Champagne tasting dinners. As one of only two such experiences in the UK, this will lend added exclusivity to Britannia’s prestigious brand.

Working with Diageo’s whisky ambassador, the team is also developing new product relating to King George V, Royal Lochnagar and Talisker whiskies, highlighting the Royal connections between the two brands.

NEW workshop support for groups

Angus & Dundee recently became the first area in Scotland to hold one of Experiencing Scotland’s brand new workshops, which offer groups an introduction to delivering profitable and engaging visitor experiences which put local produce at the heart of their food & drink offer.

Feedback on the workshop was overwhelmingly positive, with a whopping 100% of delegates classing the day as ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’. Opportunities to meet new suppliers and to network with other like-minded businesses were flagged up as particular highlights of a very enjoyable and informative day.

‘A very worthwhile course, great fun and I learned a lot’.

‘The workshop helped me to gather ideas on how I can better market my business’.

‘The day provided a fantastic opportunity to meet new local suppliers, who I am now aware of and hopefully will use in the future’.

Applications from groups of 10+ tourism businesses (with food and drink operations) are invited.

If you’re interested in Experiencing Scotland running a workshop in your area, contact workshop co-ordinator Douglas Ritchie, by email or tel. 01333 439683.

Glasgow’s Cookie Restaurant

Cookie Restaurant in Glasgow is striving to get the best of local produce onto its menus by running an innovative barter scheme with local allotment gardeners.

Owner Domenico Del Priore says: “As a restaurant, our philosophy is to use local producers and source all of our products individually. We can tell you the story behind everything available in Cookie.

“We realised that local allotment and private gardeners may well have excess produce at certain times of the year, and devised this scheme to benefit both them and us. We ‘barter’ for produce, which is exchanged according to a points system for anything from a coffee to a full meal with wine at Cookies. No money changes hands so it’s a ‘win win’ situation for everybody. The scheme has become so popular that sometimes allotment gardeners even grow specific items for our chefs.

“Changing our offer according to what’s available on a daily basis has proven to be a fantastic selling point for us. By telling customers the story of where individual produce and menu items come from, diners know that when they visit Cookies, they’re eating fantastically fresh produce that’s literally grown right on our doorstep. Many of these recipes have now also been compiled into a brand new cookbook focusing on local provenance, called ‘Cookie Cooks’”.

Domenico is also one of the creators of a new Market App which will be launched this year. The app aims to streamline and simplify the supply process for chefs and restaurateurs.

Domenico says: “When I first came into the restaurant business, I was astonished at how the supply chain worked. For logistical reasons, chefs tend not to go to markets and therefore don’t normally see produce before they buy it. Often orders are placed late at night, after service is over, and messages are simply left on a supplier’s ansaphone, leading to a process which lacks any quality control and is frankly full of potential error.

“The app aims to rationalise the process by letting the chef see what’s on offer before he or she purchases it and to introduce them to produce and potential menu ingredients they might not necessarily have considered. It will be a great way both for suppliers to ‘upsale’ short life produce and for chefs to introduce more variety and innovation to their menu”.

The app is due to be rolled out through a limited number of wholesalers on a pilot basis in late 2013.

Click here for more information on the Market App.

For more information on the new Cookie cookbook go to www.kitchenpress.co.uk/cookiecooks

What’s next for your drinks list?

A recent feature in Caterer & Hotelkeeper reported on the top 10 drinks trends for 2013 and whilst alcoholic drinks continued to be to the fore, one prediction which stood out was the rise of the soft drink.

Report author Mike Palmer says: “Keep your eyes out for vegetable juice, which is rising in popularity. We’re seeing a number of operators featuring juice menus at lunch to drive volume. Hotels are increasingly using their empty lunchtime bars as juice bars, and it’s quite a nifty way of dialling back your alcohol messaging to drive trade.

“Fizzy drinks are also being replaced as customers opt for healthier alternatives. This would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, but flavour and health trends mean that people are increasingly likely to choose an alternative, such as Vitamin Water and H2O cocktails.

“The times they are a changing. Whether these trends apply to your business or not, what is clear is that people will be demanding much more interest across the categories in the year ahead. And if you can respond with adjustments to your range, you stand to gain from higher volumes and happier guests”.

Experiencing Scotland’s catering consultant Sandra Reid agrees. “Many food and drink businesses spend a lot of time and energy putting together fabulous wine lists and beer selections, only to let the customer down with the soft drinks range.

“With a reported one in five of the UK adult population now teetotal, many customers are looking for ‘credible’ soft drinks that can be enjoyed in a leisure or business environment. Indeed Coca Cola Enterprises estimate that UK-wide soft drinks sales will be worth some £450m to the restaurant trade in 2013.

“All too often, however, we still see a preponderance of the main brands of carbonated drinks on menus. It’s a real shame when Scotland has some fantastic locally-produced softs, such as Bouvrage berry drinks; Get Juiced; Cuddybridge (whose apple juice features apples from Falkland Palace and Kellie Castle); Crabbies non-alcoholic ginger beer; and, of course, waters like Highland Spring and Strathmore.

“Increasing your soft drinks range and including Scottish products on your drinks list makes great sense commercially, and at the same time you’ll be meeting the expectations of increasingly discerning guests.

“Matching up your food and drink offer is another effective way of driving sales and increasing margins. Think about how you could pair up key menu items with local beers and drinks as an alternative to wine. Harviestoun ales, for example, match well with venison and Scottish cheeses, and Innis and Gunn oak-aged beer has even been successfully matched with chocolate fondant! Loch Ness Brewery is launching a range of special cask ales this year, including ‘Ness un Korma’, which includes a hint of chilli and does indeed go particularly well with curries!

“Think, too, about how you could develop recipes using Scottish drinks products – for example, beer from a local brewery, whisky from the nearest distillery, or a fruity wine from Cairn O Mohr. And watch the weather – cider sales always increase when the sun comes out, so this summer could provide the perfect opportunity to explore the innovative Thistly Cross cider range!”

Grow your business through Scottish events

The brand new Event Ready Producers website (http://www.readyforevents.co.uk/) has been launched to help food and drink companies looking to capitalise on the business opportunities presented by Scottish events.

Visitors to events in Scotland spent some £24 million on food and drink in 2012 and this figure is projected to increase to almost £33 million in 2014, when we host the Homecoming, the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup.

Research shows that these visitors want to taste traditional Scottish dishes, regional specialities and fresh, locally sourced food and – very importantly - are happy to pay a premium for it. Attendance at events could therefore be a fantastic way to increase sales, raise your profile and enhance your reputation.

Check out the site for:

• Advice on how to work with events.

• Examples of businesses who have worked successfully at events to provide visitors with the very best food and drink experiences.

• Information on where to go for help and support to make the most of opportunities in the events sector.

• A searchable map to help you identify the events which are most suited to your company.

• Access to catering specifications and tenders from event organisers across Scotland.

• News on the latest events and business opportunities to help you capitalise on the events sector

The Event Ready Producers project also offers one-to-one expert business support to review your company's readiness to supply events. Click here to find out more or to register interest.

This project forms part of a wider package of support by the 2014 Food & Drink Team to help Scottish companies maximise the business opportunities arising from the 2014 events.

Food for thought

A brief round-up of some of the latest ideas and innovations from around the culinary world.....

Le Repas bistro in Brazil is offering a free salad for any diner who rides their bike to the café as a reward for being green.

Visitors to the French-themed restaurant who arrive on two wheels are greeted with a bowl of fresh green leaves to give them some healthy sustenance for their journey. The restaurant owner hopes that the reward will provide an incentive for cyclists to visit, as well as encouraging other local businesses to try something similar.


Dish.fm is an iPhone app that helps restaurant patrons zero in on the best-reviewed dishes at any particular restaurant.

Dish.fm shows users what the best dish, drink or dessert is to order at any given eatery, based on the results of millions of reviews pulled from Yelp, Foursquare and other sites. Photos, reviews and overall ratings are available for each dish, and users can share their own opinions as well by voting for the dishes they like.

Dish.fm currently focuses on San Francisco and New York, but other US and European cities will be added soon, the company says.


French-based Livmenu is using tablets to help diners see meals being prepared, in order to give them a better idea of what each dish will look like.

The company says: “One of the problems with trying a new restaurant is that customers are often anxious about ordering unfamiliar dishes. Even when pictures are included on a menu, it can still be hard to judge.

“Livmenu allows diners to peruse a text menu on tablet computers handed out by waiting staff – much like a standard menu – with videos showing the preparation of each item available by tapping the option. The visual menu enables customers to make more informed decisions about their meal, therefore potentially improving their experience and leading to increased return visits”.

Could this be the future for food and drink venues?


Register for FREE updates from Experiencing Scotland

Experiencing Scotland offers a range of free communications designed to highlight the benefits of offering Scottish food & drink. To register contact Scottish Enterprise, Tel: 0845 607 8787 or email enquiries@scotent.co.uk 

Sign up to receive e-newsletters