Tuesday 26 September 2017

Surpassing Leo Burnett. An open letter to Kindle.

www.howtoeat.net Let us know what you think about table manners.

Dear Kindle,
Leo Burnett once said "We want consumers to say, 'That's a hell of a product' instead of, 'That's a hell of an ad.'"
He didn't even think of an ad when consumers would be saying: "What the hell?"

Well done, Kindle. Let me congratulate you with a new approach to advertising "Are you in or are you out?" by Tanya Kosh. It might be not necessarily the book the poor Kindle reader would ever buy. But clearly the one which would be hard to forget.

Thursday 21 September 2017


www.howtoeat.net Let us know what you think about table manners.

Continuing the topic of fast food.

In-depth interviews are the best method to get to the heart of the matter. They are long, they are expensive, they are hard to conduct sometimes. Especially if the incentive you offer to the respondent is to buy them lunch. Not the best choice, I agree. How can you ask your questions with a mouth full? How can you understand the answer if the person opposite the table is trying to combine the process of being interviewed with claiming his incentive? But depending on the topic, this could be your best choice ever. And how else can you get an opinion from a hard working young men (apparently the most underrepresented group in any research).

"Hi, Ben," - I say. "can I invite you for lunch? Need to ask a couple of questions for my forthcoming book".
Ben is young, smart and busy.
"Of course," - he says. (I am his mother's friend. Recruitment is easy). "But I have a rather short lunch break. Shall we go for some quality-fast ?"

There is even a Facebook page called "Quality-Fast". Or should I say was? (translation on the picture below is provided by Facebook itself).

Ben is still to select his quality-fast (good food with blitz-service).
But I have some findings already: Quality-Fast is useful. Not easy to find, at least in the viscinity of Ben's office. Doesn't work in French (see the Facebook screenshot above). 

Sunday 17 September 2017

Fast Food with Imperial Touch.

Let us know what you think about table manners.

Celebrities do help to sell. Quite a few years ago I talked to the editor-in-chief of one of the many glossies about writing columns. She said that the rules are simple - a bit about celebrities, a bit about yourself, something useful for the reader [to learn], something funny to laugh about, something glamorous to enjoy [and somehow to relate to]. And don't forget the loop - finish with the reference to what you started with. What she forgot to mention was, in my book, the most important rule - a strong opinion. And that's what I have today. I strongly believe that  boiled beef in Plachutta, " a synonym for Viennese cuisine" (their own rather humble statement) is nothing else but fast food. A glamorous version of it with several outlets in Vienna.

Yes, it takes a while to boil beef. But if you put it on the hob in the morning, it is ready by lunch time. You don't even have to do much. Add some vegetables to bones and meat, roast them slightly before putting into the pot with water. Add herbs, salt, pepper to the pot, stir and remove the froth when it boils (or strain it) for clarity. This is nearly it. And then simmer and simmer and simmer... for a very long time.  The later you order your lunch there, the softer the meat. Tried and tested. Dinner's beef is impeccable. It melts in the mouth.

Boiled beef and accessories (e.g., potatoes and spinach) concept is simple. It is the same recipe cooked for years. It nears perfection. No extra movements, no frills, no extras, no need for special staff training. And it shows. Meat (they call it "tafelspitz") is served within five minutes of ordering. More difficult with drinks - the lack of training shows. The young, friendly and by the end of the evening slightly embarrassed waiters (all men. No women - this is, I believe, another part of the concept) come to our table at least five times with other people drinks.

Boiled beef concept is clearly cost efficient. Guaranteed volumes and consistency of orders are clearly reciprocated by discounted prices of suppliers. The relationships are long-standing and rather close. Plachutta claims they can trace each cow they boil to its birth. It remains unknown if the employees have to visit the calves and bring them carrots. Or whatever alpine cows consider to be a treat.  Possibly not, as it would add to the cost. Prices in Plachutta are high for fast food, but reasonable for a tourist trap.

Boiled beef is a status food. Lunch time choice for business meetings in the centre of Vienna. You have to book well in advance. You don't expect the favourite dish of the Austrian Emperor to be readily available at a short notice, do you? Even if takes no time at all to get it to you when you are at the table.

Boiled beef is a powerful concept. Emperor's favourite food doesn't leave much room to anything else. Pudding (desert) is obviously a poor relative whose name  no one knows. How otherwise you can order soufflé and be presented with something remotely resembling Victoria Sponge with some custard filling?

How it works/ the table manners for long-boiled beef (do not read if even the thought of offal makes you sick):

How it looks:

fast food noun uk /ˌfɑːst ˈfuːd/ us /ˌfæst ˈfuːd/

Celebrities help to sell. Royalties - even more so. Apparently, some food flies off the shelves due to Prince George. His school lunch menu has been published recently.

I am waiting for Plachutta's drive-through openings, though I am a bit wondering whether it would be only Bentleys and Porsches allowed to get a take-away. OK, and horse-driven carriages. There are plenty of those in Vienna.

Fast food is food. Fine if you want it fast. But it remains what it is - fast food. Even if there is an imperial touch to it.

Thursday 14 September 2017

Oktoberfest starts in September.

Let us know what you think about table manners.

In fact, as early as the day after tomorrow. It starts on the 16th of September, this coming Saturday.

Table manners constitute an important part of cultural competence whether you travel on business or for pleasure. Or host people from other countries in your hometown. A trifle, like how you like your beer served can leave you out, preventing you from joining in and enjoying the fun.

Say you are English and go to Oktoberfest in Munich. You like beer; it is your drink of choice. You anticipate your first mass (beer mug 1, holds 1 litre). You know how you like your beer to look, how you like it to taste. And here it comes. With a beer head a third of a mug tall. That’s how they do it in Germany. Beer should have a head. Even if you serve it at home.

Many English friends and colleagues of mine felt puzzled. Andrew even asked the waiter directly “and where is one-third of my beer?” He felt cheated. Paid for a whole litre and got two-thirds of it.

Germans coming to England and getting their pints full, clean and clear are known for asking publicans not “to kill the best there.”[i]

A colleague of mine, Karsten, sporting a rather depressed face after his first pint served “according to the local” standards at Highgate pub, which he insisted was frequented by Karl Marx, went as far as getting beyond the bar and grabbing the bartender’s hand in order to ensure he gets his beer the way he likes it. Karl Marx, still in Highgate, just a few hundred meters away down the hill, surely approved.[ii] The bartender wasn’t amused.

According to Euromonitor International data, reported by Telegraph.co.uk (Akkoc, 2014), Germany consumes an estimated 110 litres of beer per person totalling nearly 9bn litres per year in total. UK – only half of the total amount, 4.3bn litres, which translates into 67 litres per capita. Maybe beer with the head really knows better when it comes to sales?
Differences in how you serve alcohol are not limited to beer only. The British “large glass” of wine doesn’t exist in Austria. Serve it and you would be considered a low class alcoholic. You can order a “viertel” (quarter, the same 250 ml<) but it will be served in the jug and the waiter will pour only something like 125 or even less in your glass.

[i] You can read more on how to pour different beer German style here: http://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-pour-beer-like-a-german-2015-8?IR=T
[ii] Karl Marx is buried in Highgate Cemetery East. He moved to London in 1849 and died there in 1883.

"Are You in or Are You Out? Inclusivity and Exclusivity of Table Manners: A light-hearted journey into a rather serious matter" by Tanya Kosh (How to Eat: All around Table Manners Book 1)