Wednesday, 14 September 2016

How Do Buffet Restaurants Make Money?

'All you can eat' buffet dining is a popular phenomenon that you'll be able to find on pretty much every high street. On the face of it, it seems to be a bad deal for the restaurants- but that's usually far from the case.



The concept is simple- you pay a fixed fee, you grab a plate, and you take however much of whatever food you want. On the face of it, it seems a great deal for the customer. You can try multiple dishes, so you have a much lower of ordering something you don't end up liking, and, crucially, you don't have to leave the restaurant not feeling like you've eaten your fill.

But take a look at buffet dining from the other side, the side of the restaurants. Offering customers the opportunity to take as much food as they like seems like a risky proposition, right? This is what it may seem at first, but it obviously isn't the case- since, of course, buffet restaurants continue to exist and thrive. So what we're going to look at today are 3 reasons why buffet restaurants are profitable businesses.

1) What would you like to drink today?

If you do go to a buffet restaurant, this is probably the first thing you'll hear when being seated. Have you ever been to a buffet with free refills on drinks (if you have, please let me know)? Probably not, because drinks are a significant part of revenue at buffet restaurants. Not only are they generally far more expensive than their equivalents elsewhere, but sales of drinks actually complement the all you can eat food offer.

It's rare to find a buffet that doesn't include salty staples, such as fries or crisps, that significantly increase our thirst levels. Add to that the highly oily food offered, and finally just the sheer quantity of food we consume at buffets, and you've got the recipe for plenty of drinks orders. So, buffet restaurants enjoy the best of both worlds- higher margins on drinks, and high volume of orders. Result = profit.

2) 'All you can eat!'

Firstly, the very phrase 'all you can eat' holds some appeal among most diners, and can be a decisive factor when we choose where to eat, regardless of the actual quality of the food. This is a feature which buffets can market and leverage to bring more customers through the doors.

But the key word here is 'can'. Buffet restaurants depend largely upon the sizes of our stomachs, and how quickly they can be filled up. So ideally, a buffet would want us to be consume quick-filling foods, usually carb-based things such as rice or potatoes, which are cheap and easy to prepare. So such products will form a significant part of the offering of any buffet, and some buffets may even try to nudge us to consume more of them, by decisions as small as placing a larger spoon in the rice tray. Ultimately, the more of these cheap accompaniments we eat, the quicker we fill up, and the less of the more expensive stuff the restaurant has to prepare. Result = profit.

3) Keeping costs low

But, buffets still have to be prepared to serve more premium main dishes, and this can be where costs can get out of control. Most buffets therefore maintain a tight control over these dishes, to ensure they are made in the most cost-efficient manner possible. This can be done by things as simple as cutting meat into smaller pieces (our irrationalities may dictate that we take fewer pieces of anything, regardless of overall size), using cheaper cuts of meat, or creating multiple dishes out of a single base sauce.

Arguably the biggest cost savings, however, are linked to the very nature of the buffet restaurant. We, as customers, go up to pick a plate, serve ourselves the food, dress our own plates- this all saves a significant amount of work from restaurant staff, and thus a significant amount of money. In most buffet restaurants, waiting staff don't have to be trained to carry 5 plates in one go, how to serve a table, or how to take massive orders. They just need to take drinks orders, serve drinks, and keep an eye on who sits where. Chefs, too, don't have to spend time preparing individually decorated plates of food, nor must they know how to. This means that buffets can hire fewer waiters, fewer chefs, and spend less money training them.

So there's a lot more to buffet restaurants than meets the eye. Of course, these things don't guarantee the profitability of the buffet- as with any business, it faces its unique challenges- but next time you visit a buffet, take a moment to just think about and witness all the small things they do to stay profitable.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Can Grammar Schools Work?

James Dancey looks into whether grammar schools can have a context in modern day education.



Grammar schools have been a left versus right issue for many years now. However, should it be?
With more than murmurs suggesting that Theresa May is going to be the first Prime Minister in decades to create new grammar schools, many of which were converted to comprehensives in the 1960s and 1970s. There’s been an array of reaction, much criticism coming from Labour benches and support coming from more grassroots Conservative members, but is this always the way?

Speaking to another friend who was fervently centre-left, he revealed that he was in fact pro-grammar schools, and that’s a stance I can understand greatly. It's one that is dismissed too much by the modern Labourites; there is indeed a strong argument for the implementation of grammar schools which the working class would listen to. One of the prominent arguments is that they have the capacity to undermine privilege, that idea to escape the poverty loop, this concept that children can gain a significant standard of education without having to pay fees.

Statistically, this is supported by correlative data that Oxbridge intake has decreased from state schools since the abolition of many grammar schools, studies also show that social mobility has decreased. However, it’s important to note that the data is correlative, and there are plenty of other issues driving the educational decline and social divide. However, it’d be hard to argue that grammar schools don’t enhance education for the poorest who attend there.

Which also underlines the greatest problem with grammar schools; it’s often not the poorest who attend. Recent statistics released suggested that the number of students entitled to free-school meals (a barometer of how many of the poorest are in attendance) is astronomically low, and actually that grammar schools provide more of a shelter for the middle class who don’t want to pay tuition fees to go to private schools.

My friend suggested that if we implemented more grammar schools and then made comprehensive schools focused on creative ventures the system would be more efficient. I agree, to an extent, you see he also believes in the abolition of private schools, and although I empathise with that temperament I think that you’d end up flooding the grammar system with the privileged. If you want to make the grammar schools more focused on helping children out of poverty then you’d have to provide just as good education to children from wealthier backgrounds, wealth discrimination works both ways. You can’t condemn a bright student to poor education because of his upper-class background. But then the issue there is that you'd be forcibly flooding the state system with private students, private students leaving less room for the less privileged. 

Comprehensive schools are an easy option, but they are not the best option. However, if introduced, grammar schools must be done right and I’m sceptical of whether May would do them right, there are so many confounding variables that would offset any differences to undermine the systematic inequality in this country as it is.

If you did assign roles to each school, grammars as academic and comprehensive as more innovative then you would be able to have a more focused dedicated curriculum to each of them and allow students to find a niche a lot easier, giving young people inspiration is the best way to combat this disillusion that many of them hold with the system, which is, by the way, treating them terribly.  
I completely understand why people on the left are generally opposed to grammar schools; they can be futile and discriminatory in the wrong hands. However, we can’t go on with secondary education in its current state. There are a great range of issues with grammar schools, but it doesn’t mean they can’t be done right, and the only way to make progress on a flailing education system is serious reform.

I’m still cynical of whether May’s supposed reintroduction of grammar schools will do any benefit to those who are poorer but maybe in the future we’ll have a Government who will know how to handle them and realise the linear academic system is a product of the past and constrained by tradition. Regardless of grammar schools, the current arrangement has to be changed.

Monday, 5 September 2016

The Aftermath of Brexit: The Pursuit of Liberation

James Rosanwo takes a look at whether the outcome of Brexit has yet been as calamitous as many had expected. 


A couple of months ago, the United Kingdom decided to leave the European Union- and the immediate impact was near catastrophic. The pound dropped as much as 2.2 percent to $1.3, a 31-year low. From then on, many feared the worst was yet to come. The threats of total economic crisis and recession lingered in the air like a sour breath, as individuals panicked, from investors to home buyers. The whole market was in a state of disbelief and incredulity. However, it is beginning to seem that, just maybe, the prophecies of an economic apocalypse were not as well founded as we initially thought.


Before the EU referendum, the British finance ministry warned that a vote to leave the EU would make it harder and more expensive for new home owners to request for loans, forcing the country into a “DIY recession” and driving down equity prices.

However, nearly half of mortgage borrowers look set to gain from the Bank of England’s interest rate cut on August 4th, while British equity markets have risen.

Unexpectedly, the British economy has recovered well from the momentary Brexit calamity. Due to the fall of the British pound, it has become much cheaper for wealthy tourists to shop in the UK, boosting retail sales. Grocers enjoyed a 0.3% rise in sales in the 12 weeks to 14 August, the best performance since March. The manufacturing sector and the building industry have also shown signs of improved growth. Persimmon, Britain’s biggest house builder, said customers were flocking back to view new build homes.

Nonetheless, many, including myself, maintain the view that it is still considerably early to determine the real effects of Brexit, simply because Article 50 has not yet been triggered- and hence the UK and EU are still occupied with negotiations on a post-Brexit deal.

However, what is still even more alarming is the fact that the British government is yet to provide a clear plan as to how they intend to extricate Great Britain from the EU. Theresa May, the new British Prime Minister, recently rejected the option of a further parliamentary vote. This strongly reiterated her stubborn intent to lead Britain out of the European Union. Despite several warnings from many EU countries, the PM has maintained the view that Great Britain can get exactly what they want: retain free access to the Single Market, while restricting Free Movement.

During the Brexit campaign, one of the only suggestions by the Leave side that inferred some sort of clarity and outline for a post-Brexit Britain was the possibility that the UK could adopt either the Norwegian or Swiss model to regulate and encourage trading with the EU. However, Mrs May recently ruled out other existing models and expects an entirely new model unique to Britain alone.

The public were also promised that the NHS would receive an increased funding of £100 million from the previously allocated EU budget and that Britain could also most likely adopt an Australian style points based immigration system to try and limit immigration; however the PM recently dismissed both notions, explaining that a points-system would simply not be rigorous enough.

Ultimately, Mrs May’s continuous divergence from the Leave campaign’s manifesto has done nothing but add further ambiguity and uncertainty into the future of post-Brexit Britain.


Presently, the future of our great nation perhaps does not seem as doomed as once thought. However, the pursuit for liberation, while illuminating, can be treacherous.  One thing we have learnt from previous economic crises is that calamity has no expiry date.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Poponomics at One Young World 2016!

We will be attending one of the most prestigious summits in the world, and will be bringing you all the action!

Thanks to the wonderful support of the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences at the University of Bath, I will be attending the One Young World Summit in Ottawa, Canada, later this year from 28th September-1st October.

One Young World is a UK-based charity, focused on making a positive change in communities around the world through gathering together young leaders from universities, NGOs, companies and other organisations in an annual Summit.

The Summit consists of delegates debating, formulating and sharing innovative solutions for the pressing issues the world faces: climate change, gender inequality and poverty to name but a few. The delegates are joined by Counsellors: esteemed public figures from all areas in life. These have included Nobel Prize winner Professor Muhammad Yunus, chef and health campaigner Jamie Oliver and founder of the Virgin Group Sir Richard Branson.

The work does not end at the Summit- afterwards, the delegates work on their own initiatives, or lend their skills to initiatives already in existence.

We are incredibly fortunate to have access to such an inspiring event, and so we will be covering it from all angles- bringing both video, blog and Twitter updates of what goes on. Be sure to check both the website and our YouTube channel for when these come out. There will also a great chance to have your questions put forward at the Summit to the expert speakers.

Find out more about the summit:
http://www.bath.ac.uk/hss/news/news_0050.html
https://www.oneyoungworld.com/summit-2016

We'll also be blogging updates on the University of Bath One Young World blog.

And check out the profiles of myself and my fellow Bath delegate Emma Powell!




Saturday, 27 August 2016

Why Owen Smith Is Losing

Owen Smith looks set to lose against Jeremy Corbyn. James Dancey look into why his campaign has fallen flat and why moderates like himself will not be voting at all.

Beating Jeremy Corbyn was always going to be an uphill battle; he has swathes of grassroots support, he’s very mild-tempered and likeable on a personal basis and appeals to a lot of people who have felt disconnected with politics for the previous few months. However, the PLP politicians wanted to field someone against him. 

After ruthlessly ousting fellow candidate Angela Eagle, Owen Smith was the man who stood against Corbyn, to try and take back the left and unite the party. In Owen’s defence, the only way the more moderate side of the party had a chance of winning was by fielding one candidate, any more would’ve diluted the vote and Corbyn would’ve trampled over everyone. And don’t even get me started on how Eagle rubs me the wrong way, she sounds like she’s saying everything in falsetto and has the charisma of a damp flannel.

So I was open minded to the idea of Owen Smith following Corbyn’s reign at first, he was no revolutionary leader but a united Labour would’ve been stronger than a divided Labour. It’s a shame no-one told Owen Smith that, because since the start of the campaign he’s been trying to sell this passive, mature gentleman as this sort of warmongering Disney villain, which no-one buys.  The polls are stacked against him and I’m not remotely surprised.

When Corbyn won last year, he won over half the vote, which would mean Owen Smith would have to convince people who had voted Corbyn to vote for him, he would have to obtain significant swing. If someone has voted Corbyn, it means they have a positive view of him likely, that view may have wavered, but I guarantee most of the people who have voted him are still sympathetic towards his cause. So with that in mind, you have to present yourself as a more positive option, rather than a less negative option.

Unfortunately, Owen Smith has been given the jumped-up obnoxious PR treatment; a Corbynite comrade of mine invited me to watch the Smith against Corbyn debate in Glasgow stream with him. We both regularly cringed at how staged Smith’s responses seemed, and even how aggressive and unpleasant Smith came across, one particular highlight was when he started ranting about how Corbyn must’ve secretly voted leave. He asked Corbyn “Did you vote remain?”, Corbyn replying “Yes”(shutting Smith down completely). Smith then went on to savage Corbyn for his supposed lacklustre support, completely contradicting his previous compliments only a couple months prior.

People wanted reasons to vote for Owen Smith, not reasons to vote against Jeremy Corbyn, the jeers from the crowd against Smith’s accusations told me what I needed to know about how they felt about Smith’s sudden hostility. Smith’s aggression and nastiness isn’t going to heal the wounds, it’s just going to rub salt into them; Smith is doing exactly what he said he didn’t want to do: divide.

This sort of change in tone demonstrates a disingenuous nature of many politicians, and the exact reason that so many people voted Corbyn in the first place. Jeremy Corbyn went against a lot of his principles to support the Remain vote and did a lot more campaigning than a majority of Westminster politicians (including the current Prime Minister Theresa May). The sort of whinging from Labour politicians who blame Jeremy Corbyn for the vote not going their way is comparable to a delinquent child who can’t have ice cream in their favourite flavous. Corbyn was not the deciding factor of the EU vote, the establishment were.

Speaking of Brexit vote, we can talk about some Owen Smith’s policies, which are backward-looking to say the least. Call me a man with vested interests but I don’t want a second EU referendum, neither do most people in the northern areas, the Labour heartlands, Sheffield, Bradford, Wigan, Birmingham, Hartlepool, Barnsley, Doncaster, Durham, Sunderland, Rochdale, Rotherham and many more all voted leave, how can Labour expect to retain these seats with such a metropolitan policy which exemplifies everything wrong with politics currently. Also, how can he expect to win marginal seats in Bolton, Bury, Nuneaton, Derby, Telford (more strong leave constituencies) and so many more with a policy of defiant denial of democracy at the forefront of his campaign? Recent polls have suggest that ‘Regrexit’ is regressing, with a majority of people being happy with Brexit, he’ll end up forcing people to vote Conservative or even UKIP in a defence of their vote.

And then there are the gaffs, how on earth anyone can think it sensible to sit down for peace talks with ISIS is beyond me. He would be torn to shreds before the next election for that one quote alone, you could see it in The Sun now, the fact that he said something as stupid as that does not just demonstrate he has no understanding of ISIS, but no understanding of the motivation people voted for Jeremy Corbyn in the first place. Although Corbyn’s opposition to the Iraq war has been helpful through the Chilcott report, foreign policy was not the primary reason he received a lot of people’s endorsement, and the fact that Corbyn’s own team distanced themselves from Smith’s policy demonstrates that Smith is untrustworthy and unfit for the Labour leader position, and certainly no better option than Corbyn.

I’m no Corbyn supporter, in fact I’m more to the right of the Labour party, however, it’s not just a case of politics, it’s also a case of competence, and as much as I would like to support a progressive alternative, Owen Smith is not that. If you don’t want a protest party, then don’t make your manifesto based on protesting one of the most prominent votes ever.  If you don’t want an unelectable party, then don’t set out peace talks with ISIS.


I’d vote for the Monster Raving Looney Party before I’d vote for Owen Smith.