Tale number 1: Are you sitting comfortably? Then let us begin… A lady of our acquaintance thought it might be nice to treat five friends who had seen her through a difficult patch to a stay at Le Manoir aux’ Quat’Saisons. She decided upon afternoon tea, dinner and a night’s stay and duly phoned up to make the reservation, only to be told that it was impossible to book a single night’s stay over a weekend; it was only acceptable to book two nights, a package well beyond her already-generous budget. She rejoined with a decisive ‘Up yours, then’, based on the notion that if they didn’t want her business that badly, she didn’t particularly want to give it to them. The ladies went off to have a delightful experience somewhere a lot less costly and a lot more hospitable towards that budget.
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Afternoon tea: it’s a treat, isn’t it? A civilised delight enjoying a renaissance across the UK, with customers choosing to socialise over fairy-light cakes, morsels of savouries and a traditional cuppa, rather than over a boozy lunch or dinner. You would probably consider it one of the better value-for-money options when it comes to dining out. Well, according to the latest Which? survey, you’d be completely wrong. In fact, afternoon tea is looking like it might be one of the biggest rip-offs around.
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Does anyone else think the restaurant industry is, well, a bit last century? It seems we spent some time inventing the out-to-eat concept, some more time getting it right (or not – some places still struggle with the concept of food and service in the same sentence) and then we let it quietly moulder away as if there was simply nothing more to be done about it. And so the industry has become something of a lumbering behemoth: no-one seems quite able to innovate and maintain before being buried under a pile of press cuttings and selling out to a chain. Read full post
Are there many foodstuffs as contentious as foie gras? No matter who or where you are, you’ll probably have an opinion: it’s posh food, innit; it’s a horrific and cruel process; it’s delicious and I’d smear myself with it daily; it’s too expensive; it’s hard to get… And it seems opinions remain polarised worldwide. Come 1 July, California will see it banned throughout the state (although note Chicago did something similar a few years ago before changing its mind and New York thought long and hard about it) although other countries, particularly the French, natch, remain heartily in favour of its consumption. There is a high-profile, celebrity-rammed campaign in this country to see the sale of it banned and many restaurants feel forced off the fence and on to one side or the other, some even intimidated into banning it by threats of violence from campaigners. Read full post
If you’re a Londoner, you’ll soon find your favourite fast-food joint may not be as satisfying as it used to be. The imminent launch of the Healthier Catering Commitment scheme is looking to the capital’s fast-food businesses to reduce the amount of fat, sugar and salt in their food to help the unwary and frankly dim keep slim. If you live elsewhere in the country (and bear in mind the South-East has the lowest obesity rates in the UK) carry on gorging – no-one cares.
Fugu fans – rejoice. Tokyo are relaxing their ‘stringent’ rules on sales of the deadly puffer fish; where once a chef required special training and a licence to prepare and sell this Japanese delicacy, the powers-that-be have decided that, as death rates have fallen to an all-time low, you no longer require the afore-mentioned licence to process and sell. Um… isn’t that just asking for trouble? Read full post
Once again Michelin has found itself plunged into direst controversy over the recent news that celebrated Aussie chef Skye Gyngell has left her much-acclaimed quirky restaurant at Petersham Nurseries in Richmond because of the ‘Michelin curse’ brought about by her deserved star rating. She claims that customer expectations rocketed to unreasonable levels and complaints have soared – not, let it be noted, about the food, but about the rickety tables, the outside toilets and the greenhouse surroundings; ie, customers expecting the intimated level of opulence evoked by a star rating were disappointed at the ‘au naturel’ surroundings of a working plant nursery. It seems that Michelin ratings bring with them a certain level of customer expectation; the organisation has educated – indoctrinated – the once-naive customer to such an extent, the centre doesn’t hold when the framework is not adhered to. Read full post
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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