Jamie Oliver

Jamie Oliver Has A Go At Vending. Wake Me Up When It’s All Over.

Jamie Oliver has a book to sell.

According to Wealthy Gorilla, his net worth is around $300m, (which ranks him as the second wealthiest chef in the world) and according to Forbes, (as reported in Finances Online), he makes a whopping 78% of his dosh from book sales. So no wonder he agrees to a grueling schedule of interviews when a new one hits Amazon. Apart from being a decent chef, he knows how to stir up a hornet’s nest: he courts controversy. And guess what? He’s had a go at vending. Previously, he’s had a justifiable pop at hospital food and school dinners. This time, though, his ignorance of his ‘target’ lets him down. He’s ill-informed. He’s inaccurate. Clearly, one of his interlocutors,  Zoe Williams, is baffled as her Skype chat with His Nibs takes an unexpected turn. She writes in The G2 Interview in The Guardian:

Even though his restaurant chain going under was a bruising experience, it hasn’t dented his readiness for a scrap. Today, he launches into an unexpected broadside against vending machines. “Does anyone give a shit about vending? Of course not. But it’s huge. Often in workplaces that don’t supply lunch or dinner, [employees] have no other source of nutrition. I’m not saying don’t have a KitKat, because if you want one, God knows you should have one. I’m saying if you’ve got 5,000 people taking 999 calls, with three shifts a day and no food on offer for two [shifts], it would be morally right to have choice. If there’s only crap [food available], that’s not democracy.”

That’s not democracy? What the hell does that mean? And can you think of a workplace of that size that doesn’t have a catering facility that includes healthy, fresh food on offer 24/7? Scratching your head yet? Ms. Williams continues:

Again, I find it a little bit frustrating that this has to be about food: because really it’s about conditions at work, the responsibilities of the employer, and the real answer is not to have cucumber batons in the vending machine, it’s to join a union.

Precisely. It’s got sod all to do with the vending industry. You want healthier choices in your machine, order them.

But I feel bad, because he knows in advance what the response will be (he’s trying to take away our KitKats!), and he wades in anyway. “I actually don’t like fighting. I’m actually quite shy. I don’t like getting into rucks,” he says ruefully.

Aww, bless him. And so, it came to pass that AVA Chief Exec David Llewellyn fired a broadside back at the naked chump….

Dear Jamie

I read your interview with Zoe Williams in The Guardian G2 section (3rd August). As you may expect, I also saw your comment questioning “does anyone give a shit about vending machines”. Well, we do!

Others, who include the estimated 24,500 vending operators and employees who have struggled hard through the current pandemic to maintain service and supply where it has been needed. Our members also provide a Hospitality solution in hospitals, healthcare and the armed forces, plus factories and workplaces providing essential services.

But apart from that – as you may remember from our day spent together at the Chester Constabulary Head Office in June 2018 – vending is merely a supply mechanism to deliver whatever products the Specifier client requests for their staff. You will recall that we discussed how vending can deliver bespoke fresh salads, hot meals, sandwiches, fruit and a range of pre-packaged healthier options, in addition to traditional hot and cold drinks, confectionery and snacks. All this through technologically advanced equipment with contactless payment and product information screens.

It all depends on the Specifier being prepared to pay for this level of service for their staff and colleagues.

On behalf of the entire AVA membership, why do you feel the need to demonise an industry merely to create controversy?

Because he’s got a book to sell and he needs the publicity David! And vending is the perennial whipping boy; an easy target. D’oh!

In 2019 we saw another year of huge increase in the sale of healthier products. The AVA Annual Census for 2019 shows a 75% increase since 2018 in cold drinks with under 5g per 100ml of sugar and a 120% increase in confectionery and snack lines with less than 250kcal. Just two examples of the change in products being offered to satisfy consumer refreshment requirements through vending, micromarkets and unattended retail all of which can be available 24 hours/day, when other outlets are not available.

Jamie Oliver doesn’t care about any of that! Look around at the brouhaha his comments have caused. (And this publication stands guilty as charged). So far as he’s concerned, ‘mission accomplished’!

The solutions offered by AVA members have continued to develop from the advanced position you saw two years ago. We would welcome the chance to update you and provide more information to increase your understanding of our offer. Do get in touch!

David, don’t hold your breath mate. And then, from Saskia Wirth, Head Of Communications at Jamie Oliver Group, comes this…

Hi David,

Thanks for taking the time to write to us, and I’m sorry if the interview has caused upset.

As you know from previous conversations, this is an area Jamie cares greatly about. He was quoted a little out of context in the piece – the point he was making was that this is an area that not many policy makers (or indeed the public) think about, but that affects many thousands of employees.

Jamie was highlighting the issue more broadly, and that doesn’t take away from any progress already made. Jamie simply wants everyone to have more choice, including healthier options.

If as you say it’s up to employers to request more choice for their employees, I hope you agree it’s helpful to keep the issue in the public domain to help drive positive change.

If you have an overview of progress made to date, I’ll happily share it with our campaigns team.

Yada yada yada.

Yawn yawn yawn.


Wake Me Up When It’s All Over…

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About the author

The Editor

Planet Vending’s Editor is Ian Reynolds-Young and it’s Ian’s unique writing talent that has made PV what it is today – the best read (red) vending blog in the world, and vending’s best read (reed). Ian ‘tripped and fell into vending’, in the capacity of PR executive, before launching a specialist agency, ‘reynoldscopy’, dedicated to the UK Vending business. The company continues to represent the interests of many of the sector’s leading brands.

‘It’s all about telling stories’, he says. ‘We want to make every visit to PV a rewarding experience. By celebrating the achievements of the UK’s operating companies, we’re on a mission to debunk the idea that vending is retailing’s poor relation.’

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