Posts In: behind the scenes

There seems to be a lot going on in the media at the moment about the price of meals in some restaurants. It seems that some people feel restaurants are charging too much and then, fortunately, there are those that appose this idea.

I originally wrote the below post just before Christmas. I had just paid my solicitor a huge amount of money and we had a couple of guests question the bill. Have a little read and see what you think….

“How much would you be willing to pay for a great meal? Now I mean a really great meal with a great experience. Not just another restaurant. This isn’t a blog post trying to find out how high we can push our prices but trying to get an understanding of the opinions of our guests.

Let me give you some context. As many of you reading this will know we have recently moved our restaurant to our new venue in Tring. During this process I had to employ the services of a commercial property solicitor. This isn’t a dig at solicitors I’m just using them as an example. Now the solicitor is doing something that most can’t, right? Law is written in some weird old world language that most can’t/don’t/don’t want to understand. I’m one of these. I can’t act in law so I have to employ someone that can……at around £300 per hour! That’s a lot, like a lot, a lot! Rightly so though, they have a skill that is needed so they charge a huge amount for it.

Now lets go back to how much you would spend on a meal. When you have an exceptional, talented chef that creates stunning food what should they be paid? Take my head chef Scott Barnard for instance. He has worked hard his whole career, like many of us chefs working 70+ hours per week. Wow, 70+ hours per week chef’s must be loaded right? Wrong! They get a basic salary and that’s it. No overtime just the honour and privilege to work in a restaurant with a famous name on it.

Why is it that we are happy to pay a solicitor £300 per hour but our head chefs £10 per hour? Yes that’s right £10 per hour. When you break their ok looking salary down over 70 hours per week that’s what they get. I personally feel that an exceptionally talented chef, like Scott is at least worth £300 per hour. The only problem with this is that I would have to charge every guest at least £400 for our tasting menu. I’d love to hear who would be willing to pay this?

I don’t know what the answer is to this problem. I’m working hard to create a working environment that gives my chefs a better work/life balance while being able to function as a business. The reality is that chef’s aren’t just some unseen “staff” that are the lowest of low. It’s about time that we started respecting the staff that work so hard for hours each day to ensure that you are happy for your short time with us.

Don’t forget the amount we pay our staff only makes up a fraction of what you, the guest pays. When you see our £80 for the tasting menu you can deduct 20% instantly as we are glorified tax collectors for the government. That leaves us £66 to pay for the produce on your plate, the staff and all the other fixed overheads. So while you may think that it’s expensive and we’re making huge amount of money, we’re not. I’m not saying it’s not expensive. I fully expect a lot of people to think it is, I’m just asking for everyone to put the cost into perspective.

Here’s to the superstars like Scott and I only hope we find a way to keep them creating what they do!”

Thanks for reading, Luke

May 14, 2018

The Bar at Crockers

 

The Bar at Crockers official launch weekend May 17th – 19th.

 

We have been working hard to bring you an exciting new venue to enjoy fantastic drinks and amazing food, all in a relaxed atmosphere. Well, we think we’ve done it! This weekend we are officially launching The Bar at Crockers with a great deal on our fantastic cocktails. Enjoy all of our cocktails for just £8.50 each.

When we decided that we would open a bar in Tring we knew we had to do something different as we had with the Chef’s Table. We have tested and tested our cocktails to make sure they are the best they can be. We have worked hard with our Sommelier Duncan to ensure that our wine list is exciting, challenging and above all great value. Scott has also been testing ideas for our bar food menu ensuring you get the same great quality you would get at the Chef’s Table.

Above all we want to make The Bar at Crockers a place for people to come, kick back and relax with friends and enjoy themselves. That’s what we’re all about. From May 17th the bar will open all day from 12:00pm until closing time. You don’t need to book a table, in fact we don’t even offer bookings. If the door’s open just come on in and grab a seat. We’ve got some lovely big sofas as well as some very comfy bar stools for you to while away the hours.

If you want to know more about our wines, cocktails and bar food just hit these links.

Wine List | Cocktails | Bar Food

Thanks once again for reading and your support, make sure to say hello when you pop in!

Luke.

The night before we opened our new home in Tring I took some time to reflect on the journey we’ve been on and the amazing support shown by Tring locals. Below is the guest blog I wrote for the fantastic Tring Buzz blog.

 

“Here I sit, the night before the dream becomes a reality. Tomorrow night we open the doors to our new restaurant in Tring and I couldn’t be more excited and proud. This thing we call Crockers nearly didn’t happen.

Two years ago the idea came to me after months of trying to find the money to open it looked like it wouldn’t happen. Well, as you can see it didn’t end there. I have managed to surround myself with some truly amazing people. From the investors that went from regular guests to shareholders to the amazing new team. I am one lucky guy!

It doesn’t stop there. Tring and the people of Tring have blown me away. The response to us converting a knackered old building into what I hope will be a destination for great food, cocktails and just relaxing with friends, has been amazing. The most mind blowing and humbling response has been from the local businesses. Andre Lussman even appeared in the kitchen the other day to say hello and welcome us to the town.

Katy and Matt from this very blog, Tring Buzz have supported us from day one in Potten End and I can’t say thank you enough to them.

Since announcing the re-location to Tring we have a huge amount of support. It all started with Ruby Tuesday interiors. Jules has been an absolute superstar and is responsible for the look and feel of the whole building. She was generous enough to offer me her time for free just to have the chance to be involved. Her attention to detail and work ethic has blown me away. I hassle her all day every day and she just keeps going. Thank you Jules.

One day Jules showed me this crazy mirror that was a TV and gave me the card for the guy that supplies them. Fast forward a few weeks and Chris from Home Technology and Cinema walks through the doors in Tring. Yet again he offers me an incredible deal just to be involved. Chris has worked incredibly hard with his business partner Greg to plan, install and setup our CCTV, network and speakers. Thank you Chris.

Next up was Suzanne from Tring Beauty Box. Yet again I get a random email offering services and product for free just to be a part of this. Just for the record I turn this down every time. Suzanne has been amazing in helping me pick two fantastic hand wash and lotion products for each toilet. That’s right, we have two fragrances to choose from for both hand wash and lotion. Find her on Instagram and you can see how much she loves our toilets! Thank you Suzanne.

We have alway had a great relationship with Tring Brewery. Scott and I both independently of each other stared working with their beers in our breads. It just makes sense to use the best. They have provided us with the beer for our bread and now the beer for our cheese from day one. Thank you Tring Brewery.

Lastly I have to thank Ben and Kate from Puddingstone Distillery. Ben was the one that told me that Hyatts was closing long before it was advertised so I have a lot to thank him for. Our businesses have supported each other a lot since day one. We opened months apart and from that day I have mainly only served Campfire exclusively. It gets better though, they are now making us own gin! Thank you Ben & Kate.

So there it is, tomorrow we open our doors on our new home in this truly amazing community. We know Tring was great but wow! Hopefully we’ll get to see you all soon.”

It has been a fantastic roller coaster ride so far and I can’t wait to see where we go over the coming years.

Don’t forget to pop in to the new bar and say hello.

Luke.

As we build up to our first ever, exclusive wine event I thought it might be worth showing just how good our Sommelier Duncan is. If you have missed any of the previous posts you can find out about the main characteristics of wine and which grapes are my personal favourites.

Take little old me. A chef that was always locked in the kitchen far away from the excitement of the sommelier section. We very rarely got to try wines that complimented the food that we would work so hard to create. This meant I was developing all the skills you would expect in a Michelin Star kitchen but didn’t have clue about wine.

Fast forward to the day we opened Crockers Chef’s Table in Potten End and the introduction of Duncan Gammie from the Wine Service Trainer Co to the team. Duncan would spend time with me before we launched each new menu to go through the wines in detail and really simplify why they went together. Not only this but we would intersperse these sessions with “the basics” to build my basic knowledge. Trust me this really was the basics!

We would go through the wine making process, the most common grapes and of course we would taste them. He made it such a great learning experience that I quickly picked up the basics and went from someone with very little confidence to someone that can hold a conversation about wine. Now I’m no expert, that takes far more years to achieve but the fact is I am now so confident that I can match wines to food and also order wine with confidence when I’m out for dinner.

I’m incredibly excited to be able to offer a limited number of people the chance to experience the same rapid increase in knowledge and confidence soon. I am excited to finally announce this great opportunity in tomorrow’s post so keep an eye out for the next email.

If you have any questions about the upcoming opportunities please leave them below in the comments and I will do my best to answer them ask quickly as possible.

Luke.

One of the trickiest things about wine is understanding the grapes that are used. Let me get out a little disclaimer first, I still get so lost when it comes to the grapes around the world! The beauty of working in this industry and with our fantastic Sommelier Duncan is that I get to try a lot of different wines. This enables me to experience so many different grapes and see what I really like.

I thought it might be helpful and possibly interesting if I put together my favourite grapes used on their own but also blended. This is my personal choice and I’m sure we all have our favourites. I’d love to hear from you all if you have certain grapes you like in the comments below.

Nebbiolo

The superstar grape of the Piemonte region of Italy, Nebbiolo is the grape behind Barolo. It packs complex flavours and aromas like rose, cherry, truffle, tobacco and leather making it a very enjoyable drink. Nebbiolo has high tannin and acidity enabling it to be paired with some nice big flavours including roasted meats, garlic and herbs. I love a Barolo and we will certainly be seeing them again in Tring.

Syrah

The darker cousin of the Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah is packed with antioxidants so it’s basically a health drink. Accented by blackberry, blueberry, pepper and herbs it’s a great match for red meat. Often found in the Rhone valley in France but also being produced by some fantastic New World vineyards. We sometimes have a Jim Barry Shiraz on the menu which is easily the best Shiraz(Syrah) I’ve tasted.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is the lightest of the red grapes and probably my favourite wine at the moment. It’s nice and light yet packed full of amazing flavours like cherry, raspberry, vanilla and mushrooms. It does tend to spend a little bit of time in French oak which helps give it that wonderful vanilla edge. A relatively mild tannin and acidity level make it a very drinkable wine with or without food.

Cabernet Sauvignon 

Oh dear another one of my favourite wines, sounds like I may have a problem. Let’s just accept I love wine. Cabernet is the totally opposite end of the scale to Pinot Noir. Big and juicy, packed with dark fruit like black cherry, black currant and blackberry it really does suit a nice juicy steak. Add in the bold tannins and it just gets better.

Viognier

An often over looked wine but one that has featured on our list for a long time now, Viognier really does give amazing value for money. A nice full bodied wine with apple, citrus, pear and peach it’s one of those wines that you can easily drink with or without food. We often put it alongside a slightly more complex fish dish but it also works well with food with a little spice in it.

Riesling

Oh Reisling, what did Blue Nun do to you? Much like Chardonnay this fantastic wine has been given a bad reputation by some shocking wine making practices. Did you know they aren’t all super sweet? This grape can pack some fantastic fruit flavours including apricot, peach, apple and lime making it an obvious choice for a nice light fish dish. A common scent to get from Riesling and possibly why some people get put off is petrol. Yes you heard it right, the stuff you stick in your car. Don’t let this put you off as it really is a stunning drink.

Chardonnay

Yet another wine with a bad reputation due some dodgy techniques. Gone are the day of steeping the wine with oak chips or even adding oak essence. A good chardonnay with have great lemon, apple, pear and pineapple, followed up with vanilla, baked tarts and butter. Not all Chardonnay goes into oak either but when it does and it’s done properly it is a stunning, big, bold wine. Oh and don’t forget, that chablis and champagne you love? Yeah, that has chardonnay in it.

Sauvignon Blanc

Known at Crockers as the white wine drinkers safe choice. We absolutely love Sauvignon Blanc and it’s wide array of flavours and scents. We have a particularly good one on at the moment from New Zealand which will be following us to Tring. Packed with lime, green apple, lemon grass and elderflower it really does tick a lot of boxes. Add in a bit of vanilla and butter if it’s spent some time in oak it really is a great rounded wine.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little look into the wines that I love and we sell at Crockers. Don’t forget I want to hear what your favourite grapes are and why so please leave a comment below.

Thanks

Luke

Yes that’s right it’s just 10 weeks to go until we will be open to the public!

I thought it was about time to post a little up date on the progress at our new home in Tring. The builders have been in working hard for a number of weeks now and things are starting to take shape. The destruction has stopped and now the team are in starting to re-build.

This week has seen the frames going in for the new Chef’s Table. These custom built metal bars will allow us to float the table top and take away the need for legs. We want our guests to be able to spread out and relax.

There was a moment this weekend when there were no trades on site, the sun came out and really lit up the dining room. I can’t wait to stand in this same spot looking out over our guests having a great time, basking in the sun.

Hopefully this week we’ll start seeing the walls and ceilings being finished ready for paint and tiling. It doesn’t look like much at the moment but I feel like we’re about to turn a corner and the new Crockers Tring will be emerging soon.

If you want to see more daily updates head on over to our Instagram page. I try to update with videos and pictures on the feed and also on our story. Don’t forget, bookings are now open for when we open in April. You can currently book 120 days in advance but when we open this will reduce to 90 so take advantage of the early reservations while you can. Head over to our booking page now.

Have a great week, Luke.

The taking of card details by restaurants, including mine seems to be a bit of a contraversial issue. Some people don’t want to give their card details while some are cautious. Most are happy to comply with the reservation policy. But why do we need to ask for them?

Essentially, guests card details are our insurance against any kind of loss of revenue. As horrible or greedy as that may sound that is the reason.

You see, guys like me start a restaurant out of a passion for food, dining experiences and ultimately making our guests happy. We don’t do it to get rich which generally means we’re not making any money from the business on a personal basis. If we have someone cancel last minute or even worse, not show up at all it has a huge impact. We still have to pay for the food and the staff’s time but now we don’t have any revenue to use from that one booking.

I would go as far as to say that it’s even worse for a tiny establishment like Crockers. Take this past weekend for example. We ended the previous week fully booked for lunch and dinner on Saturday. Six days out and within our current cancelation policy we lost the lunch booking. No major issue, it just meant we had more duck breast than we needed so everyone on the three course menu got breast instead of leg. Now we get to Saturday night, 7:30 rolls past and no one has arrived. 8:00pm approaches and still no sight of any guests. I call to check the guests arrival and leave a message. 8:30pm comes and we have to assume that they’re not coming.

So here we are, Scott gets in at 8:30am to prepare just for this table. All the food is ready and most of which that is slow cooked is already cooking. We had to bin a huge amount of food because we aren’t about to freeze it and then give that to someone else. I still have to pay for all that food and pay Scott but what am I supposed to use?

This ladies and gentlemen is why restaurants take card details and this is why we are now extending our cancelation policy to seven days in Tring. We are also taking deposits on bookings of 10 people or over and I am seriously considering a pre-payment for the food.

I am a huge advocate for a change in the way the hospitality industry runs mainly centred on treatment of staff and pay. This however isn’t juts down to the employers of the staff but also down to you, the guest. Guests need to start treating staff of all restaurants better. We’re not just the staff, the caterers or some sort of sub level human. We deserve as much respect as anyone and this include showing up for your reservation.

Let me finish on a little comparison. If you book a flight for a holiday and for what ever reason you can’t make it, do you get your money back? You do if you have insurance but otherwise no you don’t. So if you let down a restaurant why shouldn’t you have to pay?

Luckily we have the most amazing guests at Crockers but recently we’ve had a few people disrespecting us and querying why we take card details. I hope this post goes some way to explain the system from the perspective of the little guys.

Luke.