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Critics and Food Writers


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Given that you mention above that you don't have a business manager yet, much of the criticism in this thread seems a bit mean-spirited. Nevertheless, as everyone else has had their tuppence worth, I may as well join in.

This is from the perspective of a journalist (Mar's advice re. press is excellent, by the way) who knows a lot about business and a little about dinner:

1. Track down the Ramsay's Food Nightmares episode featuring Abstract in Inverness, where Walnuts uses lessons learned about why his venture in Glasgow failed to stop a hugely talented French chef's ambitious folly going the same way. (It's from back when the show hadn't fallen into rigid format, so is actually quite useful.)

2. The menu looks great to me, with loads of stuff I want to order. But it will look daunting to my father, who likes a steak, and will make my vegetarian sister feel awkward (you put "vegetarian options on request" on the bottom of the menu without including a veg option or two in the main text ... Are you assuming that, because they don't eat meat, they won't be interested in what they might be eating?) Therefore, you've lost my custom for any family get-together type of event, which I'd assume would be your mainstay given your location.

3. There doesn't seem to be a novelty. Everywhere needs a unique selling point, and I'm failing to spot one at the moment. Haunted bedrooms, a whiff of scandal, snail porridge, whatever -- yes, I know it's cheesy, but if you want to attract journalists you have to give them a hook. For starters, who's Alexander?

4. Unless you're doing 60+ covers a night, the menu's far too long. Keep the populars (bet you're doing ten chickens for every venison ordered) and introduce the other stuff as "specials" when you know you're going to be busy. That should reduce the shopping bill, as well as helping to keep the local cathment area interested.

5. The much-discussed scollops and the venison by royal appointment ... great, but even I could make ingredients like this taste good, and I struggle to boil water.

6. Aren't there any local suppliers worth talking to?

7. I think you're rather missing the point about the tasting menu. It doesn't matter if you're actually providing 68 courses, there's only so much food you can provide without it all going Mr Creosote. And £68 is probably too much for dinner, price elasticity-wise. Knock out a few of the mid-couses, cut it to £50 and include a coffee at the end, and you'll sell three times the number (keep the full monty as a "menu prestige" if you want). Yes, I know it's a bit lame to include coffee, but people genuinely do believe they're getting better value with "all in" deals.

8. 300% mark-ups on wine don't win you any friends.

Good luck, and apologies if it seems like we're all getting at you.

Edited by naebody (log)
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I can't seem to get this topic out of my mind...

When I was trying to bridge the gap between being a journalist and a PR I found this book and this other particularly helpful. Keep in mind they are somewhat "American" (if you know what I mean) in its approach, so some of their tactics might be a bit over the top.

I've been looking through your webpage, too, and without wanting to sound cruel, I have to say it's not particularly eye catching or informative. And what I find unforgivable is it's not yet finished, if the restaurant is already open.

Also, try offering a little extra to your web visitors. Maybe an easy recipe. Or have you thought about blogging about your restaurant? I know it sounds like a lot of work, but that would probably help people visit your page more often, and biting their interest about your food.

Mar

Middlebrow Catalan gastronomy??????

http://baixagastronomia.blogspot.com/

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Hate to say this but the pricing on that menu, IMO, is too high. Without a Michelin star to back that up averaging £14 for a starter is optimistic in a location like Limpsfield. £17 for scallops :shock:

As a comparison the (2*) Square charges £80 for 7 course tasting menu, your 6 course tasting menu is £68. :hmmm:

Please note that I'm not saying the cooking isn't up to it (I've no idea) just that I would think it may be a struggle to attract customers in a that sort of location, I hope I'm wrong :smile:

Edited to add: Actually you don't necessarily need a Michelin star (though it would possibly help) but I would have thought that you would need some good reviews before you can go to those prices.

Dear Matthew

I do agree were not cheap, and thats why we offer the cheaper brasserrie aswell

I m intrested in your opinions on Limpsfield, because it is one of the most affluent areas in Surrey and we are surrounded by money

Also your shock at the price of Scallops do you know how expensive hand dived scallops are?

Maybe i need to offer more explanation on the tasting menu as its more like 10 course you would get

Yep we do need to get some reviews and i had a michelin star before i went to work in Shanghai so hopefully one will come next year, all the brigade have got michlen experience, 2 of them 3 star and the restaurant manager who starts tuesday, fingers crosssed (dont get me on to restaurant managers) is ex manoir, waterside and Ducasse, so hopefully we have got things in place to move forward

I am also looking at the pricing to put on a couple of cheaper starters

Sorry Simon,

I hope you do really well, but I am also of the opinion that the prices are far too high to begin with.

imo, a softer opening might have been the way to go because at those prices you need to be spot on from the off.

you're a neighbourhood restaurant with west end prices, and if everything goes to plan this will soon be overlooked - just doesn't seem like you've got much margin for error.

I do hope it works out though. :smile:

A meal without wine is... well, erm, what is that like?

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The thing is do you open your doors at the price you need to charge to make the margins, but it puts people off from trying you out, or do you start by making less money,even just breaking even, and get people in to try your stuff.I suspect that once you get the people in for that crucial first visit, you can impress them, and then you have them for ever.I think the later is the way to go.70% GP of bugger all is bugger all.

The punters here on EG are all mentioning price, not your track record for producing the goods, and to be honest, that's what people in the real world will think.I don't think it's in question your ability to cook like a bastard, but the pricing is a barrier for people.Don't give people any excuse not to come.

My personal opinion for restaurants is to undersell and over deliver.

PS, Most people here on EG are offering advice that is honest, if harsh.God knows i've heard enough opinions about my place, but 90% of it comes from people that atually want to help.It's just it's very easy to be brutally honest when not face to face.(an advantage in this type of situation)

Best of luck

Adrian

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70% GP of bugger all is bugger all.

My personal opinion for restaurants is to undersell and over deliver.

It's just it's very easy to be brutally honest when not face to face.(an advantage in this type of situation)

Best of luck

Adrian

amen.

I didn't mean to sound critical, but bd is right. Far better to get constructive criticism - however unwelcome - than people not turning up or returning and not telling you the reason why. What you're trying to do is hard, but the best of luck.

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I'd add that like any business the first thing you need is market share.  Get your margins after that.

I'd like to add: that's not true. The world does not need another business running at a loss in the false belief that it can put its prices up once the competition go to the wall.

Given two-thirds of Britain's M3* restaurants happily co-exist in one village, then I'm sure the Tandridge area can cope with a posh place and a Pizza Express. All you need to do is show the punters that the former provides value equal to or better than the latter.

Edited by naebody (log)
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I'd add that like any business the first thing you need is market share.  Get your margins after that.

I'd like to add: that's not true. The world does not need another business running at a loss in the false belief that it can put its prices up once the competition go to the wall.

Given two-thirds of Britain's M3* restaurants happily co-exist in one village, then I'm sure the Tandridge area can cope with a posh place and a Pizza Express. All you need to do is show the punters that the former provides value equal to or better than the latter.

Sure some people/writers think its a myth. Pick any subject/statement and I can find a book on amazon that put forwards the opposite case.

See how well you do with no market though.

I wasn't saying run at a loss and certainly wasn't saying wait for your competition to go to the wall. But it would be sensible to build up a client base (market) at the expense of high margins imo. If those high prices stop people coming through the door you'll have nothing.

Edited by gnoos (log)
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When Pizza Express opens a new joint, the public know what it does, and the price point, it has a brand image.We are talking about creating something from scratch.

Out of interest, how long did , for example , The Fat Duck take to establish itself as a destination restaurant.Was it pitched at the same price area that it is now? Was the menu the same?

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I have read egullet for a while but this thread urged me to join. It worries me that you seem to expect a star next year as if then all your worries will be over. I am of the opinion that far too many chefs cook for michelin and this is not particularly good for the customer. Also with an ever changing and secretive criteria created by michelin it's hard to know how to get a star these days.

If the only thing you focus on is pleasing your customers then they will come back and give you repeat business, it will be slow at first but will pay off in the end. Take the advice on this thread it is all sound. All chefs know how much divers are but customers don't give a toss, what are you going to do advertise the cost price so that the customers know which dishes are better value comparitively?

When you have lots of happy punters the critics will come, if they don't like you it doesn't matter because you are busy anyway. If they come too early and don't like you it could break the business.

Remember, we cook for a living, we are not superstars

Matt Christmas.

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Ouch!! The critic can break us… an individual puts their whole life savings on the line and some pro comes in and writes about their experience.

How subjective!

Sidebar... the owner and chef had a concept in mind... The critics have their own opinion and agenda... what they do sells newspapers.....keep in mind they come in and judge what is going on!

As a chef and restaurateur...who judges the critic?

And yes can I be subjective?

steve

Cook To Live; Live To Cook
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Yes!

I have been in the restaurant bus for 26 years... seen it a few times.

I have worked in Toronto..Edmonton..Vancouver and many other Canadian cities.

Been a member here for a while.

love the blend of the west coast page and the interactivity of the dialogue with critics on the Vancouver page.

I am a Canadian chef!

We need more of that (dialogue)

the critic does not always get it!

There is other types of marketing out there!

The best thing is; know who you want your customer to be... Never!!

Change That!!

change your funiture..plates..underwear

peace steve

Edited by stovetop (log)
Cook To Live; Live To Cook
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I believe a critic can speed up the process for a restaurant going up or down, but ultimately, resturants survive on their own merits.A good restaurant who makes it's guests happy will not be killed by a critic's review or guide book entry.

We are all critics here ,in a way, but i don't think if we all got behind a particular place ,gave it rave reviews on the internet, raised it's profile, we could make it a sucess.Sure , it would increase the amount of bums on seats for a while, but if it doesn't deliver , then it's all hot air.Same is true in reverse.

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It really is about your customer... a restaurant is an extension of the owner’s personality. Like in life we all do not get along,

People have many demands; these days in the west coast people have many crazy lifestyles and we all come from a multicultural background so that always adds to the mix.

I have found that you can not always please everyone... but shit if I am going to work 20 thousand hours a day for nothing…. the one thing I am going to do is have fun. The one thing is when you own your own place is you can use that power and determine who you will serve or better yet...Who is your customer.

Put on Metallica at full blast and you will piss off some one!

The critic is in that night......

You are as a chef having a crazy night; baby sitting your staff...

Can you really please everyone.

Please your best customers and you will stay in business

steve

Cook To Live; Live To Cook
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We are all critics here ,in a way, but i don't think if we all got behind a particular place ,gave it rave reviews on the internet, raised it's profile, we could make it a sucess.Sure , it would increase the amount of bums on seats for a while, but if it doesn't deliver , then it's all hot air.Same is true in reverse.

Everyone is a critic!

so true

...... I just opened up another restaurant.. evryone has their own interpretation of who you are.

God.. We just want to be who we are

peace steve

Cook To Live; Live To Cook
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I have read egullet for a while but this thread urged me to join.  It worries me that you seem to expect a star next year as if then all your worries will be over.  I am of the opinion that far too many chefs cook for michelin and this is not particularly good for the customer.  Also with an ever changing and secretive criteria created by michelin it's hard to know how to get a star these days.

If the only thing you focus on is pleasing your customers then they will come back and give you repeat business, it will be slow at first but will pay off in the end.  Take the advice on this thread it is all sound.  All chefs know how much divers are but customers don't give a toss, what are you going to do advertise the cost price so that the customers know which dishes are better value comparitively?

When you have lots of happy punters the critics will come, if they don't like you it doesn't matter because you are busy anyway.  If they come too early and don't like you it could break the business.

Remember, we cook for a living, we are not superstars

Yes i would like a star next year but no where have i said that that would mean all worries are over, a michelin star doesnt necerrsarrily mean a successful business, and i d definatly rather a successful business, and whats all the superstar crap at the end?

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I live in Canada... not England.

But... a restaurant is a restaurant... the world is a small place... I have fed people from all over and have worked with people from all over the world and we all are really are the same when it comes to eating.. So once again when you work 20 thousand hours a day you must have fun... so who is your customer?

Marketing!!!

The Location..location..Location

The one thing though and I would take it to my grave is this game is really about who your market is... yes the critic can take you there!

Cook To Live; Live To Cook
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