Category Archives: family time

The power of personalisation

The great thing about the Internet is the ability to personalise.

Your dialogue online feels one to one, but once you move into FMCG brands it becomes incredibly hard to personalise.

There are two companies that I feel really have taken both product & customer experience to the next level. Amazingly they had the same founder, so I am sure lessons learned have been applied across each of these brands – it is of course Graze.com and Tails.com, both founded by Graham Bosher and team.

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Here is my first delivery from Tails.com – a fantastically personalised menu profile and bag of food.

It just gives me such a great feeling when I receive this level of personalisation.

It instantly created word of mouth in the office and I handed out 3 refer a friend discount codes within 5 minutes.

So if you run an e-commerce business think of offline personalisation and online personalisation – they go hand in hand…

Burger Meats Bun – Edinburgh

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Opened recently on 1 Forth Street (the old site of Urban Angel) in Edinburgh is Burger Meats Bun, a new restaurant concept that has made it’s way over the M8 from Glasgow.

Anyone who has wandered the streets of Glasgow will recognise this “institution” and its great location on West Regent Street.

So a free Saturday we headed down for a look after a wander into Edinburgh through the Meadows.

The decor is really subtle and although the site isn’t as bright and airy as the Glasgow location, they have done a great job with the space. We managed to get a fantastic table in the window rather than downstairs which we were initially offered (I would recommend upstairs!). The menu is simple and focused on the core ingredient – Burgers.

I choose a chicken burger and some wings at the side. Tasted great and served simply in wax paper with a sticker identifying the variant.

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This is Claire’s original cheeseburger – it does have the addition of some pickles from both DJ & Freyja’s burger and some extra salad that she found lying around – so is slightly bigger than it should be! The brioche roll is amazing, a lovely dark glazed roll with sweet fluffy bun. I do find that sometimes the bun can go super soggy once the juices run out of the burger patty, but not here..

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My only criticism is no kids menu or offering. It is a huge burger and even a 13 and 16 year old (and a 45 year old) struggled to finish it. I think a simple smaller version would be welcome for anyone with a smaller appetite, it would also leave room for pudding which we were sorely tempted to try.

I love burger joint concepts and have spent many years researching and looking at suitable locations for a “diner” concept in Edinburgh. I yearn for the all day breakfast of the Creamery in Palo Alto and a slice of meatloaf during a late afternoon meeting. Take a look at some of the photos

http://paloaltocreamery.com/creamery/gallery

East Coast – Nothing has improved

Due to the lack of flight availability over this weekend we are travelling to London by train. I used to use the train quite a bit, but found some of the customer service pretty lacking, so today we climbed aboard the 9.30am train to London Kings X quite looking forward to seeing what has changed over the last few years.

The answer simply is NOTHING! The first problem which luckily didn’t impact us was seat reservations. A great number of tourists climbed into the First Class carriage to find that their seat reservation numbers didn’t exist. The pandemonium that ensued was a sight to see, the platform staff got on board to try and sort out telling the customers (I will call them this!) to sit anywhere as the expected train was diesel but this one was electric so the seating configuration was different.

I can’t quite imagine BA trying to get 100 passengers onto a 50 seat flight, everyone had paid and had a seat reservation. Once the train set off it was back to the quality catering, Claire has had milk, coffee and tea spilled on her 4 times between Edinburgh and York. That’s a record!

I am looking forward to the allocated quarter of sandwich coming round soon.

When we arrived in Newcastle a lovely old lady got on with a team member providing some help with luggage (nice I hear you say), it was good, up until the point the stand up row ensued with the staff member shouting at the customer told to sit “anywhere” in Edinburgh being physically ejected from the seat.

The train leaves the station platform with the staff member on board, he has not been seen since, but may enjoy a day out in London!!

So, East Coast, a few things:

  1. Weekend catering should be the same as during the week, why differentiate the service
  2. Price I hear you say – charge more – it looks like the people in the First Class carriage can afford it
  3. Catering yield management – allocate more than 1/2 sandwich per person – doesn’t seem unreasonable.
  4. Staff training and communication – we are customers – and yes the customer is always right….or use one our proverbs “Treat Customers as I would want to be treated”

A two tier First Class service just doesn’t work.

How do I put up with this sh*t…

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One really unsung hero in the 20 years of hard effort that gets you to where you are today is your partner.

I have to say that Claire, my wife and partner for over 25 years (note I don’t know the exact number and I will be in trouble) has been a superstar.

There are lots of people out there that will tell you that you are not successful, you will spend many hours doubting yourself and of course failing (lets skip over that for now).

But really there is no one out there that values my input and commitment like my partner and wife – Claire

She has spent the last 20 years listening to utter bullshit from me! It is so close to being successful, next year I won’t work so hard and spend more time at home. Just to illustrate this I thought I would let you all know (as in Claire – no one else reads this!) my last 14 days.

I have spent a huge amount of time in the US, came home, flew to London for “leisure” which would have been fine if it hadn’t been on the only weekend that I was home and then get up this morning, go to work and then fly to London again!

It’s difficult to describe what Claire has to put up with, but a mixture of not being there and turning up for short periods of time to unload washing and then go to work again, gives you an insight.

But anyone that meets Claire will totally understand that she doesn’t put up with sh*t – let me tell you I have heard lots of customer service staff quake in terror of having her on the other end of the phone.

If you can have someone in your life as dedicated to your personal and family success as Claire – you are a very lucky person…

Let me give you a simple example:

Me: “We are moving to California”
Claire: “When?”
Me: “Next month” (I can’t add the exclamation mark otherwise it will looks set up!)
Claire: “What about my family, our 12 week old daughter Freyja and my life” (she didn’t say this but thought it!)
Claire: (real response): OK, where are we staying!
Me: In a nice district of Menlo Park (lets not mention we are staying in the best example of a Scottish Frat house!)
Claire: That sounds nice (not!)

But seriously, if you need to run a startup, you need to keep the faith, it’s incredibly hard, you may fail, you may not, but you will try. Trying with your partner and family on your side is much easier than without. So thanks to all the Claire’s out there – we need them – just as we need our own faith in what will happen in the future – sometimes we are right

Diet Claims!

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While in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt staying at the Reef Oasis Blue Bay Resort, we noticed the spice shop selling some miracle cures for weight loss!

In the UK you can only make weight loss claims based on safe weight loss. This is really tricky, as anyone who wants to start a diet wants to lose weight healthily but also quickly.

At Diet Chef we don’t recommend losing weight any quicker than 2lbs (1kg) per week. The Egypt diet above is slight quicker – but is it sustainable!

Orlebar Brown

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I bought a few items from Piper Private Equity new investment Orlebar Brown in the last few weeks, so I thought I would blog about the experience.

As background, the company was founded by Adam Brown in 2007, bringing together his passion for fashion and photography.

Certainly beachwear for men is a very interesting area, as it can be quite horrific, so can see the appeal.

I plumped for some David Hicks design shorts which arrived a day later by UPS. Nicely packaged and I really liked the magazine within the box which is hanging around my house reminding me of their brand (NB: must write a post about catalogue/magazines)

I was followed up 24 hours later by a OB Concierge (I assume a customer services team to us mortals) and also a Feefo review request. I am not sure I think a premium brand like this needs reviews, but I might be wrong!

The website for me seemed a little disjointed and the homepage with that large carousel needs some work (in my opinion), but I think the customer experience is excellent post purchase, for some reason the email signup (with a 10% discount offer) went into my spam folder, but that might just be me.

All in all a great investment, high margin business – how do the folks at Piper find these little gems!

Lunch at Honours

It’s my Birthday today, and I haven’t made it to The Honours since the restaurant opened.

So this return visit was a little quieter, and with the fringe festival over – relaxing!

Service is always impeccable and as soon as you walk through the door, you feel very relaxed – even though the service is attentive.

Before Martin Wishart took over this restaurant, we ate there in the 90s when it was Cosmo’s.

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Claire started with a wicked ‘Honours Martini’, which looked and tasted fantastic. I stuck to a glass of chilled white wine. My slight concern is over the colour of the cushions and stools, apart from that the decor is sophisticated and classic brasserie. We sat and sipped our drinks for about 25 minutes before being lead through to the restaurant – no rush – which for me is quite important.

The set menu was a little simple for our liking and I have overloaded with Pork Belly throughout the UK and at home, so we chose a starter and main course from the brasserie menu.
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Claire chose the Spelt Risotto, which was very nicely presented and complimented with the crunch of hazelnuts, softness of the mozzarella and creaminess of the spelt risotto. Personally spelt is an ingredient that is highly underrated and even Diet Chef has a killer spelt risotto on the menu. I chose the Parmesan and Potato Gnocchi which was a small starter portion – but perfect for me. Too many times in Italians you are overloaded with Gnocchi and it ruins your main course – not here – beautifully presented.

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We chose a bottle of http://www.littlebeauty.co.nz/ Pinot Noir, which was a little heavy for the starter but perfect for my rib eye that came next!

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If there is one thing a good brasserie should get is a Josper Charcoal Grill. 650C is a kinda hot temperature but it works perfectly. Finished with a Madeira glaze and classically garnished with some tomatoes. The only sides to go with this – French Fries and creamed spinach!

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Claire chose the Rabbit, nicely presented, it was finished with a mustard sauce.

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Service was excellent, I finished with a espresso and Claire asked for the bits of the steak I had left for Bertie – what a lucky dog!

We will be back soon, I am sure!

Sous vide

I am a proud owner of a Sous Vide Supreme, a lovely little water bath for domestic use.

For those of you that don’t know what Sous Vide is – it is a slow water cooking system popularised by Novell Cuisine in the 1980’s. Most viewers of Masterchef the professionals, will have seen commercial versions of these in Michelin starred restaurants throughout the country.

Best for a nice steak or pork belly, the domestic version was developed by a low carb doctor who was sick of the conventional methods of cooking and felt that retaining the cooking liquid and cooking at a lower temperature would have lots of benefits.

Firstly, you vacuum pack your ingredients into a bag, and set the temperature for cooking and just pop the meat into the water. As the water is at a set temperature the food can’t really overcook as the temperature is controlled within +/- 1C. Ideal for steaks when you have lots of people coming round, just stick the steaks on and enjoy a few drinks with your friends, once ready to serve all you need to do is flash finish the steaks and serve.

I would highly recommend these to the home cook who has everything!

Holiday homes

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When we built our holiday home in Nethybridge we didn’t realise the additional maintenance that would be set up to do for life. It is bad enough having a large house in Edinburgh with a big garden that constantly needs weeded without having the same 150 miles away.

Added to this putting in technology for me such as the Sonos, Nespresso machine and internet access – our guests are a little confused about how all this technology works! This means we get a few phone calls over the summer to explain how to get ITV2 or Radio 4 on the gadgets – or make a skinny latte!

So my advice to anyone who thinks that having a holiday home is a good investment – would be double the workload of your existing home and think how much time you would have left over..