You Can’t Buck The Market…

February 6, 2012 28 Comments
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When Liz Haughton opened The Park Café in Knowle West, Bristol, her vision was to create a community eatery serving wholesome and organic foods.

Chips, coke and sweets were off the Daventry Road menu and replaced with dishes such as butternut squash soup and homemade bread.

Wot, no chips?

Why, no! If customers want chips, they can clearly go elsewhere.

And…it seems that’s just what they did!

But after just one month Ms Haughton, who also runs The Folkhouse, in Park Street, has had to adapt to local demand.

She’s had to serve…… *deep breath* …… chips!

She said: “In many ways we weren’t sure how it would go down and it has been a challengingfew weeks.”We ended up holding a meeting with our tenants and local users of the centre and they were so helpful. Without patronising anyone, The Park is not The Folkhouse, they are different areas and so they have different menus.”

And, if there were enough people who wanted your ‘different menu’, you’d have been ok. But there aren’t.

Ms Haughton said the higher prices that come with organic produce had put some off but with several tweaks she has produced a menu which offers something of a compromise.

A compromise between what you want your customers to buy, and what they want to buy. That’s only ever going to go one way, isn’t it?

Hopefully you’ve learned a hard lesson. Now, would you mind teaching it to the government?

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28 Responses to You Can’t Buck The Market…

  1. john in cheshire
    February 6, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    I get the feeling that she’s not really convinced that the customer is always right. She’s no doubt quite resentful that they’re not grateful for her efforts to educate them in all things nutritious and like all good socialists she’ll keep plugging away at what she wants, until she hopes the locals resistance will be worn down and they’ll come to love her butternut soup. That’s the socialist way.

    • February 6, 2012 at 1:55 pm

      If she provides it alongside more conventional offerings, she may survive and people may be inclined to try new things. However, ultimately, the market decides.

      • February 7, 2012 at 5:46 am

        Indeed! :razz:

    • Jack Savage
      February 7, 2012 at 9:56 am

      Surely the solution would have been get the local council to ban other establishments from serving chips and to tax all other meals.
      Then she should apply for some sort of grant or subsidy from the EU.

  2. February 6, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    There’s educating someone and then there’s trying something new. My Turkish lady up the road tried to offer Turkish cuisine which is delish but had a customer base of one non-Turk. There was one Brit who saw me eating it and ordered a take-out, only to throw it away. Sad really but the rule of free trade is the customer is right.

    • February 7, 2012 at 5:48 am

      There used to be a great little greasy spoon cafe behind Waterloo station that did the expected fry up…and the most wonderful Thai food I’ve ever had.

      Nothing fancy, but amazing value and quality. I always preferred it!

      • ivan
        February 7, 2012 at 2:15 pm

        Is that what the one under the Hungerford bridge turned into – I have fond memories of that place during my days at university.

  3. February 6, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    I love chips! Hooray for chips, one of the healthiest types of really filling food!

    I just hate it when people call them “fries”, that winds me up no end.

    • February 6, 2012 at 3:04 pm

      That’s those vulgar Americans calling them fries.

      • February 6, 2012 at 3:54 pm

        My annoying takeaway habit:

        Wage Slave: “Do you want fries with that?”
        Me: “No thanks. Just a portion of chips.”

        My other annoying takeaway habit:

        Me: “Uhm, can I have a double-venomburger…”
        Wage Slave, interrupting: “Is that a meal?”
        Me: “Well, I was planning on eating it at some point in the evening.”

        Fucking production line fast food. :evil: Hate, hate, hate, hate.

        • February 7, 2012 at 5:49 am

          :mrgreen:

      • Radical Rodent
        February 6, 2012 at 7:17 pm

        Fries (aka “French fries” – or even “freedom fries”!) are the sticks of corn-starch (or so I have been told) that the corporatists thrust at us in their desperate attempts to uniformise (is there such a word?) us, thereby increasing yet more their profit margins. I do NOT call fries “chips”! What a travesty of culinary taste to relate one with the other!

        • February 7, 2012 at 5:49 am

          And yet they do ‘go’ with an artificial-burger far better than real chips, strangely enough.

  4. microdave
    February 6, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    “Now, would you mind teaching it to the government?”

    Yes, wouldn’t it be nice if the consumer had a choice between expensive, unreliable “Green” energy, and cheap, plentiful conventional energy…

    • nisakiman
      February 6, 2012 at 8:18 pm

      Yes, I can just imagine what the take-up would be for the “Green” option! About the same as the number of pubs that voluntarily went “smokefree” before the ban.

  5. February 6, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    Fries are shaped potato starch (v. heavy in fat and salt), chips quite another thing! I second Mark’s hooray.

  6. nemesis
    February 6, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    I think you are all being a bit tough on Ms. Haughton. She did afterall consult with people to find out where she was going wrong. I know many people who eulogise about health foods but the bottom line is always on price – thats the real cruncher.

    • Dave G
      February 6, 2012 at 9:21 pm

      Quote “…but the bottom line is always on price” Unquote.

      Ha, yeah, sure…… would you take butternut squash at 50p or a bag of chips at £1?

      I know what MOST people would opt for.

    • Dave
      February 6, 2012 at 11:02 pm

      Perhaps if she’d done some research in the first place, she wouldn’t have wasted her time and money on unsaleable crap, but obviously she knew best……..

  7. John
    February 6, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    I think this is a really interesting story. Here we have a really principled person who very quickly realised that her world view was not shared by her customers and has had to quickly adapt in order to run a business and keep it going.

    What that many of our local and national politicians heeded these lessons. Not for them the luxury of doing what thier customers want, nor the luxury of having to balance the books; they just piss our money up the wall regardless of whether thier customers want or need it and without the discipline of earning the funding. Instead they just stick it on the tax bill.

    And no point in partisan grumbling about it being Labour councils; in my experience the Conservatives and LibDems are just as bad both at local and national level.

    Perhaps we should be more like this restaurant; any time a politician comes up with another goofy idea (say, wind farms), go to the people and solicit donations from those prepared to pay for it. And that’s yet budget.

    Bunch of thieving, troughing bastards the lot of them…

    • nisakiman
      February 6, 2012 at 8:21 pm

      “Perhaps we should be more like this restaurant; any time a politician comes up with another goofy idea (say, wind farms), go to the people and solicit donations from those prepared to pay for it.”

      Ha! Perchance to dream…

    • February 7, 2012 at 5:51 am

      That’s a much better idea, but chances would indeed be fine things there… :cry:

  8. Andy Nicholas
    February 6, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    She could always serve chips with a difference, I’ve had some intersting variations. Personally butternut squash soup with homemade bread sounds great, still business is business and You learn, Ed the chocolate orange will never get it.

    • February 7, 2012 at 5:52 am

      Wedges are popular, I hear. And can be made from other than potatoes.

      They aren’t chips,though.

  9. February 6, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    Fries, chips, are they really that different?

    Try some yucas fritas for variety.

    • February 7, 2012 at 5:51 am

      Oh, they are!

  10. February 7, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    This quote also applies to the market:

    “Much of the social history of the Western world over the past three decades has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good.”
    – Thomas Sowell

  11. February 8, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    If you’re going to try and increase the national butternut squash soup intake, you certainly don’t start in Knowle.

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