April 2009: Fine Dining Guide April Newsletter

Posted on: April 4th, 2009 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

www.fine-dining-guide.com is pleased to announce the continued success of a free iTunes podcast series. The latest episode – The Guides in the Digital Age also features a review of the Michelin City of London Guide 2009.

You can access the podcast series (free) by typing “fine dining uk” in the main iTunes Store search box.

Elizabeth Carter

Elizabeth Carter

Our lead feature for this newsletter is an interview with the Editor of the Which? Good Food Guide 2009. Elizabeth Carter (left) is in her third year as editor and only the seventh in the Guide’s 58 year history. She is the first female editor and has brought with her a strong background in editing and inspecting at several leading guides as well as being a published author. A broad range of topics were covered in the hour long interview and the transcript is recommended reading.

What is Twitter? Some have said that Twitter is ‘micro-blogging meets social networking,’ to www.fine-dining-guide.com it is a message alert service. The fine dining guide Twitter page is aimed at providing a heads up on features that are work in progress (trendy people say ‘in real time’) about which readers (‘followers’) can gain advance notice.

The site will also use Twitter to give updates on technical matters such as service time outs – the recent example was the short downtime of the podcast series on iTunes.

You can find the new Twitter Page at http://twitter.com/finediningguide

The site will also use Twitter to give updates on technical matters such as service time outs – the recent example was the short downtime of the podcast series on iTunes.

You can find the new Twitter Page at http://twitter.com/finediningguide


Aside: There’s a rapidly expanding number of viable desktop/laptop and mobile device clients for Twitter. The most interesting is probably Ginx (a start-up with significant venture capital backing) – co-founded by Randy Ching and Pierre Omidyar (founder of ebay) – a super client or Twitter++ . The challenge for such clients is that they rely on the Twitter company (APIs) for co-operation and they all use Twitter’s content. Given the plethora of sensible business applications for the Twitter concept, we may all find that within a couple of years we have a Ginx client or the like on our laptops and mobile devices. One to watch – follow Ginx on Twitter to get an invite to the alpha testing of the client.

Website Updates: Since our last newsletter in January we have updated all our lists to take into account the Michelin Guide 2009. These can be found by navigating from the 1 Percent Club page. We have also published food photographs from a number of restaurants that can be viewed from the Restaurant Picture Gallery

News: Alan Murchison has been appearing on Great British Menu this week and fine dining guide have enjoyed a significant spike in traffic as a result

See: Alan Murchison Interview

Opinion: Luxury disposable income items are the first to suffer in a recession and this simple truth of economics is, with a few exceptions at the top end, biting the fine dining restaurant scene hard; demand is at best highly elastic (price sensitive). Short term promotion websites provide some kind of intermediate fix – Toptable appears busy – however we are seeing more careful restaurateurs battoning down the hatches – trimming the kitchen and front of house staff, shortening the menu, simplifying the ingredients. Some might argue that there is the beginnings of a blurring, in Michelin terms, between aspects of some of the One Star and Bib Gourmand recognised restaurants.

Many addresses are now bundling a couple of glasses or half a bottle of wine with set lunches (started successfully by Le Gavroche in the good times) and some offering set dinners, others go further and bundle wine with set dinners. It is also apparent that wine list mark ups are due to change – currently averaging out at 300%-400% of retail (an average so some are better, some are shocking) – 150%-200% would be more palatable but perhaps a broader experimentation with fixed cost plus cash mark-ups might encourage fine diners and reduce pressure points on stock control.

There’s still a glaring mid-market gap which will surely be filled as part of the recession shakedown. When you can eat at the local steak house for £7.95 for two courses or have a family carvery at Toby’s (£5), the current step up is to (many) over priced pubs. The £15-£20 per head mark, while still offering good quality fresh food is there to be taken. Perhaps Britain will yet enjoy the type of quality at reasonable prices that our French neighbours have for generations.

In any event, when the first blossoms of economic spring come around, fine diners may find an industry offering set dinners with wine as standard practice, wine lists that don’t make your eyes water and a new mid-market offering true value for money quality food at a new price point.

See: Gastrobpubs: Cultural Shift or Question of Economics (old article but still relevant)

Until next time,  Happy Eating!