Tag Archives: Marco Pierre White

The Fat Duck owner waddles away from Little Chef

23 Jun

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The rise of celebrity chefs – such as Marco Pierre White, Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver – have dominated our cookbooks, TV shows and magazines for years. But now, one angel named Heston has fallen from grace as roadside restaurant chain Little Chef has given him the boot.

Brand ambassador Heston Blumenthal has been dropped by Little Chef after six years, after his outrageous dishes proved unpopular with diners. A kick in the teeth after he was recruited by the business to help turn around its flailing image. But it seems that ox cheeks and strawberry and orange flower-water yoghurt just doesn’t cut it with motorway drivers after all. Surprised? I didn’t think so.

Now, I’ve got to hand it to Little Chef’s PR manager Richard Hillgrove who’s created a story with this ‘no news’ update thanks to his quote that doesn’t pull any punches:

“His dishes aren’t popular…we’ve wiped him from the menu. Little Chef needs to get back down to earth and that’s what we are doing.”

Hillgrove has essentially blamed Heston for failing to do his job, implying that they’ve had to overrule his poor choices by going back to basics. It doesn’t come into question that Little Chef had bad judgement by agreeing to work with an individual that’s not aligned to its target audience in the first place!

Heston’s publicity team has been quick to respond to Little Chef by dumbing down the Michelin-starred chef’s advisory role, making it clear that after Channel 4’s documentary was aired in 2009 he had little to do with the menu rollout.

Although Little Chef won a place in the spotlight by bringing Heston on board in 2007, no one in their right mind would’ve expected the idea to work. The Fat Duck and Dinner’s success can’t be replicated in a branded greasy spoon because a) no one asked for it and b) it’s the wrong target audience. I assume market research was produce to back this up, so where is it?

Consumers weren’t avoiding Little Chef because its dishes weren’t up to scratch, I expect it was because the venues, facilities, customer service and range of dishes were tired and boring – not broken. Something that Heston wanted to address.

You know as well as I do that celebrity endorsements can work to great effect, if the objectives, strategy and tactics are all aligned.
But, because this activity was doomed from the start, Little Chef is back to serving Olympic breakfasts and its customers can relax knowing they’re getting the meal they’ve always wanted.

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How to get people engaged online

24 Sep

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If ‘co-production’ – consumers publishing material on social media that directly engages with an organisation – is the highest form of creative engagement, then I’ve still got a long way to go to master this social art form.

According to Naoimh Looney, as read on The Wall blog, co-production provokes attention-grabbing material and helps businesses to form strong social links.

It might be easy to encourage the average consumer to do something on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest. But, when targeting chefs like I do day-to-day, it’s sometimes like getting blood from a stone.

Earlier this year, I helped run a photo campaign called ‘Concentrated Places‘ to celebrate the launch of Knorr’s Create More Concentrated Sauces. With the idea of getting chefs, caterers and anybody we could find to squeeze themselves into a tight spot in the kitchen, we gave ourselves two months to get as many pictures as we could uploaded onto leading chef community site Caterer & Hotelkeeper’s Table Talk.

We found it easy to secure the coverage, but securing entries was difficult. Not even the incentive of a donation per photo to the hospitality industry’s benevolent association, Hospitality Action, could convert interest into images.

We wanted to get inspirational chefs on board to encourage the wider industry to get involved. I even had the balls to ask Marco Pierre White at a master class, but he gave me a look to say ‘don’t you know who I am?’ before (not so) kindly telling me ‘no’.

We also tried Twitter which gave us some fantastic, and almost instant, responses from well-known chefs. But, again after sending them the details there was nothing to upload.

With weeks to go, we turned to the person we should have started with. The founder of chef forum Staff Canteen, Mark Morris, spread the word throughout his network which led to tens of photos pouring in each day.

We ended our campaign on 70 photos, raising more than £1,000 for charity. This experience hasn’t put us off doing something similar in the future, we’ve just learnt that a social media-led campaign is only as strong as your target audience. If they’re not willing or too busy to complete the call to action, it’s going nowhere.

NEW
Kellogg’s has brought the issue of co-production full circle by bringing social media to the streets. To generate a buzz around its new snack Special K Crackers, Kellogg’s has opened a Tweet Shop which encourages users to pay for their goods by tweeting about the low-calorie snack.

The Tweet Shop is open in London until the end of Friday.

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