Prurient interest took us once more to Whole Foods Market in Kensington, this morning.....either to see whether they had woken up, smelt the coffee and actually done something about the state of things in Denmark, or - as I thought more likely - to look for subtle signs of retrenchment in the face of a marked absence of customers actually trying to buy anything......!
No prizes for guessing what we found.
If somebody were in search of a nice quiet oasis of calm in Central London, suitable for a nap, or to settle down and read War & Peace, or merely to drift gently through the morning in unruffled peace, then this would definitely be the place for them. Empty aisles....soothing music....and not a Stepford Wife in a floppy hat anywhere in sight cluttering the place up. Certainly not the ker-ching of a cash register to disturb the yogic calm. At 10.30 on a Friday morning, the banks of cash registers were largely unmanned, apart from a few checkout staff chatting amongst themselves. And justifiably so, since there wasn't a single customer buying anything. Not. One.
It is awe-inspiring that anybody can get something quite so jaw-droppingly wrong as the people who are behind this project. And it really does inspire awe, to watch a business which is quite obviously haemorrhaging money in this way, and appears to be trying to smile blithely through the process. The thousand cuts are there to see if you look closely enough: some of the chiller cabinets intended for meat have been given over to bottles of beer (which don't have the same limited shelf-life), the Soup dispensers are empty beneath their gleaming chrome lids, as are half of the containers of the serve-yourself traiteur offering. Outside, a notice frenetically advertises a heavily discounted happy hour in the cheerless watering hole upstairs that they've inappropriately named The Bramley.........I can't be certain, but I suspect there were fewer staff around than before.
What should they do? Firstly recognise that they've got it wrong, and organise a re-launch as soon as they can. Re-vamp the prices (downwards), and certainly launch a PR offensive to address the general perception that whatever they've got it's cheaper somewhere else! And they need a face to hang the whole process on - much as Sainsbury's have done with the ever cheerful Jamie Oliver (who I find intensely irritating, but it clearly works). The curvacious Nigella would be perfect........
Will they do it? I doubt it. The death throes are going to be painful to watch.......
Beef & Porcini Strudel
Skate in Sherry Sauce, with Fried Capers
Poached Peaches filled with Raspberry Cream