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A pub in London was criticised for selling a pint for £13.40 last month. We have all been stung by the higher prices in London, but with the average pint in the area costing £4.08, it’s easy to see why the price raised a few eyebrows. 

Top shelf spirits

Typically, the premium drink options are more normally explored in spirits. Whilst the beer market is growing, prices usually have a wider scale in spirits. 

Even if they are ordered invariably, it’s beneficial to have different price points so that you are capable of catering for different customers. Having a selection of top shelf spirits can be open your bar up to the £1.2bn premium spirit market but it’s not enough to simply have the products available.

What do customers want when buying top shelf spirits?

Other than getting a taste of the high quality drink, the customer will want other things from the experience.

The main factor that adds to the experience of ordering top shelf spirits is having a knowledgeable bar person that can talk through the history, tastes and profiles of the drinks. For this, you need to ensure that your staff are trained and familiar with the different spirit brands. 

Personalisation is also vital, especially for a customer that is new to high-end drinks. They may not have a go-to premium spirit yet, and if they are spending more money they will want a drink that they can enjoy. 

Bartender drink recommendations 

Bartenders need to be able to provide recommendations for customers based on flavours and tastes that they like. Consumers look to bartenders to provide recommendations and it’s an easy way of upselling. 

An establishment that promotes needs to be reflected in the choice of décor. High-end drinks need to be matched with a classy interior. Bentwood chairs alongside leather bar stools help to create the right atmosphere. 

It’s a word that we hear all the time: “sustainable”. As pollution shrouds our cities, our landfill sites fill up to overflowing and global warming takes hold, it’s a word that many of us are taking more and more seriously. But what does “sustainable” mean? And what does it have to do with furniture?

What is sustainable furniture?

Essentially, what’s meant by sustainable is that human activity – whether it’s driving a car or drinking a cup of coffee – should have a minimal impact on the environment, and should use as little of the earth’s resources as possible. Furniture is an industry that uses large quantities of a precious natural resource – wood – and which also has an impact on the environment in many other ways. 

So how can making and buying furniture be more sustainable? Here are some suggestions.

Trees of life

Tropical rainforest

The world’s forests are disappearing at an alarming rate. Around 80 per cent of our planet’s natural forests have now been destroyed by human activity. Since 1947 around half of the world’s mature tropical forests have gone. What remains is vulnerable. 

Often these forests are being cleared to make way for farmland or livestock, or for replanting with commercial crops such as palm oil, or for human habitation. Often they are being plundered for their wood, for use as timber or in the paper industry.

Why does this matter? First, it’s now widely recognised that forests act as the world’s “lungs”, absorbing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Also, forests provide homes to thousands of species of animals, birds, plants, trees and insects which can survive nowhere else. And, let’s face it: forests are beautiful. 

Sustainability and furniture retailers/suppliers

So most people would agree that we need to hang on to what is left of our forests. But the furniture industry could, it seems, be doing more to help. Last year the UK branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-UK) published a report on timber sourcing and the UK furniture industry. Called “Are You Sitting Comfortably?”, the report made uncomfortable reading, concluding that: “Most [furniture] retailers don’t appear to know or care where the wood in their products comes from or if it is responsibly sourced.”

Some of the biggest names in UK furniture retail, said the report, “hadn’t made even the most basic reference to responsible timber sourcing ... Well-known brands such as DFS, Sofa Workshop, SCS, Sofology, Sharps, The Range, Habitat, Leekes, Dreams, Multi York, Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Bensons Beds and Brighthouse are among them.”

The report goes on to say that while some of the big brands did badly, some smaller companies did well. So perhaps there is something to be said for buying furniture from smaller companies where the sources of timber can be more easily verified. 

Turning the tables on sustainable furniture

So, what are sustainable sources of timber and furniture? One area of growth is in reclaimed and “upcycled” furniture – made from wood that has had a previous life as furniture or in buildings and is then re-used to make new and uniquely individual pieces.

The website Inhabitat has featured items such as a chair made from recycled plastic bottles. These items can be pricey, however, and are chiefly aimed at the high end of the domestic market – sometimes they are not even for sale (though some cafés and restaurants use this kind of furniture to create characterful interiors).

Kuskus chair made from recycled plastic bottles

Sustainable commercial furniture?

Most commercial furniture is bought in larger quantities at lower prices. But this kind of mass-produced furniture can still be sustainable. Responsible manufacturers and retailers will be happy to reveal where their timber is sourced. IKEA, for instance, has pledged to source all of its wood “from more sustainable sources by 2020”. As conventions such as CITES (aimed at protecting endangered species of animals and plants, including trees) have reduced the use of endangered and threatened timbers, new and renewable sources of wood – especially hardwood - have opened up. 

Trent Furniture's Shabby Chic Farmhouse Table

One of these is rubberwood. A few decades ago, when trees in rubber plantations had reached the end of their useful lives, they were usually burnt. Today many of them find new life as furniture. New techniques have been developed to protect rubberwood from fungal and insect attacks; the result is a durable, versatile wood that can be stained, painted or left with a natural finish. Trent Furniture has a range of tables with solid rubberwood tops, such as the Shabby Chic Farmhouse Table, available in various finishes. 

Rubber plantation tree

Sustainable furniture – beech trees

Another source of sustainable hardwood is the beech tree.

Beechwood is grown sustainably in many European countries, where forests are properly managed and replenished. Trent Furniture uses high-quality sustainable European beechwood in many of its chairs, such as the Farmhouse Spindleback Chair, which benefit from the wood’s strength and attractive appearance. 

Cast iron guarantees for sustainable furniture

The story of sustainability is not just about wood. Metals are widely used in the furniture industry, especially in pub and restaurant furniture, where cast iron is popular for its solidity, durability and its traditional appearance. And it turns out that cast iron scores very high for sustainability: it lasts for decades, even centuries, it can be repainted and refurbished easily, and when it finally reaches the end of its life it can be recycled – melted down and used again. Trent Furniture’s range of cast iron furniture includes classic pub furniture pieces such as the Wide Girlshead Table

Trent Furniture's Wide Girlshead Table in cast iron

The same goes for steel. Again, this is a durable, strong and sustainable material that’s widely used in making furniture. And, like cast iron, steel is recyclable once it has reached the end of its life. Trent Furniture’s Napoli Side Chair is constructed from welded tubular steel in a black or chrome finish. As Britain’s landfill sites grow higher and higher with cheap and flimsy furniture, these durable pieces present a viable alternative to this culture of disposability.  

Softening the blow with delivery and packaging

Finally, there’s the issue of delivery and packaging. A responsible furniture company will plan its deliveries to reduce fuel usage (as well helping to save the planet, this will also save money). And those swathes of foam and bubble wrap that often accompany deliveries of furniture are deeply wasteful; these materials are usually thrown away after one use only and end up adding to Britain’s landfill problem.

A better way to package and protect furniture in transit would be to use materials such as old blankets and cloths which can be re-used almost indefinitely. Trent Furniture does this where possible.

Summary of sustainable furniture

Sustainability, then, is something that can be looked at through every part of a piece of furniture’s life cycle: from the kind of tree it’s made from and where it was grown, to the other materials used in its manufacture, through to delivery and packaging, and finally to recycling: at every stage, something can be done to help make the world a little bit cleaner and a little bit greener

On the 26th and 27th of Sept 2017, Trent Furniture was pleased to exhibit at the Restaurant Design Show 2017/18 at ExCeL London. 

model of the ExCeL centre and surrounding area - London

Our exhibition team took along some of our most enjoyed and frequently purchased restaurant furniture, as well as some of our furniture guides, brochures, and a whole host of tips and advice for business.  

Getting to the Restaurant Design Show at ExCeL

The ExCeL centre and surrounding area - London

For those looking to attend the event and future events, the ExCeL centre in London is approx. 10-15 minutes walk from Canary Wharf, located in the middle of the Royal Docks.

Getting to the venue is easiest by Train/Tube/DLR.

To get to the Restaurant Design Show venue by train/tube and DLR simply:

- Get the train to Waterloo station

- Take the Dockland Light Railway (DLR) to Canning Town

- From the Jubilee line at Canning Town take the Prince Regent Station

At this stage, it's a few steps to the event.

Trent Furniture at the Restaurant Design Show 2017/18

Trent Furniture at the Restaurant Design Show 2017-18

Our team was located at stand 3170, right in the heart of the show for the two days (26th and 27th Sept 2017).

We met lots of enthusiastic and established business owners, purchasers, and furniture buyers; lots of the restaurant, pubs, bars, and hotels/leisure industries, and many from the retail sector too.

Guest Speakers at the Restaurant Design Show at ExCeL

Speakers at the Restaurant Design Show 2017-18

As you might imagine, one of the highlights for many of the businesses attending the Restaurant Design Show 2017-18 was the access to free expert insight, inspiration, and tips about furnishing businesses premises, through to payment solutions, and a whole lot more! 

The Trent Furniture team had lots of interesting conversations with attendees and many exhibitors of the show too - often relating to making the most out of a business layout, getting the right type of furniture for commercial premises, and generally making the right furniture buying decisions. 

guest speaker with a busy crowd 

If you were hoping to attend the show or did attend, but didn't get a chance to chat with our expert furniture team - contact us today!

P.S. for the eagle-eyed attendees, you may have noticed a few celebrities at the Restaurant Design Show 2017/18 including Gareth Gates.

Gareth Gates at the Restaurant Design Show 2017-18

Is there anything more dispiriting than seeing Christmas decorations that have been put up too early? The sight of tinsel dangling from a shop ceiling or Santa riding his sleigh across a pub chimney breast in the middle of October is guaranteed to get customers grumbling. So, if you run a pub, café or restaurant and are wondering when to start getting ready for the festive season, the answer is: not too soon. 

Chesterfield sofa in an English pub

Thinking about Autumn and Christmas

It is, however, not too soon to start thinking about Christmas. And with the onset of autumn, now is a good time to start thinking not just about Christmas, but about the months leading up to it. The darker evenings and colder weather are an opportunity to offer customers a warm, cosy retreat from the dull greyness of the British winter. 

the Danish concept of “hygge”

Over the past couple of years we’ve heard a great deal about the Danish concept of “hygge” (pronounced “hue-guh”, it translates roughly as “homeliness”), and this is a trend that looks set to last for a while yet. Which means one thing more than any other: candles. (Danes burn more candlewax per person than any other country in the word.) There’s something special about candlelight: it adds glowing warmth to an interior. Big, boldly coloured candles in simple glass containers on tabletops, counters and shelves are an easy way to create instant hygge, while their fragrances can add spice.

spiced coffee at Christmas

Remember, too, that fairylights these days are not just for Christmas, but the whole year round; trailed around door frames, bars, counters, across walls or even strung from the ceiling, they create sparkle and a sense of occasion. If you have an outside area with patio heaters, fairylights strung around walls, tables and umbrellas can create a twinkling grotto-like effect.

So, perhaps this year, rather than putting up your Christmas decorations overnight, you could make it a gradual process, beginning with candles and fairylights as the evenings grow darker, then adding festive table centrepieces (for restaurants) as the Christmas season begins, then decorative touches such as pine cones and baubles in glass containers, the decorations themselves, and of course the tree. 

Candles adding warmth and atmosphere

Preparing for Halloween

But there’s plenty to think about before Christmas arrives. Remember that Halloween is now Britain’s second biggest “party night” after New Year’s Eve. These days Halloween runs into Guy Fawkes Night, and often incorporates elements from Mexico’s Day of the Dead festival, to create a week or more of fireworks, bonfires, effigies and spooks.

Halloween party in a bar

Restaurants can attract extra customers with special menus, drinks and themed evenings. Meanwhile the Indian festival of Diwali also falls in the autumn (this year it’s on October 19), with lights and fireworks celebrating the victory of light over darkness, good over evil. October and early November are good times for people who like fireworks (though they’re not so good for noise-sensitive pets).

Spicing up drink menus

If you run a café or a pub, this is a good time of year to spice up your drinks menus – literally. The big high-street café chains such as Starbucks offer spiced hot drinks including gingerbread latte. Independent cafés can follow suit by offering a dash of spiced winter syrup with hot drinks. (Also: oat milk is becoming an increasingly popular alternative to regular milk and soya milk.) Pubs meanwhile can join a hot new trend that follows on from the rise of craft beers: craft spirits.

Small distillers are now creating their own unique gins and vodkas. If there is a craft distillery near to your pub, it would be a nice touch to be able to offer your customers the choice of a local gin or vodka, perhaps in a seasonal special offer. (You can find a local distillery here at the Hot Craft Spirits website.) Mulled wine is also a perennial favourite, and it’s not hard to make your own, rather than buying in a ready-made product. 

The smell of gently warming mulled wine is a welcoming aroma. Remember, too, that todaation are an abstemious bunch; alcohol is something that they can take or leave, so be sure to offer suitably seasonal non-alcoholic drinks. The Virgin Bloody Mary is popular, and its deep red colour makes it a seasonal favourite.

mulled wine

Restaurant and Christmas menus

Restaurants, meanwhile, will need to start thinking now about their winter and Christmas menus. So what are the food trends this year? There is certainly life yet in the “slow food” movement – the idea that food should be local where possible, sustainable and cooked with honesty and integrity (in short, it’s the opposite of “fast food”). If this proves challenging in a business where customer turnover is a key part of your business plan, there are other ways you can stay “on trend”.

Grilled vegetables such as cauliflower are currently hot; indeed, food that places vegetables at the centre rather than on the side is becoming increasingly popular. (The current vogue among trendsetting consumers for camel milk, though, looks likely to be passing fad.)

Catering for vegetarians

There is also a move towards vegetable-based foods that imitate meat – “plant burgers”, for instance. And in Hackney, east London, Temple of Seitan, which opened earlier this year, claims to be Britain’s first “vegan fried chicken shop”, serving a chicken substitute made from wheat gluten.

These products are worth bearing in mind when restaurants are planning Christmas menus. Meat remains popular among many diners, but customers are becoming more discerning: they want their beef aged, their pork from rare breeds, their chicken free range and corn-fed, their turkey “heritage” breed. Oh, and sourdough bread is more popular than ever.

Making the most of Christmas trends

When Christmas finally comes around, what are the key design trends for the coming festive season? Scrolling around the internet in search of seasonal design trends brings up mysterious concepts such as “Bloomsbury” and “Indulgent”, but more practical suggestions can be gleaned from the Pinterest website – a free and almost unlimited source of imaginative, creative ideas. There is something of a current trend for British woodland animals in interior design – on cushions, throws, blankets, tiles, etc – and a scattering of these items will add a dash of rural winter to your interior.

This is the time of year when people want to retreat to the warm welcome of a pub or café, so if you can offer a scattering of armchairs or a deep sofa in your café or pub, with rugs and cushions, this will encourage customers to linger.

These can be confusing times for anyone in the hospitality trade. Mealtimes are becoming blurred. Brunch is the new lunch. Young people seem to have stopped drinking alcohol. Pubs serve coffee. Interior design seems to be a question of “If it feels good, do it”. Vegetables are made to look like meat. 


But if there is one theme that overrides everything else, it is this: authenticity. Customers want a “real” experience. They want to know the story behind their food. They want to eat or drink in surroundings that are unique, individual. They want to see their coffee being roasted, their beer being brewed in a microbrewery. And when it comes to Christmas, they don’t want the same old stuff trotted out year after year: tatty tinsel, Slade belting out “Merry Christmas Everybody”.

So, this Christmas, keep it real. Don’t overdo the decorations. Hold back on the tinsel. (But don’t hold back on the candles.) And don’t start putting up the decorations, or the tree, until it really feels like Christmas. Your customers will thank you for it.

For the past twenty years or so, the story of Britain’s high streets has all been about coffee, coffee, coffee. And rightly so: sales of coffee have long since overtaken tea. When people want to get together for a catch-up, these days they’re likely to say, “Let’s meet for coffee.” Coffee chains such as Starbucks, Costa and Caffè Nero, as well as thousands of independent coffee shops, are now a feature of our national life.

Tea drinking making a comeback

Young man drinking tea outside tea shop

Yet tea is showings signs of making a comeback. Although most younger drinkers are not turned on by the milky, often sugary drink consumed by their parents, they are warming to the pleasures of different kinds of tea: green tea, bubble tea (a beverage originating in Taiwan that uses various flavours and tapioca balls), Japanese matcha tea, and all kinds of herbal infusions such as South American maté.

New tea bars are opening up around the UK, while coffee shops and cafés are having to update their offerings to cater for the new generation of tea drinkers.

The history of tea drinking in Britain

A brewed cup of tea

But how did the British come to be drinking tea in the first place? The story begins in China, where tea has been drunk for thousands of years. Evidence of tea-drinking was found in the tombs of Chinese Han Dynasty emperors from the 2nd century BC. One of the stories about the origins of tea – a rather gruesome one - says that a Buddhist devotee, or perhaps even the Buddha himself, was meditating when he fell asleep. Annoyed with himself for dozing off, he cut off his own eyelids and tossed them away, where the eyelashes grew to become the first tea bushes.

Whatever the truth, the bush from which all tea is made – camellia sinensis, to give it its full botanical name – was cultivated in China and slowly spread to Japan and the rest of the world. The Portuguese and the Dutch were among the first to import it to Europe, and tea became hugely popular. In 1662 Britain’s King Charles II married Portugal’s Princess Catherine of Braganza; she popularised tea drinking at court, and the habit spread.

Mid 19th century tea

modern tea varieties in glass cups

By the mid-19th century, tea clippers such as the Cutty Sark were a feature of ocean life, and Chinese domination of the tea trade was coming under threat. British Botanist Robert Fortune travelled around China disguised as a Chinese trader on behalf of the British East India Company (all of which was highly illegal). Acting as a kind of industrial spy, he stole tea plants and observed the complicated processes involved in making tea.

(For a long time it was believed that green tea and black tea were made from different plants; it turned out, though, that they are made from the same leaves, but their treatment is very different – black tea, which is what is most widely drunk in Britain, goes through a process of heating and rolling known as “fermentation”, though in fact it’s more like curing.). 

The contraband tea plants that ended up in India mostly died, but Fortune’s knowledge of the processing of tea leaves proved invaluable in establishing the Indian tea industry. And tea drinking took a huge leap forward in the early 20th century with the invention of the teabag.

Today China is still the biggest tea-growing country in the world, but tea is widely grown elsewhere – India, Sri Lanka, Kenya; there are even tea plantations in Cornwall, on the Tregothnan Estate. 

Tregothnan tea plants

Tea rooms and tea shops

young woman drinking tea at cafe

From the early years of the 20th century onwards, tea rooms and tea shops were found on every high street, with the Lyons chain leading the way. Tea became not just a drink but a social event, perhaps not as laden with ceremony as the famous Japanese tea rituals, but still an important part of daily life. In the second world war, tea played a vital role in keeping morale high. 

Second world war tea break

The growth of coffee shops

In recent years tea rooms have been supplanted by coffee shops and cafès, but now, in a trend that seems to have begun in America, new tea bars and tea shops are opening, offering exotic teas, matcha lattes and herbal infusions in cool surroundings. (Some retailers, by the way, peddle the myth that green tea is healthier than black tea; in fact, both contain equal levels of healthy anti-oxidants.).


Fermented tea?

Among the new tea bars is Jarr, which is mainly in the business of selling a drink called kombucha – fermented tea with various flavourings – and which has an outlet at a small “tap room” in Hackney, east London. In Newcastle, Pumphreys – a business long associated with coffee – serves speciality teas at Mrs Pumphrey’s Curious Tea Leaves Shoppe in Grainger Market. Across town, Quilliams Brothers Tea-House offers dozens of teas and is open most nights until midnight. 

Tea shops in London

tea shops in London

In Tooting, south London, The Brew is a new “tea pub” that aims to offer a wide range of teas in a pub-like environment (it serves beer and cocktails, too). Also in London, Amanzi offers exotic-sounding teas, including Ginseng Oolong and T-Rex, at its branch in Marylebone, and has ambitions to become Britain’s leading tea-bar brand. Bubbleology has around a dozen branches selling bubble tea, mostly in London but also with branches in Sheffield and Leeds. 

Amanzi tea brewers

The Urban Tea Rooms sells sandwiches and 10 varieties of loose-leaf tea at its two central London branches. It was set up to provide “a modern equivalent of the traditional tea room”. Speaking of which, the tradition of a proper English afternoon tea has survived the onslaught of the coffee shops, in the form of Bettys, which has six branches in Yorkshire; here, cake stands, fine crockery and doilies are the dominant themes. 

In response to the demand for a wider range of teas, chains such as Starbucks now offer hot and cold teas with names such as “jasmine pearls tea” and “iced shaken hibiscus infusion”.

How can coffee shop and café owners respond to the new generation of tea consumers?

Well, the first thing to say is that tea now comes in many glorious colours, from pale off-white to deepest red, so if you’re following the trend and serving exotic blends and varieties, glass cups might be the way to go; these will show off the rich hues of the liquid. Second, bear in mind that the new tea drinkers are a younger crowd. They will not take kindly to fine china, doilies, cake stands and flouncy old-fashioned decor. They prefer things to be more authentic, natural, honest. 

This often means unvarnished wood, bare brickwork or plain plaster, local photographs on the walls, that sort of thing. Amanzi serves tea in fancy brewers, made from transparent materials so that the process of the tea brewing and straining into the cup can be seen and relished. (Amanzi sells a range of teaware, and also has a helpful guide to brewing the different kinds of tea.) 

And there are all manner of well-designed, cool-looking teapots, stands, strainers and other tea paraphernalia now available.

It seems that what was once a murky brown liquid that was often doused in milk and over-sweetened with sugar has come out into the open in all its varieties of colour and flavour. There’s life yet in the British cuppa.

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