Food and Drink

“Order and Pay” apps – consider all the angles
30 June, 2017

The new order and pay app introduced by JD Wetherspoons in the spring offers an exciting new technological advance for food and drink retailers.  Reducing the amount of time customers spend queueing should allow them time to consume more and could help reduce staff costs (although the drinks and food still need to be brought to the customer’s table).  Driving consumers to your app also provides marketing opportunities and should help increase brand loyalty.  Fans of the new tech have pointed out the usefulness of being able to see all the nutritional and other data and even tasting notes for the drink you are considering before you buy it.

Whilst some commentators have raised concerns about decreasing human interaction, and that we will see the end of the “traditional pub”, it may be that the app will mostly be used when the pub is busy, at which times interaction with bar staff would be more limited anyway and staff may have more of an opportunity to talk to customers at their tables.  Bar staff will also need guidance on deciding which customers to serve first where orders come in via the app and in person at the bar at the same time.   If the pub is crowded then the speed advantage may become less obvious if the bar staff are having to regularly cross the room to deliver drinks. It seems unlikely that service at the bar will disappear completely.

Some more canny observers have also noted the potential for getting people not in the pub with you to buy your drinks using the app.  However, there are two particular considerations for pubs and other outlets offering the opportunity to order alcohol in this way: age verification and rules surrounding serving intoxicated customers.  Bars will still need to ensure they are not inadvertently supplying alcohol to under 18s (restrictions within the app and age checking at the table will still be needed) and licensees will need to have an eye on those being bought drinks to check their behaviour and ensure they are not being served when drunk.  Dealing with refunds in this situation may also be more challenging if the bill payer is not present.

In order to make the most of the opportunities presented by the new technology, premises just need to ensure that they think through all the angles and still comply with the old rules.


What can Gordon Ramsay teach us about Brexit?
23 June, 2017

We don’t know what Mr Ramsay is doing to mitigate the risk of Brexit, but we can tell you about his business Gordon Ramsay Holdings Limited. 

According to its accounts filed with Companies House last month, the company has recruited a buying team to help mitigate increasing food costs and fluctuations in the value of the pound.  The centralised buying team will do so by negotiating contracts with suppliers over the whole restaurant group, rather than on a restaurant by restaurant basis – a sensible step for any business to benefit from economies of scale.  The company also expresses concerns over its ability to recruit staff and the economy as a whole.  It doesn’t publish any answers to these issues, but the group is now on the right track returning to profit after the net loss it made last year.

This squeeze on food prices from restaurants, supermarkets and other retailers is one of the reasons why confidence levels among British farmers has plummeted (as measured by the National Farmers’ Union).  According to their survey one in five farmers said they were reducing investment, with only one in ten saying that they were planning to increase investment.  This is interesting because farmers were held out as one of the key supporters of leaving the EU prior to the referendum and their confidence will affect other areas, which are dependent on growth and investment in this sector.


Cold Chain in Hot Demand
2 June, 2017

The multinational brewery and pub chain BrewDog – based in the ancient Aberdeenshire town of Ellon – is no stranger to controversy, with a range of beers including the Tactical Nuclear Penguin, Sink the Bismarck and a 55% ABV, The End of History. And with the announcement at their Annual General Mayhem (the hipsters Annual General Meeting) that they are to launch a new chilled transport network that will allow the company greater control over its supply chain, it comes as no surprise then that BrewDogs bombastic grandiloquence is reflected in its logistical operations.

In moving towards having a temperature controlled supply chain – known in industry circles as a Cold Chain – founder James Watt states that BrewDog is aiming to be the first UK Company to provide consistent storage with our transport partners.

But why is having a Cold Chain so important?

In simple terms, chemical reactions will go faster at a higher temperature; think: the pears left on the countertop that in the summer heat will happily turn to mush. Beer is no different. A recent study has found that beer stored at 30 degrees for 30 days will age the same as beer stored at 3 degrees for 365 days. Temperature controlled storage is therefore integral to maintaining the integrity of the product.

However, by no means will the beer be undrinkable if there is no Cold Chain, but it is important to remember that BrewDogs target markets are not your average lager drinker, content with a slightly-flat-always-too-warm lower end product; they look for a particular bitterness and sweetness, a complex bouquet of flavours balanced perfectly against optimum carbonization. With this market in mind, it is clear that flavour is everything. There can also be no doubt that beer consumers are becoming more fickle, and with craft beer often registering triple the growth rates of the total beer market (it grew 14% in Europe in 2014/15), it is important to maintain consistency to preserve your consumer goodwill.

BrewDog has already trialled this Cold Chain to an extent, convincing Tesco to put in several refrigerated beer sections in their stores to ensure BrewDog products did not have to sit on the warm shelves. It is no surprise that this proved to be a great success, with increased sales reported.

It is clear that moving toward a temperature controlled supply chain will have significant commercial implications for BrewDog. Indeed, a recent report by Grand View Research Inc has found that the Cold Chain market in North America is to reach USD 118.51 billion by 2025, and that a well developed Cold Chain can help synchronise supply management techniques and allow greater access to international markets, so this is a solid demonstration of forward-thinking by the Aberdeenshire outfit.

Even the most expertly crafted artisanal beer will, with time, lose its bitterness through oxidization, and even the most successfully run drinks company will lose its cutting-edge individuality through increased consumer expectation; in rolling out this bold new addition to its supply chain, BrewDog is not only protecting its beer; it is protecting its business.

A crafty move indeed by the master crafters – I’ll drink to that!


Drones, Droids and Food and Drink
17 May, 2017

Growing up, the only reference you might have had to drones and Pizza dronerobot droids delivering your food was probably the Jetsons cartoon. Yet, with advancing technology and more industries turning to the use of drones and other unmanned vehicles this concept no longer seems so far fetched. The rise of such technology in the food and drink sector requires us to consider how it will coincide with existing laws.

Where is the technology being used?

On 1 December 2016, Just Eat delivered its first take-away meal to a customer in Greenwich using a robot delivery vehicle. Across Europe and New Zealand, Domino’s Pizza has unleashed its pizza delivery drones, dropping food to customers using these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and at the extreme end of the spectrum we have Google and Amazon that are investing vast sums of money into the research and development of ‘flying warehouses’ to act as an aerial hub for delivery services.

Moving outside of the ‘delivery’ realm, agricultural and farming companies are utilising drones for a range of purposes including soil and field analysis, aerial inspections and the monitoring of arable and pastoral stock. The commercial benefits of using UAVs can include time and cost saving to the business as well as increased health and safety standards for existing employees (e.g. by avoiding workers having to climb dangerous structures). However, businesses need to be mindful of how such technology interacts with the various laws e.g. consumer and property laws, aviation regulations and data protection.  

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on the use of drones

In the UK, drones are classified as small aircrafts and are therefore subject to UK aviation laws enforced by the CAA. Unless CAA permission has been granted, you cannot:

  • Fly a drone on a commercial basis (known as ‘conducting aerial work’)
  • Fly a drone over or within 150m of a congested area;
  • Fly a drone within 50m of any person; or
  • Fly a drone within 50m of any vessel, vehicle or structure which is not under your control.

Larger drones between 20kg and 150kg require operating permissions, an airworthiness certificate and a qualified pilot. Above 150kg, drone operators will either need an EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) Permit or UK Permit to fly. Like the rest of the UK aviation industry, commercial drone operators remain subject to UK health and safety laws.

Data protection regulations

Where drones or delivery robots are fitted with cameras or recording equipment, there will be data protection and privacy issues which will need to be considered. The UK data protection authority, the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office), largely views the images captured by these machines as equivalent to the use of CCTV although with drones there is even greater scope for infringement of privacy as drones can be used to film people in circumstances where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy (for example, their back garden).

Get off my Property!  Trespass and nuisance laws

In certain circumstances, drones can commit trespass when entering private airspace. The rights of a property owner in relation to the airspace above their land are limited to such a height as is necessary for the ordinary use and enjoyment of their land. Simply put, if a drone flies over land at a height that interferes with the landowner’s ordinary use of the land then it will be trespass.

Can a drone constitute a nuisance? The short answer is yes! By way of example a drone used for agricultural or delivery purposes may fly over a landowner’s property multiple times, or hover in one place for an extended period. In doing so, there is a real risk of causing a noise nuisance.

The remedies available to a landowner for trespass and nuisance claims include injunctive relief and damages against the operator of the drone. There is also the risk of a ‘wanna-be’ Elmer Fud taking matters into their own hands and shooting it down although doing so could put that person at risk of sanctions for breach of regulations and criminal damage.  

Damage to property / personal injury

As with all robotic vehicles, drones and delivery robots may malfunction at some point and could cause damage to property or injury to persons. In such cases, the usual principles of negligence will apply, and, if negligent, a business will be liable for foreseeable loss caused. Businesses need to ensure that they have suitable public liability insurance in place and should seek legal advice on the terms and conditions of any agreement.

Other risk assessments include the environment these vehicles operate within e.g. meteorological conditions, airspace, structures, radio and magnetic interference.  Advances in technology such as collision detection, return-to-base, extended battery life and weather proofing can help address these risks and will be an area of rapid advancement.

How can Cripps help?

Cripps has extensive experience in commercial law, consumer law, agricultural and property law. Our experts keep up to speed with evolving technology and its interaction with the law and can help clients understand their position, whether they are considering adopting such technology or have been troubled by it.  If you have any questions, please contact Aleks Wulff aleks.wulff@cripps.co.uk


Chef wins unfair dismissal claim
14 March, 2017

A former head chef of Number 1 Bar in London Bridge has been awarded £36,581 by the Employment Tribunal, after it found that he had been unfairly dismissed for whistleblowing.Knife

Marcelo Lagos was dismissed in May 2015
when his employers told him that the kitchen was closing. However the kitchen did not close and the Employment Tribunal found that he was actually dismissed because he had raised health and safety concerns about kitchen equipment, after he burned his hand at work.  The Tribunal found that his disclosure was clearly in the public interest ‘because anyone who came into that kitchen was likely to be endangered by faulty equipment’.

The Tribunal also found that Marcelo had been discriminated against because of race and that Number 1 Bar hadn’t paid him the correct holiday or notice pay.

It is a legal requirement that all employees are given a written statement of certain terms of their engagement within 2 months of joining. Number 1 Bar had failed to provide one to Marcelo.  

This case serves as a reminder to all employers of some of their key duties.

Health & Safety

All employers owe duties to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their staff and may be prosecuted for failures of their duties under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. 

To comply with your obligations you should:

  • Have a written health and safety policy if you employ 5 or more people;
  • Regularly review your policy in consultation with staff; and
  • Assess workplace hazards and ensure you have controls in place to minimise risks.

The Health and Safety Executive provides specific guidance for employers working in food and drink manufacturing, catering and hospitality and retail industries: https://www.hse.gov.uk/guidance/industries.htm#f

Whistleblowing

Be aware that if an employee discloses information about a criminal offence, breach of a legal obligation, a miscarriage of justice, danger to health and safety, damage to the environment or the deliberate concealment of any of these, and they do so because they believe that the disclosure is in the public interest, then they are likely to be protected by whistleblowing legislation.

Those working within the food industry may ‘blow the whistle’ by making a disclosure to the Food Standards Agency.  It has published some guidance here.

Employers should create an open environment where staff feel able to speak up. It is also advisable to have a formal whistleblowing policy in place.

S1 statements

You must make sure that you provide new employees with a statement of employment particulars within 2 months of starting with you.  Among other things, the particulars should include the date on which the employee’s continuous employment began, terms and conditions in relation to hours of work, holiday and sickness, and applicable notice periods.

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