In his keynote speech at the NRA Show in Chicago, Howard Schultz has said that large companies should be accountable to the communities in which they operate But he managed to avoid mentioning whether they should pay as much tax as every one else.
Back in 2008 Starbucks was loosing focus with its customers – years of fast growth led the company to forget that though the company was vast, the actual restaurants were small. Schultz refocused the way the company employees connected with the customer – thinking small and individual rather than big and corporate. This is a good strategy for any company, especially in the service/catering sector, and it worked.
2011 brought “record revenue, record profit, record stock price — the same in fiscal ’12,” according to Schultz.
Interesting, because when in October 2012 he was asked about the fact that Starbucks pays NO TAX in the UK, despite 3 year sales of over 1.2 billion pounds, he told Reuters, ”We don’t pay income tax because we are not making money there.”
Back in the US Schultz appears to be very publicly aware, raising funds for the Jobs for USA campaign and offering stock options and health insurance cover for employees. When you read the coverage of the speech, he seems like the ultimate socially responsible CEO.
And yet, since 1998, Starbucks, which has 800 outlets in the UK has paid just 8.6 million in corporation tax – a couple of weeks trading – and none in 2011 at all.
When Schultz and bosses from Amazon and Google faced the UK Public Accounts Committee, its chairwoman, Margaret Hodge told them, “We’re not accusing you of being illegal, we’re accusing you of being immoral.” Does not sound like the description of a socially responsible CEO, somehow.
However much his aspirations to do more for his US communities should be lauded, those aspirations should not be built on the back of appearing to rip off the tax payers in foreign territories.
“Great brands, great companies, great store experiences are very resilient because the customer can remember what it’s like and they’re longing for it to come back,” Schultz says.
Yep, but they may not come back to you if they think you are screwing with their country.
I grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge today.
I hadn’t bought it, another member of the family must have stocked up on cheap water from ASDA – a shop I do not use myself. It is part of their very cheap range and is just tap water in a plastic bottle.
I could not tell you how much it costs, but it better be pennies. The label says “ASDA Smart Price” and “Still Water.”
Then a little further along it has a round, blue flash announcing:
“GOOD FOR HYDRATION”
Well I bloody well hope it is, it is water!
This is a fairly typical example of a company adding a message to a product to make it seem that it is somehow more special than something else. The message is not a lie and it is not directly misleading, but it is picking up on some basic psychology about shoppers – they don’t always think about messages, they just react to them. ASDA know there will be at least a few people out there that will see this label and think, “oh, good – I will buy that one then.”
And that is another handful of sales of a useless product that can be obtained by turning on any mains water tap in the country.
No only do ASDA think we are stupid, they KNOW that we are.
Mii&U brings genuine Chinese Café food to North West Milton Keynes with a new Café based at Central Oriental Cash and Carry
Thirty five years ago, I was a runner in Trident Recording studios in London’s Soho district, at the time a run down, tacky area with more porn than prawn crackers and seedy Rolls Royce owners cruising the lanes seeing what they could “pick up.” Okay, so I am making it sound worse than it was, but it had yet to get the face lift that some of it now has.
Chinese Restaurants, as now, were everywhere and were divided into two categories – the front facing proper restaurants serving Hong Kong inspired dishes and the back alley upstairs, tatty restaurants that served bowls of noodles and family dishes dirt cheap in pretty grubby surroundings.
The latter category has long since gone, which is a shame. Although some of those restaurants were dodgy to say the least, the food, aimed at the Chinese locals, was authentic in a way that is really hard to find. It was hot and cheap, served in big bowls at a furious pace by some of the rudest waiters on earth and tasted absolutely wonderful.
Now, some of that authenticity has found its way to modern Milton Keynes, though in a nice clean, new café!
Milton Keynes Goes East
Milton Keynes has a veritable plethora of Asian restaurants – Chinese, Indian, Thai, mixed menu types, and if they have one thing in common it is that they are completely westernised and as about as authentic as a brick in a stone wall.
That does not mean they are particularly bad, though the quality can be pretty dire, but it does mean that people that really love their food are missing out on the genuine article – most people in the UK have been so educated on English-Indian and American-Hong Kong that they probably don’t realise that there is a proper version that is a world away from what they are used to.
Mii&U is a breath of fresh air.
It has been opened in the downstairs offices of the Central Oriental Cash and Carry in Bradwell Abbey, Milton Keynes – hardly the ideal location for a restaurant, one would think. Except, this is a busy trading estate and the restaurant’s main opening hours are eleven-thirty to four every day, extending to nine in the evening on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and Mii&U is not a restaurant, but a Café.
The rooms are plain, the floor is plain, the tables are plain and dressed with the Chinese equivalent of the greasy spoon table decorations – Pot of chopsticks and cutlery, Soy, Chilli Sauce, Menus.
But you don’t want this to be flashy, this is the sort of place you go to because you want to chomp your way through some great food without ceremony and wash it down with lashings of tea, not think how wonderful the potted palm tree is.
Dim Sum, big steaming bowls of Won-ton soup, huge plates of Thai curry (it is not just Chinese), delicately marinated ribs – that is what we ate this lunch time.
The Dim Sum (Pictured) was not just a couple of steamed frozen Sui Mai, but hand made dumplings including Char Sui Cheon Fun (a rice noodle roll stuffed with pork) and fried Mooli cake a rubbery radish cake) – something I have not seen since those days in Soho.
My bowl of Won-Ton was served as a main course, something common in Hong Kong, but rarely seen here where it is usually some insipid thing served in a tiny bowl as a starter. The big Won-Ton parcels were floating in a rich, savoury stock and reinforced with simple egg noodles – more than you can easily eat and only £4.50.
This was a lunchtime, and there were only three of us so we did not try everything, but there were no complaints around the table. We could not finish everything, but we did order too much – 2 portions of Dim Sum, 1 Won-Ton soup, 1 chicken Katsu curry with sticky rice, 1 portion of very meaty ribs and 1 portion of spring rolls (I think there were six on the plate). Two pots of tea and a big class of Diet Coke and we were well and truly finished.
And the cost? Just £30.
It would have been cheaper if we had been a bit more sensible, of course, but this was our first visit.
The food really was excellent – it was not pretentious, posh-restaurant oriental cooking (but then, we were not wanting that), but it was simple, fresh, hot and authentic. It wasn’t Asian “Style” but proper far eastern food and the three of us were very happy.
It was interesting to look round at the other patrons – quite a few of them! An Indian family, a couple of single workers, a whole group from the factory down the road (one quick dish each).
Could it improve?
It was excellent, but they are still experimenting and it does show a little. The menu is a bit confused and there are a lot of Thai dishes on there whereas it would be nice to see more of the Chinese big noodle bowls - many English patrons may not try them as they are unfamiliar, but if they do, they will love them. It is a case of encouraging them, nicely.
A big mug of serviettes on the tables would be good too! (I spilt my tea).
This is a Café rather than a restaurant, and concentrating on that rather than trying to be both would be a strength – It is a pity that British people don’t tend to play Mahjong as the rattling and banging of game tiles in Chinese Cafés certainly adds atmosphere.
This is what we are missing in the ethnic offering in this country – places we can get really good food, served without ceremony or crappy extras that we don’t need, at basic, cheap prices.
Mii&U is very new and it is a bit out of the way being at the back end of an industrial estate. But the chef is experimenting with the menu, working out what works and what doesn’t.
A few things could improve – the serving plates were not hot enough and some of the food went cold a bit quick (still got eaten though), and the back room where we sat felt a bit far from the action of the kitchen which is open to the front of the Café. But if they can open that up so it feels a bit more inclusive, and push the really great Chinese noodle dishes and dumplings, then it will be a particularly grumpy god that allows them to fail, and the rest of us will be deprived of the only genuine Chinese and East Asian food house in the area.
Pasta al Forno is one of those dishes that is undeniably Italian Family and is eaten up and down Italy with a huge amount of joy.
When we had an Italian exchange student stay with us years ago and I asked her what she wanted for dinner, she said jokingly, “Pasta al Forno.” When I said fine and cooked it for her, she was elated – she did not think she would find it outside of Italy. And, my recipe lived up to expectations too.
I tend to play with the concept a little for the fun of it. This version is with spinach and a drizzle of Pecorino sauce in addition to the normal mozeralla. Continue reading →
I really don’t buy gammon enough, though to be fair, it can be very expensive, especially if from a very good pork source. Having said that, the unsmoked gammon I bought the other day was a Tesco finest – so fairly average quality but not too bad on price (it was at a discount too!)
The allotment is a quagmire at the moment, but being sunny today I made the trip up the hill and weeded and picked some of the more hardy veg left over from the season – a couple of white turnips, a fennel, some carrots, kale and a baby Chinese cabbage.
This recipe takes some of those lovely fresh ingredients and adds a carton of apple juice and some good creamed horseradish sauce to create a great a dish which shows off British cooking to the full. Continue reading →
Jamie Oliver, the celebrity chef who has campaigned long and hard for better, more healthy food in society, has been named in a lawsuit in the US.
Bruce Smith was laid off by Beef Products Inc, who produce ghastly, processed beef generously labelled Pink Slime by Oliver. Also named in the case is US food blogger, Bettina Elias Siegel and broadcaster ABC. Coincidently, Smith appears to be promoting his book about Pink Slime and how it affected his job. I am not suggesting that there is any link between the two issues, of course.
As a writer who writes about the politics of food as well as writing recipes, I think it is essential that commentators should be able to make valid opinions about the food we eat – especially when it comes to the food we feed our children – without the risk of being sued by huge corporations. This is a modern business twist that has also effected the more commercial side of the science and pharmaceutical industries where companies try and shut up critics and writers by suing them.
Despite living longer than our ancestors, we are not, often, healthier. This is as much to do with the huge quantities we eat (and waste) as the more popular complaint of the low quality of many food stuffs.
We need to educate ourselves to eat less and educate the food industry to only supply us with healthy, good quality food.
That means that we should be able to point to and identify the rubbish.
The manufacturers complain that their methods are needed to keep the price down for consumers – but then they undermine that argument by pushing the consumer to buy far more than they need.
Bettina Elias writes on her blog: “For the time being, I’ll have no further comment except to say that I’m confident the First Amendment protects the rights of all Americans, including bloggers like myself, against meritless attempts at censorship like this one. I will vigorously defend my right, and the rights of all of us, to speak out on matters of public importance and to petition the federal government, as I did through Change.org, to change any policy with which we disagree.”
If a company produces low grade, poor quality, food stuffs that has little nutritional value, then they should expect those that actually CARE for the health of the nation to stand up and complain.
It is called the” marketplace” and there will be losers and winners. We want the winners to be the ones that produce food that society can be proud of.
Now, which part of that should be gagged by a legal process?