Last week I was on holiday with the family in Keswick, a beautiful little town in the Lake District that manages to pack thousands of tourists on to its little streets every day. To cater for them all, there is a diverse and competitive number of eateries that I only touched upon. I loved the stacked pancakes, drizzled in maple syrup and topped with crispy bacon and blueberries at the tiny St. Mungo’s Deli. It was quirky and close with wonderfully accommodating staff.
We treated ourselves later in the week to the backstreet Mexican Bar eS. It’s a tapas bar that has a lot of strong, vibrant flavours accompanied by a wide range of independent beers.
The point I’m trying to make is that now we, as a nation, have a wide variety of tastes. The days of meat and two veg at every meal are long behind us. There was a time in the not too distant past where we knew what day of the week it was from the meal served to us at ‘tea time’ as we say up north.
“Is it Tuesday?”
“Egg and chips then.”
I remember the day, as a child growing up in West Yorkshire in the 1980’s, where we had spaghetti bolognaise for the first time ever. Where had my grandma learned the skills to create ‘foreign’ food? Did we have Italian heritage? Did this mean that I was now eligible to play in the great Italian World Cup winning team?!
It was actually more dollop of sauce rather than la dolce vita. I wouldn’t be playing alongside Rossi anytime soon.
Fast forward to the present day though and it’s a staple meal for the Great British household and one which is sneered at by Italian natives.
The marketplace in Keswick gets even more crowded on market days with a further range of local food producers. My final meal of the holiday came from one such stall and was another British staple – the curry.
It would appear, that to cater for our ever emerging diverse tastes we need a wide range of food producers and as such there’s always room for another establishment to take us on a culinary journey around the world. If you get to sample Mr Vikki’s stall, I recommend the tikka masala/beef madras combo.
However, you can’t knock a classic.
Today, my wife and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary by popping over to Whitby (I really pushed the boat out) for lunch. Arguably, it’s equally – if not more – touristy than Keswick. We heard an American commenting on a waitress having a mug of tea before carrying on with her job frying the fish in delicious, light batter as being “so British!”
What did we have to eat? Fish and chips of course! You can’t walk more than ten metres in any direction in Whitby without either being in a chippy or being in the sea.
I didn’t see a McDonalds, Subway or any other chain. Local, independent chippys are at the forefront of Whitby’s culinary scene.
This totally flies in the face of the diversity nonsense I was uttering a moment ago…
Or does it?
Frequent Whitby travellers all have their favourite chippy. I have mine and according to one advertisement on their window, Jeremy Clarkson has his. We still have that choice, that diversity is still there but it is based upon quality, location, cost, tradition and any other factor that determines where you choose to eat chips.
Diversity is important. You need to research your position in the marketplace and then ensure that everything you do fits into that position. If you’re going to do something that is similar to someone else (let’s be honest, it’s likely you will as there are so few ‘new’ ideas out there) how will you be different to them? Looking at your competitors isn’t copying, just the opposite, it’s finding where you’ll fit in.