21 Jan 2009

Here's what Heston thinks of the Big Chef menu!

(Stupid.  Channel 4 doesn't like to share its videos. Click anywhere on the video to go to Youtube instead)

31 says left - catch up on the show here: Channel 4

Update: Don't feel like promoting links to Channel 4 anymore because they restrict their content (like the video above). They have no qualms about putting a clip on YouTube but don't like people blogging about it.

19 Jan 2009

Heston Blumenthal and Little Chef

Wow, Just saw the first episode of Big Chef takes on Little Chef and I must say it is the most embarassing portrait I have seen drawn of any CEO.

Ian Pegler, the CEO of Little Chef (which is a chain of roadside restaurants in the UK) besides having inanely blank face expressions almost seems like a kid used to throwing tantrums being thrown inside an adult playground where people actually negotiate.

According to the Telegraph, Little Chef collapsed into administration with a £3m annual loss in 2007 and the company is now managed by two investment funds: R Capital and Flight & Partners. Ian, it seems, was the CEO of Dixon's and Marks & Spencer earlier.

Anyway, so Ian invited Heston Blumenthal, the dude who runs the 'Second Best restaurant in the world' to re-engineer their menu with £350K. Naturally, it seems he spoke to the investors and they okayed it. Now this is fine, but he actually chose to make it a TV show, because in his opinion it makes for good PR.
The idea to invite in Blumenthal and Channel 4's cameras had been discussed with Little Chef's private equity owner RCapital before Pegler's appointment, but he quickly backed the plan. "I'm a great believer in PR-ing the business. It is cheaper than advertising."
No Ian, it doesn't make for good PR when you call in a celebrity chef and know you're being watched by millions of viewers on TV and then slam the phone down because the consultant you hired is asking you for gross profit figures because he needs to know how much you have to play around with!

In fact, the whole show, well at least the first episode, looked like a disaster for Little Chef. Its as if a cheap chinese watch manufacturer had invited Rolex to design its next range of watches hoping it would turn its fortunes around. Its ridiculous. Like we studied in the MBA, the processes followed for low quantity-high variety products, like the food at the Fat Duck (£250 per head) and for high quantity but low variety products (Little Chef!) are pretty different. The first mistake Ian, as CEO of Little Chef, made was to invite one of the world's best chefs to design a menu that costs under £10 and is made by untrained cooks in a kitchen that has no pots (yes! no pots or pans!).

Add to that the cultural aspects that need to be so carefully managed - with Little Chef employees having worked there for 25-30 years and getting an external consultant who is not being given any assitance and who the employees (so far) see as being arrogant and unrealistic. Well, he probably is! Because Little Chef (again, so far), has not done much to educate him on company ways or their goals - or even their current financial status for that matter!

Ian Pegler seems to have a simplistic view that getting a celebrity chef, having the menu redesigned, would give impetus to a company that would otherwise fail. Well, I doubt that his simplistic view of corporate strategy will get the company anywhere. In fact, I'm surprised that the invested companies actually agreed to that. Private Equity, I thought, liked to keep things quiet and in this case, it has the CEO of the company slamming the phone down on national TV!

Anyway, can't wait to see the second episode. Its going to be a challenging individual journey for Heston, but for Little Chef its going to be nothing short of a corporate disaster (regardless of how the TV show turns out, it will obviously end in euphoria because thats what god TV is all about).
Okay, just checked, tomorrow night at 9 PM on Channel 4. And you can probably catch today's show on 4OnDemand.

Oh and by the way, if you're heading off to Little Chef's website to see what they're about, don't bother, its obviously dealing with far more 'eaters' than it usually does!

Update: I love Flight and Partners privacy statement over here on their website. They're obviously firm believers!

4 Jan 2009

'Click' on BBC - Is it even a Technology program?

Tech Geek or Muppet?

Oh there are no two ways about it, I hate 'Click', even its name sucks! It used to be 'Click Online' and then they probably figured 'oh wait, we can also click on the PC can't we?', so they renamed it 'Click'. Its funny because in tech terms, the word click is usually used as a verb and not so much as a noun...so the name of this program sounds like there's something waiting to happen - and I guess that is the story of the show as well.

So when Click Online started off many years ago, its lead presenter was Stephen Cole, who before his lead role in 'CO', used to present news bulletins on BBC world. I think it was probably late 90s or early 2000s, the time of the tech boom and much excitement around the world about dot coms and the possibilities of the internet. So there we had Cole-man, with his white hair and extremely boring tech talk, telling us what it all meant for us. And this is the BBC's flagship technology program - pathetic!

Tech talk on Click is so basic, worn out, bored and even at times quite dated, that it completely bores the hell out of (nay, annoys the hell out of) a techie like me.

To make a pathetic show even worse, Stephen was replaced with Spencer Kelly, who in the BBC's own words, "studied computer science at Cambridge for three years, before realising that he had not understood any of it".

Right. It definitely shows because neither Spencer, nor any of his wannabe flashy geek co-presenters, know anything about technology. I don't understand it. The BBC does not dumb down Panorama or Horizon for amateur audiences - why then must it dumb down Click with presenters who are clearly not technologists but just a bunch of amateur star wars memorablia collectors?

According to the BBC: Kate Russell, a co-presenter and infinitely more annoying than anyone else on the show, "likes to tinker with her PC, is still hooked on video games and is currently teaching herself computer animation. Yes, that's right. She really is a geek."

Right. And here is proof that playing video games does not qualify someone to talk nonsense on a TV show. In today's program, she was reviewing a website, 'It works on Java, so you will need that function activated to get it working'.

No shit Kate. Where can I download this Java 'function' from? From java.com did you say?

The whole program's like a bunch of roadside mechanics talking about fuel cell engined cars. Its just impossible to understand. If the show was indeed meant for grandparents, why hide it under the tag line 'BBC's flagship technology program' - just admit that its not and never will be! And for heaven's sake, stop broadcasting this on BBC World.