How do you feed lunch to 10 million people?

An interesting thought from Matt Ridley.

You don’t know what they will want to eat, nor even what they will eat. You don’t know the exact time, somewhere between 11 am and 2 pm. And there’s 10 million people going to do this.

How are you going to achieve this task?

It’s one that London manages every weekday.

Markets work, eh?

39 comments on “How do you feed lunch to 10 million people?

  1. I seem to recall hearing of some Soviet envoy asking who was in charge of providing food for London, decades ago.

  2. Well, socialism could do it.

    You’d have to eat gruel and bring your own tin receptacle.

    And of course, a few thousand would sacrifice themselves each day for the good of the many. Involuntarily.

    But yes, socialism could do it.

  3. John Miller–No socialism –in itself–could not.

    Socialism has always been a parasite on something pre-existing. The peasant farmers of Russia or China fed the bastards. Western help –cash from fuckers like Armand Hammer, grain from Peanut Carter –still a better choice than nuclear war. And of course in the West endless tax thieving keeps them going.

    Sans anything to steal even the minimal gruel could not be provided by socialism.

  4. You’d kill half of them before it, thus reducing the burden, and then you’d make the rest queue for nine hours for food which lies rotting in a warehouse thirty miles away.

  5. Surely the question is how to get as many of the 10 million people to spend their money with you each day.

  6. OK, there are some decent restaurants in London nowadays but they are not places that you can have lunch at every day.

    But I wonder how many of the 10 million just eat the same shit over and over again because there isn’t any other (affordable) choice.

    Unless you have a particular place you like to go, the options are basically supermarket sandwich or the same thing at double the price from a sandwich chain, depending on your budget.

    In contrast go to Asia and there are so many things to eat everywhere, both in cheap countries and expensive countries. Even in many African countries I never have a problem deciding where to eat.

  7. John: ‘Unless you have a particular place you like to go, the options are basically supermarket sandwich or the same thing at double the price from a sandwich chain, depending on your budget.’

    Or bringing in lunch or a sandwich you’ve made yourself…

  8. Sorry Mr E, I forgot to say first you’d have to decide who was worth feeding, so you’d have to shoot all those who failed to vote for St Jeremy, which reduces the scale of the problem.

  9. “But I wonder how many of the 10 million just eat the same shit over and over again because there isn’t any other (affordable) choice.

    Unless you have a particular place you like to go, the options are basically supermarket sandwich or the same thing at double the price from a sandwich chain, depending on your budget.

    In contrast go to Asia and there are so many things to eat everywhere, both in cheap countries and expensive countries. Even in many African countries I never have a problem deciding where to eat.”

    Fuck me, are you for real? You as a western tourist with western wealth never have any trouble finding lovely little places with all manner of delightful ethnic foods to sample when travelling in poorer lands? Quelle surprise! How about having a look a bit off the beaten track where the poor sods who grew that food are probably eating rice or maize meal for the 365th day straight, because thats all they can afford?

    Apart from all which, if we had no rules or regulations in this country about who can prepare food, and how, and where, then we also might have all manner of eclectic food stalls and outlets all over the place. But you’d undoubtedly complain about that, because it was stinking up the place, and making everyone ill, and we can’t have all this unfettered free market in pursuit of profit now can we???

  10. People taking care of people for profit. People, not ‘London.’

    “Socialism couldn’t.”

    But capitalism couldn’t either. People feed people. Not economic or government strategies.

    ‘It’s one that London manages every weekday.

    Markets work, eh? ‘

    Ipso facto, it’s not ‘London’ that does it; it’s the people of London.

  11. ““But I wonder how many of the 10 million just eat the same shit over and over again because there isn’t any other (affordable) choice.

    Unless you have a particular place you like to go, the options are basically supermarket sandwich or the same thing at double the price from a sandwich chain, depending on your budget.”

    Always stuns me the lack of initiative & innovation displayed by so many. I can think of dozens of places for a cheap enjoyable meal in Central London alone. Just takes a modicum of lateral thinking & exploration.
    The Computer Market, Queensway. Next the Ice Rink. All those stallholders’ll be wanting some nosh. And it won’t be Subway or McDonalds. And somewhere near, because they won’t want to be leaving their stalls for long. Someone will be catering for them. And…yep! Back of the market, through a door. Cafeteria. Lebanese based. Chicken & rice, generous portion, under a fiver, last time I ate there.
    City & I used North London Regional Health Authority’s subsidised staff canteen. Almost Egon Ronay. And they never check if you belong there. Euston Station’s got an excellent canteen the rail staff use. Try to look like you do a proper job.

  12. John–Alo the vast range of foods available in the Far East has to do with the fact that people there don’t have all the bullshit regs and jobsworths that we do.

  13. And staff canteens in hospitals, anywhere.

    OK, so when I was skimming through the comments, I thought bloke in spain was saying that staff canteens in hospitals, anywhere, regularly feed around 10 million people.
    Then I stopped and read the thread more carefully…

  14. I once got very bad food poisoning in Bolivia. Since then, when in the third world, I become a vegetarian (even in 5* hotels), never eat street food, often eat in Macdonalds and use a hand sanitizer regularly. Boring – but at least it’s safe.

  15. Jonathan: I switched off as soon as Kirsty Wark appeared. I had seen reviews of the theatre version that weren’t very complimentary. The question I had is, why did the Beeb choose this particular piece of left-wing polemic to publicise as opposed to any other piece of theatrical left-wing polemic that is on offer in London currently? It couldn’t possibly be because he’s a meeja person like themselves?

  16. Trotsky solved this one: “He who does not obey, shall not eat”.

    Should get Spudda salivating, that quotation there…

  17. @Jim,

    Not wealthy tourist stuff, actually. Hong Kong for example, not famous for being poor – you can lunch (or dinner even) for about $4. There are people there on ordinary incomes who never cook for themselves. Try and do that in an entirely comparable eatery in New York and you discover a sandwich costs, what, $17 plus extortionate tip, these days?

  18. Doesn’t even take initiative. I could eat lunch at Borough market every day and never eat the same thing twice.

  19. @Theo,

    I once got very bad food poisoning from an extremely upmarket restaurant in London. I still go back to the same place because shit happens.

  20. @BiG: agreed. I’ve eaten street food all over; Mexico, Cambodia, etc. Only had food poisoning in London. More to the point you’re more likely to get food poisoning eating salad abroad than meat.

  21. Don’t know. I had shrimp in Mexico City that seemed like it had been left out from the day before. Just a hint of rot.

  22. MattyJ

    Food hygiene standards are relatively high in most of Latin America and east Asia, compared to India and Africa. I was once part of a 20-person delegation visiting India: I followed my third world diet – only cooked vegetarian food – and I was the only one not to get delhi belly.

    BiG: lightning does strike twice. I’ve had responsibility for catering outlets and basic food hygiene regs are not difficult to fulfill. If a restaurant is careless enough to let it happen once, it is likely to happen again.

  23. @Theo,

    If, like me, you are reckless enough to eat coastal marine filter-feeding shellfish you have to accept a level of risk. There are only two ways to cook scallops – inadequately (from a food hygiene perspective) or thoroughly (the latter being more a juice extraction exercise). In the case of oysters, you cook them either not at all or thoroughly.

    Scallops heated for sufficient time to a food-safety-sufficient internal temperature to get yer 10^9 bug kill, are tough and tasteless lumps of rubber that are not worth eating.

    The restaurant’s hygiene standards can do nothing for the sheer bad luck that you’ll occasionally get a bad’un that feasted on some sick bastard’s untreated effluent. And because I only live once, I’d honestly rather put up with a bout of norovirus or salmonella every 10 years than have everything nuked to bland New York food hygiene standards.

  24. When I lived in Camberwell in the early 90s, as an experiment we got a street atlas of the area and started putting pins in the restaurants within a quarter mile radius . We got bored after about 90. There were four excellent takeaways within line of sight from the living room window. London is absolutely heaving with restaurants, and you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg, either. That’s not even counting the pubs.

  25. BiCR, did you frequent the Golden Grill?

    Odd to think we may have brushed past one another in the street …

  26. I had lunch once at Marco Pierre White’s Mirabelle (£400 a head, I wasn’t paying) and I got a terrible case of the trots, and I rarely suffer from that kind of thing having shat it all out of me over the years in the Middle East. Salad is not a good option – they water and wash it with cholera flavoured water. Well cooked meat and bread and cooked tomatoes/onions is where it’s at.

  27. Edward Lud: can’t recall the Golden Grill, but we used to eat in any number of places from Acre Lane to Denmark Hill. I’d wander up to the Elephant or down to Streatham Hill if I hadn’t anything better to do and there was no shortage of choice there either. If we’d been out on the lash all night and wanted to carry on, then an early Tube up to Farringdon would catch the places that were open to serve the meat porters coming off shift at Smithfield (oh, to be 21 and stupid again). I doubt the choice has narrowed in the last 30 years. If you can’t get a decent meal in London you’re not trying hard enough.

  28. The thing that’s worked for me with food hygiene is ignoring it. I eat anything, anywhere & rarely wash food at home. Just if there’s something visibly moving or it’s got yuk on it from something else. Seems to work. I’ve the resistance of a cockroach. I can eat anything, anywhere without a qualm.
    And it does seem fastidious eaters succumb the quickest to the trots.

  29. Incidentally, one of the most overworked expressions around is “food poisoning”. Food poisoning is when it contains toxins (once, a long time ago) It gives your kidneys a bending can ruin your liver & strip the lining out your gut. Symptoms tend to include blinding headache, shitting or vomiting blood, high temperature, the shakes & a whole host of other nasties including death. You do not get it by combining half a dozen lagers with a vindaloo

  30. It is true that some people are more or less immune to food poisoning (call it that). One good marker is blood type; those with A, B, or even better, AB, are far more resistent to gut based bacterial infections.

  31. And it does seem fastidious eaters succumb the quickest to the trots.

    Could be you’ve got cause/effect the wrong way round there – in my house Ill eat anything, my wife not so much.

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