Forget Brexit, for me the news story of the week is pubco Young's £28 sharing plate of cauliflower steaks. How much?! But there is a hidden truth behind the social media storm.


It wasn't just meat eaters that were shocked at charging the same for cauliflower as two 6oz sirloin steaks with chips – vegans took to the internet to show their ire at the pubco as well.

At first, Young's defended the dish as a premium item. This is understandable. This wasn't just cauliflower steaks, after all. It was also tomatoes, mushrooms and olive oil mashed potato. And what about the cooking and prep required? But the problem for both omnivores and vegans was, of course, the relative cost of meat to veg.

Eventually, after a social media barrage, Young's took the item off.

I always find this kind of outrage amusing. Why? Well, people have been happily paying significantly more than some ingredients for decades - and have no problem with it. Perhaps the best example is coffee.

When I was growing up, the idea of paying £3 or £4 for a large coffee would have been laughable. But when the coffee chains like Starbucks, Costa and Caffe Nero started selling 'the culture' of drinking good quality beans prepared by a 'barista' and not "Jane's son working down the caff"...everything changed.

The value wasn't in the ingredient, it was in the preparation of coffee, the soft jazz, the big seats.

Young's is simply following this trend – and you can't blame it. And it isn't just coffee shops who have created massive margins based on shifting food and drink culture, look at casual dining chains.

In my last year of university, a friend got a job working in one of the early successful Italian chains. After his first shift, he came to the pub and shook his head. "£7.50 for tomato & basil penne! They really pay this for some tomatoes and dried pasta!" (It's now £8 to £9, if you wonder).

I then mentioned popcorn at cinemas... but let's not even go there. We could also talk about burgers and pizza in the relative cost of ingredients to profit margin in the past couple of decades.

The point is that trying to decide on the relative value of a dish based on ingredients is a foolish game. In fact, I would argue that only cask beer is proper value for money nowadays - if you are looking at just ingredient costs, labour and delivery.

This isn't to defend the dish, merely to explain it, and for people to not be surprised when a pub or dining company look to follow pricing trends.