At its inception, TripAdvisor was seen as a real Eureka moment for the hospitality industry. An opportunity for the customer to become involved, a foreshadowing of the now near-inevitable and constant interaction between provider and consumer, an exciting step forward into the world of on-the-ground civilian journalism – and it seemed to work. Now bestriding the world with 18 sites across 27 countries and 50 million users per month, the TripAdvisor behemoth looks solid as a rock… but the cracks are starting, not just to show, but to expose gaping-wide fissures in its supposedly morally unassailable structure.
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Unless you’re Michael Winner, or particularly au fait with each and every half-decent restaurant and possessed of an admirable persistence, it’s very hard to ensure you are given a really good table, or at least one halfway satisfactory when you eat out. You might think it not a matter of great importance; the service, the food, the wine are all much more significant factors to many of us but a poor table can ruin a potentially great night out. Obviously some quite like the busy thoroughfare quality of the toilet entrance – it adds content to the non-existent conversation – but for the rest of us, that draught from the frequently-opened door, the clash of cutlery at the work station, the looming pillar blocking your view of any helpful staff can make you unwilling to return. Read full post
Restaurant campaigns: what are they for? There, we’ve said it. An organisation somewhere, usually highly ethically minded, begins a website and endeavours to sign restaurants up to it, sending them window stickers in return, promising the proprietors this is what will increase custom. If you can give them sustainable sea snails, beef from the cow next door, knowledge that your leftover cooking oil is powering the pizza-delivery vans across the street, they will throng through your doors. And do we? Do we ever, ever pay any attention to these campaigns? Do we heck. Read full post
2012: The year of all things British. With the Olympics a mere 200 days away, national pride is set to soar. It’s time to show the rest of the world just how great Britain can be – and not just on the sporting front. Rumour has it they’re laying it on thick with the catering too, drafting in the heavyweights of British cuisine to show Johnny Foreigner we can cook. No, really we can. Read full post
It doesn’t get much bigger than this.’ Ah, famous last words. No sooner had the owners of Cosmo, the pan-Asian chain, launched their 800-seater in Croydon than some bright spark in Bristol thought they could beat it and so lucky Bristolians can now gaze in dribbling awe at the 1000-seater Za Za Bazaar, newly opened and ready to indulge your every dining whimsy. Read full post
The latest story to do the rounds, if you haven’t already heard, is that of the tweeting chef. Alexis Gauthier, late of the acclaimed Roussillon in London, recently opened his second Soho restaurant, Ducksoup. In a truly weird coincidence, it being a brand new restaurant in the heart of London, two national food critics both booked to have lunch there. On the same day. (What were they thinking?) One was reviewing, one merely having a civilian lunch. Gauthier happened to be in the restaurant too (we sense it’s getting rather crowded), got rather giddy and made the awe-inspiring decision to tweet his opinions on the critics’ behaviour and conversation, ignorant of their individual purposes there. (Equally strangely, neither critic seemed aware of Gauthier’s presence at any point and acknowledged him.) Read full post
This time of year heralds many fine noises: jingling bells, carol singers, the slightly panicky gobble of turkeys and the distinct sound of knives being sharpened as the awards season grinds into gear. Up and down the land, sales and PR bods wear their fingerpads to the bone conference-calling favoured and not-so-favoured clients, wooing them with promises of shiny gold statues – or perhaps carrots – to display in reception, testament to their excellence in toilet hygiene or decor aesthetics. But, frankly, does it make a difference to you? Read full post