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Just some thoughts on our industry...


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This came to me on the grape vine, an interesting read.

Has been well forwarded around town.

Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

From: XXXXXXXX

Sent: Friday, 23 February 2007 2:05 PM

To: sthomsen

Subject: just some thoughts on our industry.

Dear Simon. I hope life is treating you well.

This email isn’t a personal attack on you by all means.. I just wanted to express my thoughts to you since you are such you hold such a pivotal stake in our industry.

I’ve been in this industry since I was 14 (now 36) and have been operating XXXX since 1993 (at the age of 23) .

I live, breathe and love everything about the seafood industry and the food arena alike.

I have met so many beautiful people including food writers, chefs, international chefs, celebrities etc. I have enjoyed the past 14 years immensely.

However there have been many victims and tragedies along the way and I have also met many wankers and “wanna bees” as well.

I understand your role and your responsibility and I also respect it..

however I have watched the socio economic cycles of the past decade and along with it the amount of victims in our industry it has devoured.

I for one have come very close to “packing it up “..not because I’m physically exhausted, mentally drained, or have lost my passion…but simply because I have lost in excess of a million hard earnt dollars from restaurants that have been closed by receivers.

Some of them deserved to close…many had no choice.

After reading many reviews over the years and having eaten at many of the worlds and Sydney’s best restaurants, as well as supplying most of these places, I know for a fact that most of those victims didn’t deserve to go the way they did.

I watched restaurants like 41 lose all their credibility over night and since then Dietmar has never been the same again. From a morale point of view as well as a financial point of view. Then I read the review on Summit this week and I just want to cry.

I want to cry because I know what these people do from day to day to operate a place like that. I see how much effort and money goes into what they buy every single day of the week. I eat their food, know the people and all there is to know about them and many others and I ask myself:

What did these people do to deserve such a lashing? How do the poor apprentices (future chefs of this city) feel in that kitchen after such a bashing? How would Michael Moore feel after just having put his balls on the line (buying this place) just the other day?

How do I feel as their supplier knowing that potentially upon their demise I will lose another bucket load of money?

And upon that result close my doors , sack 30 staff members and become a bankrupt?

Why should these people/chefs buy top quality produce from Sydney’s best suppliers just to have it trashed as if it were frozen imported crap that MANY of the well known restaurants use? These people aren’t even focused on their bottom lines like they should. Dietmar still battles on over a decade later buying the best produce he can afford just to stay in the gutters .

How does this happen??

Look at the kirketon: forced to sell Marron for :”fish and chips “prices to attract a good review : VALUE FOR MONEY. Look where that’s got them.

Bankruptcy , unemployment, suppliers trying to feed their families short of yet another few thousand of their had earnt dollars.

What the hell is going on????? Why do we want to exacerbate an already bad situation. This industry is in a huge mess. HUGE. You should ask these people who do 90 hours a week how they feel day in day out. Not seeing their loved ones for more than a few hours a week? Mortgages of millions maybe on the line so they can create employment for young Australians ???

I just think enough is enough. By encouraging restaurants to be working at a loss because they don’t want to upset reviewers is just suicide.

NBIF I remember you once said they weren’t really value for money. That’s so untrue!!! The quality of produce they use just doesn’t make sense to me.

In order for them to make money..they would need to charge a hell of a lot more than what they do. You should get an understanding of overheads and what goes into producing the food they do before we discuss value for money.

What you are encouraging is more pressure and unrealistic expectations.

More bankruptcies and unemployment and ultimately an industry that has beauty and glamour on the inside but a massive malignant tumor on the inside which inevitably will kill it….and everyone in it.

I personally feel sorry for these guys and my self because I get get caught up in all of the backlash in the end.

This isn’t a personal attack…just a request that you get to understand more than meets the eye…that you allow the industry to survive .

It may be too late anyway.

Best regards,

xxxxxxx

Director / Sales

xxxxxx Seafoods Pty Ltd, Unit x, xxxxxx, xxxxxx NSW 2019

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That's a very heartfelt letter, and it just puts into focus how ridiculous it is that a restaurant's fate can hinge on the opinions of one reviewer. It reminded me of two comments in the past, both of which show how a slight change in angle can make so much difference to a reviewer.

The first was from a documentary from last year where they showed Matt Moran's commenting on losing a chef's hat. He said that the then chief reviewer for the SMH, Matthew Evans, might be a trained chef, but he couldn't hack it in a kitchen. It was a put down, but an unfair one as at the very least, Evans was writing from a point where he did have some knowledge of what goes on in the kitchen and in a restaurant.

The other was from one of Marco Pierre White's books (I think it was Wild Food From Land And Sea) where he was scathing about restaurant critics who did not come from a food background - he mentioned one who was formerly a sports journalist. His point was that if a person didn't have any background or passion for food, how could they write with any authority on what was being presented on the table?

Daniel Chan aka "Shinboners"
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Someone will put the collective industry boot into me for saying this.

Whilst I don't doubt the sincerity of the letter, this letter is clearly an argument in service of the industry and conveniently disregards the fact that the restaurant industry, like many other industries, is a service provider in a commercial context.

however I have watched the socio economic cycles of the past decade and along with it the amount of victims in our industry it has devoured.

If the writer had watched the cycles closely, he would have noticed that the days of excess have not been with us for a very long time. With financial pressures from other directions such as rising house prices almost universally across the country, consumers are ever on the lookout for less pricey dining options.

We should remember one thing. The industry exists to provide what in some cases is a necessary service, in other cases, a luxury. It does not exist merely for the sake of providing employment and profit for suppliers and restaurateurs. If you price yourself out of reach, demand will correspondingly drop, simple as that, as in any other industry. I work in a service industry; if I don't provide service at what the customer believes is "value for money," then I go out of business. Look at all the enterprises moving overseas to preserve their profit margins.

It doesn't matter whether I think it is value for money or whether I feel I am selling at beneath cost or what makes it worthwhile; it all relies on the customer perspective. By all means, reduce working hours, hire more cooks to compensate, double the cooks' wages and incorporate that and all your other overhead into the cost you are charging, then see how many people even bother darkening your door.

I AM NOT SAYING THAT I DON'T SYMPATHISE WITH THE AUTHOR'S VIEWPOINT, but unfortunately this is commercial reality in any line of work, and is not peculiar to F&B.

Now if the debate is centred on what influence Simon Thomsen and other reviewers have, that is a problem that resides within the consumer, not the reviewer. I ate at the Summit a few days before Thomsen's review came out, and discounting the fact that I had none of the dishes he ordered, you couldn't believe we were dining in the same restaurant, short of the fact that we were rotating and the views were great. But the writer's "request" is disingenuous - Thomsen's viewpoint is his and his alone. If Thomsen & Co bears the influence, that is because people wish to follow him and can't make up their own minds or don't trust their own palates enough. That is due to a lack of knowledge and sophistication on the part of the dining public.

I understand that reviewers can be seen to wield disproportionate influence; to the Herald's credit, they have recently been trying to emphasise that the judgment is not perceived as an objective measure of the restaurant's worth, for example, the size of the numerical score is minimised relative to the size of the review, the "scale" of scores is no longer published in the hardcopy edition and they have dropped the terminology of "best" in the Good Food Guide in favour of "favourite."

Why should these people/chefs buy top quality produce from Sydney’s best suppliers just to have it trashed as if it were frozen imported crap that MANY of the well known restaurants use? These people aren’t even focused on their bottom lines like they should

If Thomsen doesn't like the way the produce was presented, he is entitled to his view, as am I or anyone else is.

However, the fact that Thomsen is speaking to more people simply means he is accountable to a larger audience for his work, it shouldn't make him any less honest in reporting it. (look at the criticism of NYT's Frank Bruni on eG's New York Forum and various other websites). I know Judd hasn't expressed an opinion on the issues raised in the letter, but look at his recent brutal review of Restaurant Atelier on this board. Do I agree? I can't comment because I haven't been, though that's not due to his comments. Do I appreciate his honesty? Absolutely.

As for the "request," that is tantamount to asking Thomsen "Please don't call a spade a spade." Thomsen is writing for the dining public in describing his experience, he is not an industry advocate. When the reviewers are controlled by the industry they are seeking to review, that will be a sad day in the history of free speech, if it hasn't already happened.

I am not debating that the industry is in a bad state or that people are struggling with their livelihoods. These are valid points and my sympathy goes out to those affected. However, in a greater context, that is true of any industry, and to pretend that these problems are endemic to the restaurant industry is sheer delusion; whether the industry has been unable to cope with these problems as well as others is not a question I am about to address here, suffice to say that "charging a hell of a lot more than they do" is not a solution.

End of rant.

Julian's Eating - Tales of Food and Drink
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When his Kobe Club restaurant was given a no stars rating by New York Times’ restaurant reviewer Frank Bruni, Jeffrey Chodorow (remember him from The Restaurant reality TV show about Rocco DiSpirito) not only got mad – he set out to get even.

He took out a full page ad in the NY Times, addressed to Pete Wells, editor of the newspaper's Dining section, and attacked Bruni’s credentials. Pointed out Bruni was a political correspondent in Italy before becoming the NY Times reviewer.

But restaurant reviewers aren't the only ones dissing restaurants. If we get bad food, bad service, bad attitude from the staff, don't we all let everyone know? Equally, if we have a great meal, a memorable experience, don't we recommend the restaurant to others?

Stroll by a group of restaurants. Some will be absolutely buzzing. But what about the one with a couple of lonely souls in the window seat and a sea of empty chairs further in. Would you be tempted in there?

I know of one not far from where I was living. I'd eaten there once. Quite acceptable but not brilliant. However, there seldom seemed to be many people dining there when I passed by. Curious about its lack of customers, I thought I'd check out the reviews. Nothing in the Good Food Guide and only one mention online that went beyond a description of the decor and contact details. I wasn't surprised to see the place had closed late last year. So - maybe no reviews isn't always good news either...

Website: http://cookingdownunder.com

Blog: http://cookingdownunder.com/blog

Twitter: @patinoz

The floggings will continue until morale improves

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I know Judd hasn't expressed an opinion on the issues raised in the letter, but look at his recent brutal review of Restaurant Atelier on this board.  Do I agree?  I can't comment because I haven't been, though that's not due to his comments.  Do I appreciate his honesty? Absolutely.

Personally, I'm more likely to go to a place reviewed by people on here than from reading the press. For years, I've been meaning to go to Cafe Di Stasio, but negative reports by Pat Churchill and PCL has put that idea out of my mind for the time being.

Seth Godin wrote about how Sripraphai, a Thai restaurant in New York, built up a loyal clientel by the discussions generated about it on a website called chowhound.com

This is taken from his book, "Small Is The New Big" (page 93 if you're looking for it), and it sums up how I feel about the nature of reviews on a message board as opposed to the press:

Why does it work? Because the people who post are trusted. They have a reputation. They are not anonymous. And most of all, they have real voices, voices filled with authenticity and experience, giving people a reason to trust them."

We're a long way from Godin's world where the majority of diners will look to websites to find good restaurants than from the pages of Epicure. However, it does work in a more traditional way where word of mouth works for many restaurants. In Melbourne, places like Mario's, Ti Amo, Veggie Bar, etc. are never going to win any chefs hats, but word of mouth ensures that they'll be packed during lunchtime and dinner.

Daniel Chan aka "Shinboners"
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But restaurant reviewers aren't the only ones dissing restaurants. If we get bad food, bad service, bad attitude from the staff, don't we all let everyone know? Equally, if we have a great meal, a memorable experience, don't we recommend the restaurant to others?

True, but it's not quite an equal reaction for good and bad experiences. People are far more likely to tell their friends about a bad experience than a good one. There's some statistic that is quoted in many marketing and sales books, and it went something like, "If a customer has a good experience, they're likely to tell about 4 people. If they have a bad experience, they're likely to tell 12 people".

I suppose that for top end restaurants, if they get a good review in the weekly press, it's almost expected. It's really only when their score (in Melbourne at least) jumps up a couple of points that people really take notice. But if they get a bad review, then their foundations get shaken.

Daniel Chan aka "Shinboners"
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Atelier was crap, end of story. 8+)

I'm sure it might be better on other days.

Don't trust me, go find out for yourself.

Had my "review" (can we call it that?) of the above been for wider public consumption, I might well have considered some similar points as raised XXX seafood supplier above before putting pen to paper/print and crafted my words more carefully.

Since it's just for us, you got the real deal. That might well have cost them 5 or ten customers, that kind of review in printed in SMH would cost them their car, house, lease, equipment, etc., etc.

I do think that kind of thing is a very heavy price to pay for perhaps something like the head chef having the flu and an apprentice running the pass for the night? Who knows?

As far as I'm concerned (who cares anyway?) the whole people committing suicide over hats is bollocks anyway. Do a Marco, give your hats back, tell em to shove it and put out good food and attract strong custom on your own merits. If you are good, you will survive.

Giving the hats back will get you enough publicity to ride off for a long while anyway!

Julian, you mention this:

"When the reviewers are controlled by the industry they are seeking to review, that will be a sad day in the history of free speech, if it hasn't already happened."

So you are OK with the fact that the success of the restaurant is currently controlled by the reviewers?

I'm not. (consider the collective industry boot now given).

I'm not seeing black helicopters or anything but either there is something funny going on with restaurant reviews in Sydney or the reviewers are seriously and absolutely incompetent. I won't rant on again too much but there are restaurants out there with hats that are serving dog food and others that can compete on national and world stages left without a mention.

Perhaps a survey/Zagat approach might be more reliable rather than sweeping power wielded by one or a small group of people?

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Take a look online here:

http://www.hostec.com.au/newsletters/chef/sep07/

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(consider the collective industry boot now given).

Ouch :laugh:

Judd, I am not disputing the fact that Atelier was crap on the night that you went, or that it would have been better on a different night if chef was not sick. You say you would have chosen your words more carefully if you had a larger forum - but the language of Thomsen & Co does not come close to what you dished out to Atelier. We saw what happened when Matthew Evans gave a serve to Coco Roco - bring in the lawyers, boys, and let's rack up the legal bills. The reviews in the SMH, compared to the honest talk dished out here by all of us, me included, are largely sanitised.

I'm not OK with the concept that reviewers control the industry, but I disagree that they do. Sure they might engage the fickle swinging custom. But like I said, it is a matter of a personally-held opinion. He can say he doesn't like it. I don't have an issue with that. If people can't make up their own minds and instead rely on the word of one man whom they've never met and will not get to know any better than reading his weekly column on Tuesdays, that's their problem. If readers read the reviews as gospel and not as the writings of one man who is paid to do a job, then they are reading a little too much into it. But if the opinion is honestly held and is not malicious, what do you really want the reviewer to do? Make it up and say the meal was good when it wasn't just so XXXX gets paid for the last shipment of kingfish? That is the default position if you are not going to let reviewers express their honest (if again, largely sanitised, edited and cleaned-up) opinions.

Agreed re the eating of one's gun and the inequity of the hat system. However, I do not want a review to be whitewashed; if I want to read a nothing-but-praise review, I can rely on my local Cumberland newspaper or mX.

Julian's Eating - Tales of Food and Drink
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On his Australian Gourmet Pages website, (http://www.classic.com.au/wizard/reviews.htm), Franz Scheuer says, apropos his restaurant reviews:

"Please note: I do believe that even bad publicity is still publicity. Due to this I will generally only post reviews of restaurants that I believe to be worthy. I take no pleasure in talking about a place I wouldn't go back to. This is the reason that most of the reviews posted on this web site are good and they are meant to be a tribute to the amazing talent, the tremendous dedication and the hard work put in by all concerned."

What would you all say about that approach? Personally, I'm not comfortable with it. But then, of course, he's writing for a different medium and he's openly stated his policy. He doesn't have to say to his editor, right on deadline "No review this week. Didn't eat anything I liked."

Website: http://cookingdownunder.com

Blog: http://cookingdownunder.com/blog

Twitter: @patinoz

The floggings will continue until morale improves

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knowing the industry for a long time I must add the following

This industry cannot be called productive but service therefore not considered crucial for economic development (some spin offs) tourism excepted.

Salaries and prices will continue to fall to come to parity with international standards of the local and region(forget US or Europe)

Melbourne scene as a well as Australia's generally is too young not real competition has been taking place(yet to go through at least one economic recession)

Food standards will continue to fall as restaurants and pubs jockey for positions in the market place.

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Reviewing and the value of the reviews is always going to be controversial -- we learn to read any professional reviewer's opinions through our parallel experiences, working out whether we feel s/he is reliable. Our opinions may differ. Perhaps Simon Thomsen could have referred to other dining experiences at Summit to at least show the reader whether it's always that bad. Reviewers certainly have some obligation to look beyond a one-off dining experience, but how much can we demand? Most of us would form an opinion from one meal, and if I'd had Thomsen's reported experience at Summit, I wouldn't go back.

As a general principle, any service establishment has an obligation to maintain a certain minimum standard and any professional chef/restaurateur or other business owner knows that. If s/he is nonchalant about how much variation there is in customer experience then they deserve a bad review or loss of custom, surely. (Note that I'm not implying this is the case with Summit, not having dined there and not knowing the veracity of Thomsen's reported experience.)

It is heartbreaking when anyone with a vision, an investment, suppliers and staff can't make the business survive. The restaurateur, chef, staff, suppliers and reviewers all have responsibility. But it's too easy to blame reviewers. A sloppy review deserves criticism. A negative review based on a genuine experience deserves...? It seems opinions differ on that. (Comments in this thread also contradict the commonly held view in some circles that a good review drives business and a bad review does absolutely nothing - the average punter just keeps on coming. Reviewers are a favourite whipping boy in the restaurant industry, but I don't know how much most negative reviews really affect the bottomline - perhaps others can comment from the inside? Judd?)

Egullet is good for numerous often detailed reviews, but let's not get too happy with the honesty/no-holds-barred nature of them. I've dined at many places overseas, reviewed by eGulleteers, where my experience did not match that of the reviews. We all approach dining with our own expectations, tolerances and filters. And eGulleteers can be just as caught up in the hype, the status and the moneyed indulgence of excess which shapes professional reviews or indeed shapes the average punter. Blog reviews are no different. We can be attracted to their 'everyman' honesty, but it doesn't make them any more reliable.

An example: I won't dine again at Longrain Sydney because it was unbearably noisy, and impossible to communicate across those attractive, stupidly wide benches. The dishes I had were quite nice, but not perfect. One item was a shameless profit-earner, another was delightful and worth the relatively high price. In my opinion. Other diners seem to find Longrain wonderful in all personally-relevant respects and return there again and again.

I am not a professional reviewer, though I did do some insignificant stuff a few years ago. It taught me to approach guides with considerable scepticism, as I watched my experiences turned into meaningless (or misleading) fluff by the editorial filter.

-- lamington a.k.a. Duncan Markham

The Gastronomer's Bookshelf - collaborative book reviews about all things food and wine

Syrup & Tang - candid commentary and flavourful fancies

"It's healthy. It's cake. It's chocolate cake."

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Duncan,

If it is possible at all to say this in a non-patronising manner, thank you for an articulate and well-argued post.

In defence of my position, I was not suggesting that eGulleteers' reviews were in any way faultless, or that we have experience superior in any way to that of the reviewers in the major papers. What I was intending to convey is that we are not bound by censorship of any sort and can express feelings and opinions genuinely held. Whether those opinions are justified is another question but we call it the way we see it. This is in contrast to reviewers in the non-blog / website press whose opinion pieces and reviews are themselves reviewed by in-house lawyers to ensure that there is no defamation, libel etc published which may land the publication in hot water. As you have suggested, you have seen the same happen to your previous work. Egullet reviews, whatever their faults may be, are not subject to that particular one.

It is heartbreaking when anyone with a vision, an investment, suppliers and staff can't make the business survive. The restaurateur, chef, staff, suppliers and reviewers all have responsibility. But it's too easy to blame reviewers. A sloppy review deserves criticism. A negative review based on a genuine experience deserves...? It seems opinions differ on that.

Does anyone honestly believe that reviews should be sanitised? Like I pointed out before, SMH reviews (and Duncan's previous work) are heavily edited. Should we be at pains to disguise the truth? I note Pat's post re Franz Scheurer's policy, but I can recall various instances when Franz has damned a few places with faint praise, and the review hardly sounds encouraging in the least.

There are places for cleaned-up reviews, but I hardly think a quality broadsheet paper is one of them. If we are to make an exception for the restaurant industry, there is no plausible reason for not extending the same courtesy to other industries and their "critics," such as theatre, art etc etc.

Julian's Eating - Tales of Food and Drink
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Thanks Julian. I certainly wish there was more place for honest reviewing of both positive and negative experiences. It was a breath of fresh air for me a few years back when I read some of Jay Rayner's reviews in London (Guardian or Observer) which were much less restrained than what we find in our Australian broadsheets.

I think I agree with you on every point you've raised. My concern about the eGullet self-perception thing is perhaps the 'special zone' idea which some here believe in -- I wonder how long the lawyers will stay away from some reviews here. Although it seems Australian foodies have been slow to come to eGullet, we can't live under the misconception that this is a private area (not an opinion I'm attributing to you :smile: ). And I'm sure that eGulleteers who are in the industry do self-censor at times because of the danger of jeopardising contacts/commissions/goodwill.

-- lamington a.k.a. Duncan Markham

The Gastronomer's Bookshelf - collaborative book reviews about all things food and wine

Syrup & Tang - candid commentary and flavourful fancies

"It's healthy. It's cake. It's chocolate cake."

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OK, this might be OT, in which case I seek moderation, but there was an article in Tuesday's Good Living about the closure of restaurants due to the razor-thin profit margins being run, which blamed in part the influence of reviews on custom at the top-end:

SMH Good Living Article

Within the article, you will find that George Gavalas of Salon Blanc has attempted to break down the cost of a dish he serves at the menu in order to illustrate the profit he makes on the dish. The breakdown is as follows:

Crisp skin ocean trout with roast capsicum couscous, saffron and tomato vinaigrette

Menu price $32

Costs

Trout (200g) $6

Couscous (150g) 50c

Currants (20g) 50c

Saffron $1

Roast capsicum (25g) 75c

French vinaigrette $1

Tomato essence 20c

Sourdough roll 35c

Italian olive oil (50ml) $1.35

Labour $10.50

GST $3.20

Operating costs (power, rent, administration, phones) $4.40

TOTAL $29.75

Profit $2.25

Now let me preface my comments by saying that I have never worked in a restaurant environment before, but this costing is inaccurate. And surprise! It puts his profit at a lower level than what it actually is.

Look at how Mr Gavalas seeks to support this nation's economy by remitting more GST than he has to. Yep, he is remitting 10% of the total GST-inclusive price of $32.00 by deducting $3.20, when he should only be remitting around $2.90. When my old high school (public) finally gets air-conditioning in its demountable classrooms, I will thank him personally for it. Profits are up by 30 cents.

And driving the entire cost of the sourdough roll and olive oil into the price of a main course? You can't drive your costs in that manner, especially as bread rolls are also served with entrees, and bearing in mind the current practice of serving only one bread roll and stopping bread service to that table. Allowing him 2/3 of the cost driven to this dish, his profit is still up by 0.57.

The end profit (from the obvious mistakes, mind) is $3.12 per dish, or 9.75%. I'll be the first to concede that it's not a king's ransom, but it's still 39% more and a damn sight healthier than $2.25. And let's not forget that he's making a lot more $$$ on drinks, alcoholic or otherwise, side dishes ($8 for chips or green salad) etc etc. The breakdown of the dish's pricing, accurate or otherwise, is only one side of the picture, and not a very accurate one at that. It is one dish, but it's trying to be the final word in an article which trots out the story of "gee isn't the industry struggling with margins like this." Oh, and did I mention that Salon Blanc also has a tapas menu?

I also find the comment that dining in the US and Europe costing around 30-40% more rather misleading. At the very high end, there may be some truth to this, but the Michelin-spangled great houses are not frequented by the everyman and prices are driven by wealthy visitors, or at least people who will think nothing of this splurge. At the low end (just above food courts, takeaways and cafes), eating in Paris can be much better value than eating in Sydney.

Julian's Eating - Tales of Food and Drink
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Oh, and did I mention that Salon Blanc also has a tapas menu?

Loved that Julian! :biggrin::biggrin: Hit the nail on the head.

-- lamington a.k.a. Duncan Markham

The Gastronomer's Bookshelf - collaborative book reviews about all things food and wine

Syrup & Tang - candid commentary and flavourful fancies

"It's healthy. It's cake. It's chocolate cake."

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Crisp skin ocean trout with roast capsicum couscous, saffron and tomato vinaigrette

Menu price $32

Costs

Trout (200g) $6

Couscous (150g) 50c

Currants (20g) 50c

Saffron $1

Roast capsicum (25g) 75c

French vinaigrette $1

Tomato essence 20c

Sourdough roll 35c

Italian olive oil (50ml) $1.35

Labour $10.50

GST $3.20

Operating costs (power, rent, administration, phones) $4.40

TOTAL $29.75

Profit $2.25

Also, trout for $30 a kilo? Couscous for $3 a kilo cooked? Currants for $25 a kilo? I'm not saying these numbers are wrong but they seem overinflated in my book especially since he's getting it wholesale. Can anyone justify these as sane food prices for a restaurant?

Edited by Shalmanese (log)

PS: I am a guy.

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  • 2 weeks later...

OK, this train has no driver and is heading for a wreck fast.

I feel the need for some "educated" comments.

1. Yes, GST should be $2.91

2. In my mind there is a question mark when it comes to the addition of GST broadly over the bread component. I have a feeling it's not supposed to be charged on bread but I think a higher power could answer that one better than me.

3. Argue of the ingredients prices all you like, for this exercise we'll assume his prices/costs are correct.

4. The cost of bread roles, olive, etc. DO have to go somewhere, they aren't free from the suppliers. Same goes for that slice of lemon in your drink, etc. It's better to work out an average cost per cover and attribute that way (food costing is a science, just not an exact one (unless everything is portioned in nice little neat packets)).

5. If his ex gst food cost on this item is %40.05 (rounded) (it is) then this would/should be one of the higher FOOD COST (%) items on his menu. If his whole menu is running at this level, soon you'll be able to pick up some cheap glassware and stoves from the mortgagee auction, no matter what a reviewer writes.

6. There are other things to think about.....

*wastage

*theft

*shortages - your apprentice had a huge night on the Jack Daniels, when the deliveries came the next day he didn't weigh in the deliveries and you were invoiced for 500g of truffles but actually only received 200g, etc.

*Skill contributes to cost - above it's mentioned that the 200g trout portion costs $6. Is this trimmed or not trimmed? Do you get consistent stock that ends up with the same trim amount? Does one guy in your kitchen have great knife skills and can cut 5 portions per fillet and another not so good and can only cut 3?

*etc

*etc

---all those controls need to be in place and working well to ensure there is as little as possible "variance" from the pre costed theoretical costs to the actual costs that are generated after month end and stocktake, etc.

7. All of the above is great, informative, blah blah, etc.. but THE OVER RIDING FACTOR as eluded to by Julian above is what is called menu engineering. Stay tuned now for your advanced food costing lesson.

The food cost percentage of a single dish is practically irrelevant when it comes to your overall monthly food costs (unless it is the only item on your menu).

You menu is constructed with some "loss leaders" or high end items that you have to have but aren't necessarily as individually profitable as some other items on the menu. That's OK, you make it back on the other more profitable items

The below outlines two different scenarios. Same restaurant, same item costs, same sales prices, etc.

The only thing different between the two is the "menu mix" or differing items sold based upon guests menu choices. Total number of individual items sold in both scenarios is the same (58) but you will see that the overall outcomes are wildly different. Knowing this and knowing how to use it to your advantage is why some restaurants last years and some (most) last A year.

EDIT: sorry, the below looks crap when posted on this board. If maths is your thing, PM me and I'll send it more readable to you.

Scenario 1

Item Cost $ell % Number sold TotCost Tot$

Toast 0.45 2.50 18 10 4.50 25

Sausage 0.80 3.00 26.6 36 28.8 108

truff lolipop 7.97 15.00 53.13 22 175.34 330

TOTALS 58 $208.64 $463

TOTAL FOOD COST %45.06

Scenario 2

Item Cost $ell % Number sold TotCost Tot$

Toast 0.45 2.50 18 36 16.20 90

Sausage 0.80 3.00 26.6 22 17.60 66

truff lolipop 7.97 15.00 53.13 10 79.70 150

TOTALS 58 $113.50 $306

TOTAL FOOD COST %37.09

In this theoretical example, that's an 8% difference to your bottom line.

So...what's the point of my rambling? Simply that listing the selling price and costing of one item on your menu is a total waste of time and a major mislead. The public will most likely swallow it, just like they do the ratings....so you'll get the desired effect.....

Restaurant reviews can make and break restaurants...they just break non performing and mis managed restaurants faster and easier.

Edited by The Chefs Office (log)

CHEF JOBS UPDATE - September 07 !!

Latest global Chef jobs listing and news now available!

Take a look online here:

http://www.hostec.com.au/newsletters/chef/sep07/

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Judd,

Maybe I'm getting selective in my middle age, but was there a point in there where you disagreed with me?

The point I was trying to make, and emphasised in my post, was that this "one-dish picture" was misleading, a snapshot in the 24-hour life of a restaurant which typically tried to underplay the profit margin. You have pointed out the empirical basis for that, for which I thank you, but you have reinforced the conclusion that I reached a few posts ago (or at least I think you have).

Food costing is not an exact science, but at the same time, I can tell when it is wrong. The example provided is wrong. For instance, you point out that olives and bread etc need to be allocated somewhere. I agree with you, that's why I allowed the 2/3 cost. As you say, the best way would be to allocate it as a variable cost per cover, which it stricly speaking is, but in the example given, driving what should be a cost per cover to A dish is misleading.

So...what's the point of my rambling? Simply that listing the selling price and costing of one item on your menu is a total waste of time and a major mislead. The public will most likely swallow it, just like they do the ratings....so you'll get the desired effect.....

Exactly. But I think we've (or at least I have) reached the point when propaganda just doesn't do it for me anymore. My overarching point is that a review is the honestly held opinion of an individual. Whether you agree with the opinion or not is besides the point. It has no agenda of trying to slap the industry in the face, but merely to dish out praise and criticism where the critic believes it is warranted. If you believe the critic is exercising his voice in bad faith (as opposed to incompetence), that is an entirely different issue.

On the other hand, the entire article from which the costing exercise was extracted was wholly, simply and purely a propaganda exercise. As I pointed out earlier and you elaborated upon and which I think we are all now agreed upon, the food costing exercise from the SMH article was merely a miscalculated microsnap of a much larger picture with the various complexities of business strategy, and therefore a load of bollocks insofar as it purported to depict the parlous state of the industry as a whole. Well, for a publication that purports to be the last word in mainstream wide-circulation food press, that was simply not good enough.

As such, I would be interested in discussing how you thought this train was heading for a wreck. As there hadn't been a long comment in this topic for two weeks, I thought the train had pulled over at Central.

Julian's Eating - Tales of Food and Drink
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Judd,

Maybe I'm getting selective in my middle age, but was there a point in there where you disagreed with me?

Nope, just making observations. I mostly find it hard to conjure up actual opinions.

I thought the train perhaps had too big a load of speculation on it, thus why I tried to give what I consider to be an un-opinionated (is that a word?) "technical" appraisal.

I completely agree with your suggestion that the "one dish/restaurants are going down the tubes" approach is not a good representation.

but in the example given, driving what should be a cost per cover to A dish is misleading.

yes and no, as we agree it's not an exact science.

Preferred approach is to control your variance from forecast theoretical costs to actual month end food cost. I guess it depends where you want to drive the allowances into your food costing at the business end.

If the variance gap is too big for comfort at month end, you have a problem.

Some schools of thought suggest allowing an "X" factor of a few percent into their costings to allow for natural variance...sort of a "cost of doing business", a bit like allowing your bartenders when cashing out to be out of balance by a set amount per shift.

There are differing approaches to this. Most restaurants are just happy if their month end comes in anywhere near budget (that is..if they have a budget or even have a clue what their food cost is at all....you'd be surprised)

As such, I would be interested in discussing how you thought this train was heading for a wreck. As there hadn't been a long comment in this topic for two weeks, I thought the train had pulled over at Central.

My egullet rail pass hasn't been used much of late, business has seen me traveling loads in Europe and the Middle East. Will try to get it stamped a bit more often but with trips to Shanghai (http://www.sialchina.com/) , HK (http://www.hofex.com/) and Singapore coming up I'm sure I'll miss plenty!

CHEF JOBS UPDATE - September 07 !!

Latest global Chef jobs listing and news now available!

Take a look online here:

http://www.hostec.com.au/newsletters/chef/sep07/

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My egullet rail pass hasn't been used much of late, business has seen me traveling loads in Europe and the Middle East. Will try to get it stamped a bit more often but with trips to Shanghai (http://www.sialchina.com/) , HK (http://www.hofex.com/) and Singapore coming up I'm sure I'll miss plenty!

Not going for the World Gourmet Summit in Singapore, are you?

Julian's Eating - Tales of Food and Drink
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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...

I think both sides to this argument are valid.

Chef's office, it sound like you are desperately trying to rationalise this problem.

I don't think there is a solution to the inordinate and unfair influence that restaurant critics have. I think that it is important for you to resassure yourself by taking a more global outlook at the industry. If you want to talk about restaurants staying open and vulnerability to commercial failure, sure it is easy to blame it on a reviewer. In truth the restaurants that fail for this reason will be those restaurants that struggle to maintain a loyal clientele and instead decide to shoot for the stars by offering a more pretentious and less accessible product. The key to commercial viability, irrespective of critical comment is understanding a neiche and a clientele. Respect and consistency for the consumer can magically transform an average steak to a great steak. I'd love to think that the people who keep restaurants are open have a great understanding of produce. Whilst knowledge is increasing, this is not so for the majority of neighbourhood restaurants.

So if you want to take the risk and shoot for the stars, you need to be prepared to fall. However, if you want to be hospitable to a certain group of people over a prolonged time and offer them a hospitality, I think you'll find that food costs mean less and less.

I love the sense of neighbourhood that you endorse. I too have witnessed it several times in the industry. However, that neighbourhood is distinct from the sensationalist vaccuum that is the food media. The more a restaurant owner embraces this concept, the less likely they are to suffer commercial failure. However, that does not mean that they won't! Obviously.

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