Every restaurant uses glowing adjectives and enticing descriptions to encourage their customers to buy more of its food.
But if you see the words ‘hand-made’, ‘home-cooked’, or ‘fresh’, then don’t fall for the claims hook, line and sinker as the food may not live up to its label.
An investigation on Tricks of the Restaurant Trade, which airs on Channel 4 on Monday, revealed that many chains use these buzzwords even though the food hasn’t been prepared in the way it is being described.
The show found that several of the biggest high street restaurants and cafés fool customers with exaggerated claims about the items they are selling.
Pret until recently described its soup range (left) as ‘hand-made’ even though it was prepared in a large factory. Pizza Express call its pizzas ‘freshly made to order’ even though it uses frozen dough and spinach (right)
Law professor Dr Richard Hyde, of the University of Nottingham, explained to presenter Sophie Morgan that shockingly, a food item doesn’t need to be made by hand to be called ‘hand-made’.
In fact, it can even be made in a factory and still be described that way.
The programme found that Pret cafés used to call its range of soups ‘hand-made’ when in fact they were made in a factory on an industrial scale.
Pret admitted that the soups were made in a factory, and told Tricks of the Restaurant Trade that the wording ‘was based on an old production process and has now been updated’.
The buzzwords that may not mean what you think
‘Home-cooked’ – Dr Richard Hyde, a law professor at the University of Nottingham, said that restaurants can call something ‘home-cooked’ even if it hasn’t been cooked in a home environment. The food can be cooked in an industrial or professional kitchen and still be called home-cooked, if it has been cooked in a way someone could feasibly do at home.
‘Hand-made’ – Remarkably, something doesn’t actually need to be made by hand and it could still be called ‘hand-made’, according to Dr Hyde. Even if large machines such as blenders are used, it can be called hand-made if the devices are big versions of ones you could get for a domestic kitchen. The food can’t be made on an industrial scale – but it could still be made in a factory.
‘Fresh’ – Dr Hyde says an item doesn’t need to be made fresh on the premises for it to be called ‘fresh’ – it just can’t contain any artificial preservatives. Also, as long as some parts of a product are made fresh, it can be described in that way, even if part of it has been previously frozen.
Le Pain Quotidien sells ‘fresh’ orange juice that is made off-site, while Café Rouge says its uses ‘fresh’ ingredients but its Beef Bourguignon (right) arrives ready assembled in a boil-in-a-bag style bag ready for heating up at the restaurant
Several chains also said their products were ‘fresh’ – even though many customers might disagree with the term if they knew how these products are actually made.
Dr Hyde says food can be labelled ‘fresh’ if it doesn’t contain artificial preservatives, even if it hasn’t been made on-site or if some ingredients are frozen.
The programme reveals that Le Pain Quotidien describes its orange juice as ‘fresh’ even though it is not squeezed on site and arrives already bottled.
Le Pain Quotidien did not respond to a request for comment, according to Tricks of the Restaurant Trade.
Café Rouge says it uses ‘fresh ingredients’ on its menu but its Beef Bourguignon arrives ready assembled in a boil-in-a-bag style bag that only needs to be heated up on site.
The restaurant chain said in a statement that ‘it uses fresh ingredients in many of the dishes. The Beef Bourguignon is made using a traditional sous vide method and is not made using the so-called boil in bag method.’
Pizza Express meanwhile describes its pizzas as ‘freshly made to order’ even though it uses frozen dough.
The investigation into the fake buzzwords restaurants use to describe their food was investigated on Tricks of the Restaurant Trade, which is presented by (from left to right) Seyi Rhodes, Sophie Morgan, Simon Rimmer and Adam Pearson
The spinach on top of its Florentina pizza is also frozen, rather than fresh.
However Dr Hyde explains that not every part of an item has to be freshly made, as long as some of it has been in order to use the buzz-phrase.
Pizza Express said in a statement that ‘while the spinach and dough arrives frozen, every pizza is made fresh to order and is freshly prepared’.
Similarly, a food product can be called ‘home-cooked’ even if it hasn’t been cooked in a home-like environment.
As long as it’s been cooked in a way that could be replicated at home, it can be described as ‘home-cooked’.
As Sophie Morgan says on the show: ‘Don’t buy a dish based on the words used to sell it. You may not be speaking the same language.’
Tricks of the Restaurant Trade starts on Monday at 8.30pm on Channel 4.