Alarming Rise in barely acceptable food offerings.

There is much talk about local, sustainable, seasonal, and supporting independent businesses of every hue as they are the bedrock of our prosperity. However, there is a curious anomaly going on.

The rise in food of a barely acceptable taste and nutritional quality is alarming. Without naming the offenders, it is now possible to avail of poor quality, heavily processed food across almost every sector of food service. It has been a steady incursion into our lives, and if you wish to witness some of the most shameless displays of such tripe, avail yourself of the hotel buffet breakfast.  As we become more accustomed to dining out the range of possible choices is expanding exponentially.

New Openings Abound: Words and Colours to Fool us

New cafes, fast casual restaurants, pub food offerings, service stations abound. Playing fast and loose with the above-mentioned terms is increasingly prevalent. No marketing campaign is complete without ‘natural, fresh, locally sourced, sustainable, farm reared (what kind of farm, one wonders) and other such wonder words to fool us once again.

The colours green and brown are peppered throughout the sector as these are colours that evoke feelings of nature, ecofriendly, fresh, green, wholesome in the consumer. Someone is having a laugh here. Red, yellow, and orange abound to increase our hunger pangs.

Anecdotally, operators are actively discouraged from buying in fresh foods which must be prepared from scratch. If you wish to give your EHO a heart attack, mention that you are hoping to buy seasonal vegetables and fruit from farmer Brown down the road.

As rents increase in our cities and food regulations reach an almost unachievable level, operators are keen to reduce the possibility of getting on the wrong side of either. Queue a new café/ restaurant, probably better than average coffee, interior may often be very nice indeed- no expense spared in fact. But lord almighty, food quality is not high on the list. Queue marginally acceptable quality food. It will fill a gap, it will be fine but you might not feel especially nourished after it and for all the fancy decor, the high end bar, the mile long cocktail menu, there is no escaping the fact that the quality of what is on offer is not a priority. Spare us the flowery rhetoric in an effort to disguise what is really going on. Frozen pastries, cakes and bakes- heavy on sugar; mass produced sandwiches, wraps and baps and hey presto, you have a business.  

There has been a rash of new restaurant openings in our cities recently; beautiful as they may look, food quality does not appear to be a priority in many.

Meanwhile, the food heroes up and down the country who passionately and desperately believe in producing the best quality and who are doing what they have promised to do; struggle on. Before anyone takes a bad turn, there are hundreds of phenomenal cafes, restaurants and pubs buying, cooking, and serving local, seasonal and Irish foods. Their continued existence is essential.

The Cost of Cheap Food

By refusing to buy into or buy heavily salted, sugared, plastic wrapped, long shelf-life foods, we can start to turn back the tide. We need to start asking where that muffin originated, where the scone was baked, where the lettuce was grown.  Food was never meant to be cheap; we have been sold this lie for decades now. It is grossly insulting to a farmer to be selling their fresh produce that has taken months or sweat, toil, sun, water, and labour for a mere pittance.

What really takes the biscuit is those cafes, pubs and restaurants that buy in their fare from a factory, and then treat us like morons by popping it on a plate and adding a premium. We must willingly and cheerfully pay up when served proper food, and congratulate the makers.