Tag Archives: Olympic

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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The IOC is wrestling to drop this Olympic sport

15 Feb

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It’s been six months since the end of the London 2012 Olympic Games but the international sporting event is still generating plenty of coverage this week:

Leading the pack is South African Paralympic gold medallist and double amputee Oscar Pistorius who’s recently denied murder after his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp was found dead at his home.

Secondly, ‘poster girl for London 2012’ Jessica Ennis has topped a poll, alongside the Queen, as one of the country’s most inspirational women.

Lastly, the International Olympic Commission (IOC) is facing criticism after it announced it wanted to drop wrestling as an Olympic sport – an event that dates back to the ancient Greek games and has been part of the modern programme since 1896.

There’s still a chance it could stay – if the IOC officially ratifies it at a meeting in September – but at the moment it’s competing against six other sports, such as baseball and squash, for one spot in the 2020 programme.

Of all the recent news the latter bothers me most. Why? Because those that have been with Prime Time from the beginning will remember that when I was a GamesMaker I helped to oversee the wrestling at the ExCeL centre.

The Olympic Games has such a unique history that it’s a privilege for countries to host this amazing centre stage to showcase talented athletes. (You only have to watch a snippet of Danny Boyle’s Opening Ceremony to see how much effort we put in.) With this in mind, I appreciate that to keep the Olympics current, occasionally it has to redevelop itself. And I’m all eyes and eyes for modernisation, but when elements of the event’s history and heritage are at stake then that’s a different matter.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a closet member of FILA – the wrestling federation. Until last August I’d never even seen a Greco-Roman match, but the fact that the IOC has deemed it a good enough sport, to recognise and reward athletes for demonstrating their skills and strength, for more than a century must worth something.

If it’s about ticket sales, the IOC should be supporting FILA with advice to raise the sport’s profile. After all, more athletes and more fans would benefit both parties. But, instead the committee bull-dozed ahead without talking to anyone. So, not only does the IOC look rash but also now appears defensive by saying:

“We knew even before the decision was taken whatever sport would not be included in the core programme would lead to criticism from the supporters of that sport.”

The backlash against the IOC has spread quickly and I’m glad I’m not the only one that feels surprised. ESPN’s Jim Caple highlights a range of other sports that could’ve been given the chopper which would’ve caused less controversy. (Trampolining anyone?)

Wrestling is an ancient sport. I mean that in the historical sense, not old.
It’ll be interesting to see what the outcome is as the wrestlers, and their fans, fight to feature in Rio and beyond.

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How to thank an Olympic GamesMaker

10 Sep

The perfect end to my perfect London 2012 Olympic experience was me furiously zooming my camera into the faces of our top athletes at the Athletes’ Parade. Ducking and diving to secure the best spot on The Mall, I was reminded of the success of the Games and how inspired the one million-strong crowds were by these new, and talented, celebrities.

Mo Farah, Nicola Adams, Zara Phillips, the Brownlee brothers, Tom Daley, Victoria Pendleton and Clare Balding (she did get very involved) all gave us a wave.

Unfortunately the GamesMakers were expecting a seat to watch the parade, after being invited by Locog as a special ‘thank you’, but instead we stood for four hours waiting for the athletes to reach us. There were mutters of ‘writing a letter of complaint’ and ‘we were meant to be involved, this parade is for us!’

I understood how they felt, but there’s no doubt the Olympic organisers have gone above and beyond for us. More than meals, transport and resources, we’ve been offered discounted theatre tickets, football tickets and qualifications courtesy of the Olympic sponsors. We’ve been thanked enough, or so I thought.

As I walked home this evening wearing my GamesMaker uniform for the last time, I realised we don’t need a parade to acknowledge the thousands of people who dedicated their free time to the Games. The simple thumbs up and smiles from people on the train reminds me how privileged I was to be a part of ‘the greatest show on earth.’

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