Little Chef, Big Chef and the importance of being honest

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 Heston Breakfast
Catching up on the highly entertaining Big Chef takes on Little Chef at the weekend got me thinking about the nature of client/consultancy relationships.

Looking in on the riveting clash of cultures between über-chef Heston Blumenthal and the grease-hole that is Little Chef, it was impossible not to be struck by the gulf between their respective expectations. 

Little Chef’s hugely unappealing boss – Mr. Ian Pegler – showed himself to be not only monumentally misguided but unforgivably out-of-touch with his punters.  Enlisting Blumenthal (originator of such dishes as snail porridge) and his fabled ‘blue sky thinking’ was clearly one hell of an ego trip. 

The overwhelming majority of people who park their bums on Little Chef’s peeling chairs want Heinz baked beans with their Olympic English grease-fest.  So it’s hard not to snigger at Pegler’s achingly pretentious requests for ‘complex, layering of flavours’ in dishes that will be served up using not a single piece of recognisable kitchen equipment, by individuals who have no culinary training – and all for under a tenner. 

A little nib in PR Week recently on Little Chef seeking a new PR agency caught my eye but failed to whet my appetite.  I get the distinct impression that this is one MD who’s not always happy to listen to sense.

There’s an undisputed place for blue sky thinking in all marketing communications.  But not to the exclusion of sound advice.  A fruitful consultancy/client relationship can only be built on mutual respect and a shared vision.  Delusional expectations are no starting point for a partnership.  I firmly believe it’s our place, as intelligent, clear-thinking advisers, to be pragmatic and realistic from the outset, and to politely jettison any project which is ultimately contrary to the client’s interests. 

So, to the successful agency pitching to Little Chef…I wish you the best of British luck!