I’ve just finished a month long tour of the UK giving away just under 30,000 free samples of food. I’ll just let that sink in for a moment… It’s quite a lot of food, really. The foodie event that I was hosting was called the Summer Food Fest and it happened in 9 different Hammerson shopping centres from Aberdeen all the way down to Southampton. Along with the rest of my team (well, they weren’t my team, more the team I was on) we travelled the UK train network with our mini cases and M&S cheese boards, checking into hotels and (for me at least) meeting up with as many local friends as I could. It was a blast! Despite genuinely not remembering which city we were waking up in each day we were able to thoroughly enjoy ourselves and hopefully that was reflected in our work.
The job was to encourage people to try different food or different restaurants in the shopping centres in the hope of spreading their culinary horizons. We had a different restaurant or eatery provide our Menu Bar (ie. temporary stand in the middle of the mall) with a minimum of 200 free samples every hour. For example, a schedule for a day could have been 11am Boost Smoothies, 12 noon Yo Sushi, 1pm Bill’s, 2pm Wagamama, 3pm Jamie’s Italian, 4pm Handmade Burger Co, 5pm Krispy Kreme. All these restaurants took part along with other brands such as Chiquitos, Bella Italia, Millie’s Cookies, Hotel Chocolat, Harvey Nic’s, Ed’s Diner, Harry Ramsden’s and Joe Delucci’s to name but a few. So as you can see there was a wide range of differing cuisines available. People could come back as often as they liked to try as many of the restaurants as they wanted.
That’s essentially it. Free food in return for, well, nothing. No data capture, no form to fill in, no signature, just a case of ‘What? You’ve never eaten in a Nando’s before? Well try this!‘. My role in the event was to talk on the mic about the food, explaining what people were eating and describing the different textures, flavours and even preparation methods. Because of this I got to eat EVERYTHING. Not a great job for my waistline but a fantastic gig for my taste buds! Over the course of the tour we were treated to some really fantastic samples (too many to list here) but I did learn some interesting things along the way, too. Sushi has never been high on my food choice list. It’s never really come into my head to get it before and I think that that is down to the small portion sizes and common misconception that it’s all just raw fish. Well were my eyes opened on this job?! Sushi comes in all manner of different ways; veggie, beef, chicken, duck, pork etc. before you even get to fish. Yes, some of the fish is raw but by no means all of it. I’m proud to say that I’m now a massive sushi convert and, even better than that, so are loads of different members of the public who we convinced to give it a go. The number of times I extolled the virtues of sushi, including all of the health benefits garnered from it, I can’t even begin to count. This really sums up the purpose of the event in a nutshell, and sushi could be replace by any other food be it Thai, Indian, Italian, Mexican, even British. Try something new, like something new.
So that’s it really. A massive thank you to my fellow cohorts Chantelle, Helen and Beckie plus Rowenna, Ryan, Kate and Becky, not forgetting Andy and Kyle back in Maynineteen HQ who somehow managed to pull off the logistical nightmare of getting this incredibly successful tour up and running without a hitch. Kudos all round. Thanks also to Rachael, Chops, Chris, Ozzy, Grandma Jennie, Lee, Kayleigh, Danny and Ann-Marie for meeting up with me en route around the country. Finally, thank you to Union Square in Aberdeen, Silverburn in Glasgow, The Bullring in Brum, Cabot Circus in Bristol, The Oracle in Reading, Highcross in Leicester, West Quay in Southampton and both Brent Cross and Centrale in London for looking after us all so incredibly well (that’s the shopping centre staff PLUS the punters, too). Such fun!