black jeans on waitress

black jeans are uniform but not tax deductible

43 businesses in the hospitality industry featured in the Minimum Wage Blacklist,  including names like TGI Friday’s and Marriott Hotels. Around 9,200 workers will receive £1.1m in unpaid wages, and the employers were slapped with £1.3m in penalties.

UK Asian food restaurant Wagamama topped the list, repaying an average of £50 to 2,630 employees. The Wagamama case, however, is interesting for another reason, however.

A spokesperson for the restaurant chain blamed its underpayment on an “inadvertent misunderstanding” of how minimum wage laws apply to staff uniforms.

Front-of-house staff are required to wear black jeans or a black skirt with their branded Wagamama top. The government considered this asking the staff to buy a uniform.

The very useful AccountingWEB site observed, “The case seems to centre around asking staff to wear a particular colour or style of clothing is effectively creating a uniform, even though the items of clothing don’t have a logo and would previously be called dual purpose by HMRC.”

Wagamama said it has updated its uniform policy and it will now pay “a uniform supplement to cover the black jeans”. But it still raises the question: Can non-logo clothes be treated as uniform for tax purposes?

Another commentator said that it’s helpful to “to bear in mind that what is and isn’t pay for National Minimum Wage (NMW)  purposes is not and never was based on tax definitions”.

He concluded, “As far as I understand it, Wagamama’s failure was that they didn’t pay a uniform allowance over and above the minimum wage. They just required employees to wear certain clothing. After deducting reasonable costs of such clothing from the pay the employees were left with a net rate of pay below the NMW.

“The employer could have avoided that NMW failure by (a) paying a specific allowance for clothing or (b) a rate of pay with sufficient headroom to cover the clothing. Either way as far as I can see there’s no implication for tax.”

The simpleERB take? HMRC (the taxman) wants to have its cake and eat it too!



Happy Thanksgiving to all of our American readers! We hope you are suitably rested after yesterdays festivities and are avoiding Black Friday as much as you can. If you’re anything like us then you’ll be feasting on cold leftovers today. In fact, we’re of the opinion that the leftovers might be the best part of a celebratory meal, be it Thanksgiving or Christmas. This writer may even have contemplated cooking a large roast just for the plethora of leftover possibilities that it provides.

Enough about us though. What’s your favourite recipe for leftovers? We’ve been salivating over some of these ideas from Serious Eats this morning. Stuffing waffles. Kentucky hot brown. Count us in.

Of course, it’s not all about gluttony at this time of year and we were reminded, whilst dreaming of leftovers, of The Real Junk Food project who liberate food destined for the restaurant bin to turn it into delicious dishes. They feed anyone and it’s a pay what you want concept, so if you’re in need, just enjoy the food. If you can dip into your pocket, then you’ll help the organisation continue their good work.

Happy holidays!



We just wanted to share some light relief with you this Friday courtesy of the clever folks at yelldesign. Drawing on their mutual love of food and papercraft, they have produced a series of videos that look good enough to eat. Papermeal is a collection of videos showing the ‘cooking’ of some of their favourite meals. We are particularly fond of the fish and chips video, but it would be unfair of us to pick a favourite! They are all great!

 

Now, a weekend of papercraft or maybe I’ll just stop for Fish and Chips on the way home tonight…



Everyone been following the Olympics? No? Waiting ’til the track events really get going?

Well, whilst we haven’t caught much of it either, we haven’t missed some of the stories doing the rounds about the lack of catering in venues (go Street Food trucks!) or the healthy or unhealthy meals which are being served in the athletes village.

However, it’s not all negative, we’ve felt a happy feeling reading about the chefs who have been saving food destined for the bin and who are creating up to 5000 meals daily for the poorest residents of Rio. (Chefs) hats off to them!



We look at a lot of menus here at simpleERB HQ. Sometimes it’s because we’re hungry, sometimes it’s because we’re interested in what our users serve in their restaurants, mostly it’s because we like good food. Looking at menus, you quite often get a feel for what trends are doing the rounds but one thing that we’ve seen more than anything else over the last few years, are menus telling you exactly where your food came from.

This is no bad thing. In a society where we are much more informed about the world we live and eat in, it’s good to know the name of the farmer who supplied your asparagus or the farm which provided the Aberdeen Angus steak. Do we really know where the actual ingredient came from in the first place though? We know that the radish on your plate (yes, THAT actual radish) came from a producer in nearby Gascony but was the radish always indigenous to this region? Did someone bring it from somewhere else? Have the Italians always had an affinity with the tomato, or did they come from South America?

map-origin-crops

Luckily, people much smarter than us, have created an interactive map showing the origins of many of our favourite foods so we can now while away the hours looking at yet another map whilst being amazed that we hadn’t heard of the cow pea until now!



5pm-gin-guide-map-scotland

The clever creatives over at our sister company 5pm.co.uk have recently released this ginfographic, celebrating the many gins of Scotland.

Gin has increased massively in popularity over the past couple of years so it’s no surprise to see the gin map of Scotland looking particularly full with distillers popping up in every corner of the country.

It’s certainly given us an excuse to try out a few new gins over the summer (as if we needed an excuse!)

View the full map here



34CE162400000578-0-image-a-24_1464739753127We’ve quite enjoyed reading the storm in a teacup that the now infamous deconstructed flat white in Melbourne has created. Of course, foodies and non-foodies alike have always had strong opinions about the presentation of food, or drink in this case. Whether it’s the ‘We want real plates’ campaign against food being served on slates or chopping boards or the recent Masterchef cheesecake debate, everyone has got an opinion on the right or wrong way that things should be done.

However, was the ‘hipster’ flat white any different than the French serving steamed milk in a separate container when you order a cafe au lait? Was the issue maybe more that it looked like a science experiment?

What’s the most bizarre deconstructed meal that you’ve seen? Do you like serving deconstructed dishes?



What’s your favourite acronym? Here on the simpleERB blog we’re still partial to a WTF. ROFL and LMAO feel pretty dated now, and don’t get us started on YOLO. Incidentally, we just found out the ubiquitous BAE stands for Before Anyone Else. You learn something new every day.

Restaurant acronyms

Restaurant acronyms

Of course business acronyms are very important too. Everyone knows B2B, ROI and KPI, but were you aware of OIBDA (Operating Income Before Depreciation And Amortisation) and GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles?) There’s an acronym to suit every situation, a fact exemplified by recent revelations regarding New York restaurateur Danny Meyer.

Meyer keeps a list of each customer who books at any of the restaurants within his Union Square Hospitality Group and uses acronyms to take notes of their quirks, notable features and preferences. A mole within the Union Square Hospitality Group claims it is the most thorough customer system they have seen in the various restaurant groups they have worked for. Here’s some of the acronyms and codes Meyer uses in his customer database with an explanation of what they mean.

FTD: A first time diner

NL:  A customer who will “Need Love”.

LOL: A customer who will need “Lots Of Love”

SOE: A customer with a “Sense Of Entitlement”.

BIG SIGN: A customer who may well be wearing a sign saying “pay attention to how important I am”.

NO FLY ZONE: A person who will find all of Meyer’s restaurants mysteriously booked up whenever he or she tries to make a reservation. (The mole says the designation is often used for fake names used by companies that make, then resell, reservations.)

MUST DO: An important customer who will always get a table, no matter what.

How simpleERB can help

Meyer’s codes and acronyms are extensive, but a useful way to keep track of customers needs and offer a tailored customer service experience. If you fancy making up your own restaurant acronyms, simpleERB can help. We store a complete database of all your customers and their preferences, so if you have a LOL or a SOE, you’ll know about it in advance and can prepare accordingly.

Just make sure your acronyms aren’t too offensive or NSFW. If a staff member let them slip, JK probably wouldn’t be defensive enough –  and you may find your customers go AWOL.

Want to keep a record of all your customers preferences? Sign up to simpleERB – free for small restaurants and easily affordable for bigger ones.

 

 

 



It would appear, going by recent research, that the child of this writer has been secretly in control of Britain’s menus. I know, it came as a surprise to me too. Alas, since 2010 (the year she was born), Mac and Cheese (her favourite) has seen it’s place on restaurant menus increase by 550%. Customers it seems, can’t get enough.

Some theories suggest that a return to traditional home cooked foods is behind the surge in popularity, but you can’t rule out the explosion of ‘American’ cooking whereby ‘Mac’ regularly appears as a side dish.

Some other interesting findings were that pizzas and burgers remain the favourites whilst customers are getting a better choice of vegetarian options than previously. The term ‘superfood’ is also much more widely used.

You may wonder if these trends matter, but it does give some sort of guide to how customers are viewing eating out and what they are looking for. At the end of the day, we’d all like to know our diners better.

know your customers

know your customersimpleERB is clever. You know that already. As well as all of the calculations it makes under the hood, it’s also blessed with a photographic memory. The handy thing about this is that simpleERB remembers your customers. Mr Fleming? Ah yes, he likes his red wine chilled and prefers to sit away from the bar. When you add notes about a customer, simpleERB remembers. The next time the customer comes in, simpleERB will present you with the info you’ve already noted meaning the customer feels at home and you can treat them (a bit) like family.

simpleERB also allows you to download your customer list at any time, so you can export them to your own mailing system for email marketing. You can segment out your customers based on date of booking or based on the quick info buttons, which you can customise meaning you can always stay in touch.

 



Every wondered why Coke tastes better from a glass bottle than a plastic bottle? Why a neat swirl of spaghetti is more delicious than a heap dumped on your plate? Turns out it’s science. Gastrophysics if you want to use the fancy word.

Uses-Cutlery-To-Eat1

The term has been coined by Oxford experimental psychologist Charles Spence who has researched in detail how all of the senses (even hearing) as well as mood and expectations influence the taste of food.

His book, The Recent Meal, has uncovered some interesting insights as how outside influences affect the taste of our food. Here’s a few of the best examples.

Fancy restaurants know what they are doing

If we pay more for a wine we think it’s more delicious. Heavy cultery implies quality (for example, yoghurt will be perceived as creamier). Classical music in the background encourages diners to choose more expensive options while loud music increases soft drink sales.

Sad movies may make you fat

Professor Brian Wansink from Cornell University found that viewers of sad movie Solaris munched 55% more popcorn than those who watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Eating in front of the tv also encourages you to eat more as you don’t realise when you are full.

Eating with friends may also make you fat

We eat 35% more when with one other person, 75% more with three others and twice as much when there are seven or more diners. Variety also encourages overeating. A bowl of mixed M&Ms will be eaten quicker than a bowl of just one colour.

Colour matters

People eat less from red plates and blue lighting has also been shown to discourage overeating. Charles Spence also tricked wine experts into reviewing a white wine with red food colouring as a red wine, even when the 54-strong panel had already reviewed the wine in its original white form.

Wine also tasted 50% sweeter when consumed under a red light. The reason? Our eyes are our most influential sense, with vision taking up the most brain space, and so the expectation implanted in our minds by colour can overrule the taste and aroma put together.

Blame your friend

The diner who orders first tends to enjoy their food or drink more. Those who follow often instinctively dismiss what others have ordered (there’s a psychological phenomenon called the “need for uniqueness”) and end up picking something they wouldn’t ordinarily chose.

Conclusion

So how to we react to this information? Despair at the fact we are all easily influenced dupes? Or accept that outside influences such as presentation, company, music and even the colour of the plate are as much of a part of the eating experience as the food itself? We’re plumping for the latter. Just don’t tell that to the wine critics.



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