Food for All!

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How many people do you think suffer from coeliac disease, an autoimmune disease which results in gluten intolerance? Well, according to statistics by Coeliac UK, it is a figure that stands at one in 100; inferring that the condition is not as rare as one may think. However, it is not just coeliacs that have special dietary requirements; it can also be those suffering from allergies such as peanut or egg allergies, dairy intolerance, lactose intolerance or those who are vegetarians or vegans or those who abide by Halal food laws. Whether you elect to follow a special diet or your health mandates it, it is irrefutable that it makes travelling that bit more strenuous and stressful because you have to go through the arduous process of sourcing what hotels, restaurants or cafes can meet your special dietary requirements. However, this is where staying in serviced apartments can start to make a difference because as our apartments come with a fully-equipped kitchen containing modern appliances and utensils from an oven to a microwave, you can forget all the stress as you can dictate what you eat and it is just like being at home.

However, ultimately you are still away from home, and therefore you deserve to engage in a little bit of indulgence. Consequently, we thought we would provide you with a list of only a HANDFUL of the cafes, restaurants and chains that might be able to safely satisfy your palette when you stay in any of our city centre locations. If you have any recommendations, please let us know!

Aberdeen

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   Foodstory 

Image: http://aberdeen.stv.tv/articles/316760-thistle-street-cafe-foodstory-expand-with-coffee-bar-and-live-music/ 

The Bay, Stonehaven – fish and chips are an iconic part of the British diet but just because you are a Coeliac does not mean you have to miss out as the award-winning The Bay in Stonehaven can griddle or bake their sustainably sourced fish.

http://thebayfishandchips.co.uk/

Soul Kitchen – some restaurants will offer a token ‘gluten-free’ dish to appease their diners, however Soul takes it to a whole new level and even offers a full ‘gluten-free’ menu including burgers and steaks.

http://www.pbdevco.com/soul.html

Las Iguanas – with restaurants in all of our major UK city destinations from Aberdeen to Edinburgh to Birmingham, Las Iguanas is perfect for any diner regardless of their dietary requirements. Embodying both a gluten-free menu as well as a dedicated one for vegetarians and vegans, it is clear that Las Iguanas aims to please all with its tantalising Latin food.

http://www.iguanas.co.uk/

Howies – If you are seeking authentic, local and seasonal Scottish cuisine delivered with a smile, look no further than Howies which also has a location in Edinburgh. With a detailed allergen sheet as well as a myriad of gluten-free; dairy-free and Vegetarian dishes, you will be equally spoilt for choice here!

http://www.howies.uk.com/chapel-street-aberdeen/

Fifi’s Café Bistro – those following a gluten-free diet could not have a better selection to choose from then at Fifi’s Café Bistro – Aberdeen’s very first gluten free eatery. Serving everything from cakes to sandwiches, you definitely will not have to worry about what is safe to eat here.

https://www.facebook.com/fifiscafebistro/

Foodstory Aberdeen– healthy, locally sourced and environmentally friendly; the food could not be more pure or natural than at Foodstory Aberdeen where there is a community focused environment. Having been listed as one Scotland’s top veggie cafes, the food provided is predominantly vegetarian, vegan and raw and unique artisan coffees are also offered.

http://foodstorycafe.co.uk/

Glasgow

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  Topolabamba

Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gertie_du/14933965291

Burger Meats Bun – pretty self-explanatory but if you are looking for somewhere that is able to offer gluten free and veggie burgers, you have found the perfect place and it has locations in both Glasgow and Edinburgh! Vibrant and busy, it is definitely one of the top spots in the city to grab yourself a decent satisfying burger.

http://www.burger-meats-bun.co.uk/

Café Andaluz – also with locations in Aberdeen and Edinburgh, tapas tend to be a good choice for those with dietary requirements but Café Andaluz takes it to new levels with a strong range of veggie and wheat free products that mean the menu is equally proportioned and balanced. Choice will not be an issue here!

http://www.cafeandaluz.com/

The 13th Note – are you looking for some musical harmony to accompany delicious food? Look no further than the independent music venue The 13th note which is a vegetarian and vegan café but which also offers a tempting array of gluten free options.

http://13thnote.co.uk/

Topolobamba – Fancying something spicy and hot? Look no further than the delicious Mexican restaurant Topolobamba which has such a rich array of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options, it actually highlights on its menu those options which are NOT gluten free.

http://www.topolabamba.com/

Red Onion – when people think of eateries that accommodate special dietary requirements, they tend to think of quirky independent cafes or restaurants that are tucked away. However, Red Onion is an award-winning contemporary, modern restaurant that was started by the internationally renowned chef, John Quigley. Have no worries about only having a few token dishes as Red Onion has all its bases covered from a gluten-free a la carte menu to a vegan set menu to a dairy free menu.

http://www.red-onion.co.uk/

Ushas – we have had Mexican, Latin and Spanish, but how about Indian? Ushas is Glasgow’s only Indian dedicated vegetarian and vegan restaurant and it offers a tempting collection of authentic street food.

http://www.ushas.co.uk/

For more information, make sure to People Make Glasgow’s dedicated website which has pages dedicated to Glasgow’s plentiful supply of vegan and gluten free dining options:

https://peoplemakeglasgow.com/best-vegetarian-and-vegan-restaurants-in-glasgow

https://peoplemakeglasgow.com/things-to-do/food-drink/gluten-free-dining-in-glasgow

Edinburgh

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 Hula Juice Bar

Image: http://www.theskinny.co.uk/students/things-to-do/edinburgh-food-drink

Henderson’s of Edinburgh – if you are looking for a vegetarian option in Edinburgh, it is probably best to start at one of the city’s oldest established vegetarian locations – Henderson’s of Edinburgh. A family run business, the warm service that Henderson’s offers is incomparable and with a bakery, bistro and deli – you know you will find a vegetarian option across all the food groups.

http://www.hendersonsofedinburgh.co.uk/holding.php

The Baked Potato Shop – rather specialist, but if you are a fan of a vegan or vegetarian fresh hot tattie – look no further than The Baked Potato Shop which offers everyone’s favourite comfort food as well as some vegan cakes.

 https://www.facebook.com/thebakedpotatoshop

Loudons – everyone loves a homely bakery and there is nothing quite like this charming and welcoming spacious café which serves all manner of tempting goods from gluten free, dairy free, vegan and nut-free breakfasts and brunches.

http://www.loudons-cafe.co.uk/

Union of Genius – one of Scotland’s first soup cafes, this is the perfect place if you are looking for a homely cuppa of soup to warm the soul. Varying with the seasons and fresh off the hob, it offers an extensive selection of options to satisfy everyone from those who are gluten free to those who are dairy-free, even the accompanying breads, oatcakes and rice cakes are gluten free. Perfect for the winter season!

http://www.unionofgenius.com/

Sugar Daddy’s Bakery – keeping on with the bakery theme, Sugar Daddy’s bakery is a relatively new player on the gluten free block. Everyone fancies a good cupcake, brownie, cookies or traybake and you can eat these guilt-free as they are predominantly dairy free, egg free and vegan. Definitely the place if you fancy treating yourself!

http://www.sugardaddysedinburgh.com/

Hula Juice Bar – are you fancying a tempting cake, a revitalizing juice or a healthy fulfilling smoothie? Make sure to check out the award-winning Hula Juice Bar which caters to everyone from vegans, vegetarians and those on gluten-free diets. It is the perfect place for a pick-me-up and to find a natural cleanse for the soul.

http://www.hulajuicebar.co.uk/

For more information on the best gluten free eateries in Edinburgh, make sure to check out this dedicated blog: http://glutenfreeedinburgh.com/

Birmingham

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  Cosy Club Birmingham

Image: http://www.cosyclub.co.uk/birmingham 

The Warehouse Café

If you want to visit any Vegetarian restaurant in Birmingham, then of course you must want to visit the inaugural one which is widely renowned on the vegetarian scene! Birmingham’s original vegetarian restaurant which serves salivating British and contemporary international dishes as well as gluten-free options, is an award-winning restaurant that is tucked away next to the Bullring and occupies an illustrious spot in both new and old Birmingham.

http://www.thewarehousecafe.com/

Bella Italia

Everyone loves a good authentic Italian pizza or pasta, and whether you are vegetarian or have gluten intolerance, this popular chain can satisfy all requirements! With a clearly signposted menu, you do not have to eat in uncertainty of what you should and should not be eating.

http://www.bellaitalia.co.uk/menu/main-menu/?location=Birmingham

Bistro 1847

A restaurant group to be on the lookout for, 1847 is rapidly expanding across the country and caters predominantly to vegetarians but also to vegans and to those with gluten-free requirements. Modern and creative; it is definitely one to watch and to dine at!

http://by1847.com/

Cosy Club

Cosy is the perfect word to describe this group of restaurants as are the words: vibrant, effervescent, unique and quirky. Comfortable and casual, you can really make yourself feel a part of the furniture in this homely environment that also has dedicated gluten-free and vegan menus which can also be viewed online.

http://www.cosyclub.co.uk/

Henry Wong Harborne

It can be rather a challenge finding a Chinese restaurant that accommodates those with gluten intolerance, however Henry Wong Harborne perfectly fills this gap. With a gluten-free menu that is available on request as well as a dedicated vegetarian one, this elegant and refined Cantonese restaurant will definitely hit the spot.

http://henrywongharborne.co.uk/

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The Simple Art of Smiling

We use them each and every day. In fact, I am 99% sure you will have used one today, if not even in the last few hours since lunch. It is a symbol universally known that can be understood in every language and by people of essentially any age: the smiley emoji. Of course, one cannot mention the smiley emoji without using a visual example…..

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We all use this useful little guy countless times throughout our life but where did it come from? Well, as part of today’s history lesson, I am going to take you back to Massachusetts in 1963 where a gentleman by the name of Harvey Ball, who was a commercial artist, first coined the image that was going to become renowned around the world as part of a task to boost employee morale at a local firm through the design of an happy face…and it only took him 10 minutes (your piece of trivia for the day!). It may have only taken 10 minutes to create, but it is an image that has become iconic and will undoubtedly be passed through a plethora of generations; reflecting how simplicity and a smile can be the quickest and most effective solutions to any issue.

However, as a response to the fear that the smiley face was becoming over-commercialised, and so it was not an act being reproduced genuinely between person to person, Mr. Ball made the executive decision to create “World Smile Day”. This beautiful day is dedicated to the simple art of smiling and to ensure that on at least one day in every year, we take the time out of our day to put a smile on someone’s face and to therefore restore happiness across the world.

Being in the hospitality industry, there is almost no symbol more synonymous with our offering than the smiley face because our ultimate goal is to create lasting memories for our guests that leave them walking out of reception with you guessed it, a smile. If our customers leave without a smile, then we have not done our job right. Therefore, we present to you our lovely readers, the 10 things that have us smiling this season at The Spires and hopefully our smiles will in turn put one on your face too so as to spread the cheer.

  1. Customer Satisfaction

Being in the hospitality industry, one of things that makes us smile the brightest is going as far as we can to deliver the ultimate guest experience and to know that we have succeeded in making our guests smile in return. That is why Trip Advisor reviews are such a key reason for our happiness as it is great to hear first-hand how our guest’s stay was and what made their stay (hopefully!) enjoyable. It helps us to determine what to keep on doing and what to improve upon. Having worked in the Front of House, I can personally attest to how there was nothing that brightened my day quite like knowing I had put a smile on one of my customer’s faces whether it had been through the simple act of giving them directions; generating a WiFi pin (something which never fails to raise a smile!) or merely giving them the key to their apartment. There is no feeling quite as potent or as powerful as knowing you have impacted someone’s day in a positive way, and it is amazing how it is the smallest things that can have someone flashing those pearls.

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  1. The Apartment Collection

-This is the latest development at The Spires and has seen us moving up in the world by become a serviced apartment agent as well as a serviced apartment operator. As a result, we are now a one-stop-shop for all our customer’s serviced apartments needs and so whether they want to stay in the UK or even in far-flung locations like Asia or Australia, we can make it happen. Therefore, we are smiling as we have expanded our business and are therefore in a position which enables us to better meet and serve the rapidly evolving needs of our customers. It is great to know that wherever our customers choose to go, we can play a part in creating the ultimate vacation for them. To learn more and understand why we are smiling, check out our dedicated website to “The Apartment Collection – By The Spires” – www.theapartmentcollection.co.uk.

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  1. The Spires in Edinburgh

-If there is anything that has had us smiling this season it has been the much anticipated opening of our newest location: The Spires Edinburgh. With a mix of Studio, One-Bedroom, Two-Bedroom and Two-Bedroom Plus apartments, we can cater to a wide range of accommodation requirements and whichever style of apartment you stay in, you are guaranteed a luxury experience due to the tasteful, refined surroundings of our modern and beautifully designed apartments. Conveniently located only minutes away from the action of some of Edinburgh’s most renowned streets, a certain Princes Street is only a hop and skip away, The Spires Edinburgh offers an oasis of calm from all the hustle and excitement emanating through the historic, stunning streets. In particular, the amazing top floor views of the Firth of the Forth have us smiling due to the stunning blend of city and nature. To learn more, visit our dedicated Edinburgh page: www.thespires.co.uk/edinburgh-serviced-apartments-and-suites.

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  1. New Arrivals

-Whether they are new guests or loyal customers, happiness and big grins always stems from the arrival of guests to The Spires. It is a new chance to make another positive impression and to hopefully make another happy guest.

  1. Social Media Interaction

-Every ‘Follow’, ‘Like’ or ‘Retweet’ has us grinning like a Cheshire Cat because it gives us a chance to successfully engage with our guests and to feel like we are building a relationship with them – even when they are not staying with us. That is why we try to cover as many social media channels as possible so that whatever our guests are into, whether it is being a Master Tweeter or a prolific Pinterest pinner or even a passionate blogger, we can reach out and talk to them. It may be misplaced vanity, but every new follower we get makes us feel like we have done a job well done and that we are appreciated (hint: follow us please, it has been “scientifically proven” how increased likes leads to smiling ;))

  1. Snack Table

-It is the foundation of every office across the nation: the snack table. No office is complete without one and no office productive. Whenever we are feeling down, tired or just plain gluttonous, it is our never-ending stashes of biscuits and tea/coffee that we turn to so as to restore our joy and to turn that frown upside down in rapid speed time – particularly when cake glorious cake is involved. As they say, there is nothing that a good cup of tea and a Kit-Kat cannot solve! Click here to read more about everyone’s favourite table: https://thespiressuites.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/the-snack-table-2/

  1. Travelling

-Being under the umbrella of the tourism industry, travelling is something that we all love to engage in. Whether it is going to exotic locations like Dubai or India to liaise with potential suppliers on a business trip or even just taking mini-breaks to one of our respective locations like Birmingham, the chance to make new connections, to see new places and to experience new cultures always has us smiling because the world was made to be seen and explored and these are memories that will last a lifetime.

  1. Fall

-Get the warm mugs of cocoa out and that favourite scarf your grandma knitted because the fall/winter season is here! Between the sugary sweet yet spectacularly spooky mystery of Halloween and the breath-taking allure and magic of Bonfire Night, there is so much to look forward to. Whether it is the colourful array of crisp leaves that line the streets, the new selection of clothes in the shops or the temptation of seasonal products such as Pumpkin Spiced Latter, there is nothing quite like the Autumn atmosphere to put a warm smile on our faces to defend ourselves against the increasing chill.

  1. Friday Afternoon

-Some of us may have the October holidays to look forward to and some of us may not, but there is one holiday around the world that never gets ignored; Friday afternoon. Whether you have an action filled weekend that sees you take an exhilarating and much anticipated mini-break or merely a relaxing weekend which sees you become best friends with your couch and Netflix, we know you are lying if you say that the corners of your mouth do not turn up into a smile as that much-watched clock hand hits 5pm. Let’s be honest, it is not so much just a smile but also a Hallelujah!

  1. Working at The Spires

-*Cheese Alert* and it has arrived in all its cheesy glory! I cannot speak for everyone, but coming into The Spires always makes me smile as I am yet to work with a lovelier, more welcoming array of people. Whenever there is a tough moment, there is always someone there to support you or make you laugh (normally with a biscuit or cup of tea in tow) and it makes for a really positive working environment.

Remember, even the simplest, smallest act of putting a smile on someone else’s face can change that person’s day as well as your own. Sometimes we think we are not capable of making a change in the world but that mere power of making someone forget all the stress and sadness that maybe currently inhabits their life is a mighty skill that we should never forget. They say that money makes the world go round, but maybe so does smiling.

We told you what makes us smile, now tell us what makes you smile!

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Sources: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/amy-packham/world-smile-day_b_8226728.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvey_Ball

Travel with Confidence: Quality Assessment Programmes

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Recent years have seen the introduction of new online accommodation platforms such as Air B&B where individuals can put up any property they own and travellers can choose to rent it out as part of their holiday experience. The surge in popularity for Air B&B probably stems from how it helps to cut costs as well as offers a unique accommodation experience which cannot be found by going down traditional accommodation routes e.g. treehouses can be rented; you cannot get more unique than that. It is even starting to make waves into the business travel arena although the BridgeStreet IQ report: Business Travel Insights 2015 reflects how only approximately 30% of Business Travel policies allow it as an accommodation source. This could potentially link to the pertinent issue of Air B&B in that there is no guarantee of quality. As owners put up their local properties for rent, there is no inspection for them to make sure that the facilities and experience they will be offering will be of an acceptable standard. To surmise, there is no essence of quality assurance.

If you are travelling, either for leisure or corporate, undoubtedly you will have invested some money as well as stress and you will want your stay to go as smoothly as possible in order to have the optimum travel experience. In effect, you will want to travel with confidence and know that wherever you are staying has your welfare in mind as the priority. Quality Assurance plays a pivotal role in developing that confidence because it entails the inspection of accommodation properties to make sure they are meeting the defined standards and benchmarks of the industry.

If you happen to scroll down to the depths of the bottom of our rather beautiful web pages, you will find a logo that you will probably be unfamiliar with. This logo represents how The Spires is part of a Quality Assessment Programme which is implemented by the serviced apartment’s key industry body: The Association of Serviced Apartment Providers (ASAP). So, what does this mean?

Quality Assurance ASAP

Under ASAP’s Quality Assessment Programme, we receive an internet review analysis, a mystery shopping initiative and an annual quality assessment visit. Most critically is the annual assessment which includes the assessor staying overnight so they can fully experience the service standards on offer and see just how comfy the beds are (in all seriousness, the comfort of the bed is genuinely graded!). When grading, assessors take into account core scheme requirements which covers essential legislative compliance, such as in regard to health and safety (electricity, fire risks, heating and lighting) and accessibility, as well as critical features which although may not deter bookings in their absence, are held highly in regards to guest expectations e.g. emergency contact details and an adequate ratio of bathrooms to guests. After the basics and essentials are covered, the Quality Scoring Mechanism is taken into account which considers the quality not just of the apartment offering itself, but also of the firm and its members. Therefore, grading begins to be generated based on everything from location to lighting to furnishing & fixtures to cleanliness. The whole guest experience from the booking and arrival processes are all taken into account and compared against ASAP’s high standards in regards to quality and security so no stone is left unturned; online guest satisfaction reviews are even considered.

Therefore, it is clear that the assessment is a rather rigorous process but it is one that is most definitely worthwhile because we can vouch to our guests that the experience we advertise, is the one they will receive. The only surprises they should get should be good ones! Service, integrity, efficiency and smiles are all part of The Spires’ values and consequently we wear our ASAP Quality Assessment badge with pride as testament that we abide by these values.

There is so much stress associated with holidays at it is, why make it worse by travelling with that niggling anxiety in the back of your mind that maybe that hotel or serviced apartment you booked might be a little bit sketchy? Trip Advisor is a great source for obtaining objective perspectives of a particular accommodation; however, nothing can quite determine the quality of a property like an official Quality Assessment Programme.

Moreover, Quality Assurance should be part of your purchasing decision-making process because it is only set to become increasingly pertinent with it being expanded globally (the US Corporate Housing  and Providers Association are interested in grading) and with the consideration of differentiating apartment firms by quality banding underneath the Quality Programme. Numerous reports discuss the rapid growth of the serviced apartment industry, particularly in recent years, and through quality assessment programmes such as ASAP’s, it is hoped that a benchmark of quality can be set for the industry so as to keep standards high and guests happy. As published in the March/April issue of Buying Business Travel, ASAP is really hoping this year to publicize the importance of accreditation to business and leisure tourists alike; something that we hope this blog will help with.

Sources

ASAP: http://theasap.site-ym.com/page/V2_qualityassess/? 

http://www.relocatemagazine.com/articles/fiona-murchie-03-d3-2015-shaking-it-up-changes-in-the-serviced-apartments-sector

http://buyingbusinesstravel.com/news/0523497-serviced-apartment-body-unveils-accreditation-logo