Tag Archives: Punch

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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Extreme Meadowland has a strong message

17 May

I’ve previously said that it’s hard for the hospitality and foodservice industry to run sexy PR campaigns, but it doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t try.

Earlier this year, Pelican PR celebrated new research that showed that frozen food was on the up by using a wall of ice to attract attention to its client – the British Frozen Food Federation. But, I think Unilever Food Solutions (UFS) – the brand behind the Ambu-lunch – has gone one better.

With a chance to go viral, UFS has created six videos to demonstrate Meadowland’s, a dairy cream alternative, strength. Here’s a taster to whet your appetite:

The quick clips – packed with some smooth ‘slow-mo’ action – bring the metaphor to life that Meadowland is tough and won’t split when cooking, by putting it to the limit with a car, bench saw, angle grinder, chain saw and axe. And boy does it hold up!

Aimed at chefs, working in restaurants, pubs, canteens and hotels, that tend to be big personalities that run on adrenaline, it had to be hard hitting and appeal to their ‘need for speed.’ And Meadowland doesn’t pull any punches by challenging chefs to take it to the extreme.

The YouTube films are strong – just like the message it wants to convey – and chefs would be mad not to want to watch, request a sample and experiment in the kitchen with this kick-ass product.

Want another? Here you go:

April Fools: a dish best served with PR

1 Apr

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Pinch, punch first of the month and no returns white rabbit. Gotcha!

Now that’s over with it’s time to remember another special day in the PR calendar: April Fools.

So, let’s get straight to it. Here’s a nod to some top brave brands that have mixed the right ingredients (a pinch of believability, an ounce of doubt and a sprinkle of brashness all blended and baked for 20min on ‘creativity’) to make some clever, and suspect, PR-driven April Fools’ Day stories.

1. Virgin’s glass-bottomed jet
Branson announced today that his empire – Virgin – has developed the technology to introduce the world’s first glass-bottomed plane (pictured above.) One word. Genius.

2. SPAM launches Easter egg
This year the obvious news hook for April Fools is Easter, but this campaign just reeks of chopped up ham. Apparently SPAM has extended its range with an Easter egg including mini ham treats covered in chocolate – an unusual and delightful pairing (pictured below.) Available in supermarkets today, that’s the giveaway.

3. Mumsnet launches vajazzling course
Online parenting community Mumsnet has launched a vajazzling course for members including a keynote talk from former TOWIE star Amy Childs. Why? Because, as any new mum knows, appearance is the first luxury to be sacrificed when caring for a baby. In my mind the Mumsnet members are vicious roller derby players with babes in arms. They’re definitely not to be messed with. Vajazzle, really?

4. Twitter tax
Twitter has announced that it’ll begin charging tweeters for using vowels – although foreign language options will remain unaffected. For $5 a month, users can update to its premium service where all letters are available. A good try because it does make you look twice.

5. Cats crackdown on yobs in Croydon
There’s times when I have to represent Croydon and this is it. A faux feline story reports that cats are being trained and given top technology to patrol antisocial areas before reporting back to the authorities and the cats’ HQ: the Mobile Evening Observation Wing (or Meow for short.)

Spotted any more? Drop me a line and I’ll add it to the hall of fame.

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