December 2011: Fine Dining Guide December News

Posted on: December 8th, 2011 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

December 8th 2011 – So much has happened since the last site news update in March 2011.  For example, the guide season was crammed into the space of a month with the site’s four featured guides all publishing their 2012 editions, namely; Michelin, Which? Good Food Guide, AA Restaurant Guide and Relais & Chateaux. (See Guides Section)

Michael Wignall at The Latymer, Pennyhill Park Hotel (See Interview, See AA Restaurant Guide Press Release 2012, See Restaurant Review) picked up five AA Rosettes.  Tom Kerridge and Sat Bains were awarded a second Michelin Star (See Michelin GB&I 2012 Star Listing).  Rebecca Burr completed her first year as editor of Michelin Guides (See Interview).  The Good Food Guide further developed their own site (visit here) and awarded Sat Bains and L’Enclume a coveted 9/10.  In addition, the TV programme Britain’s Best Dish (for professionals) features inclusion in this guide as the qualification criterion.  Relais & Chateaux continues to expand the Association with new members across Scotland (3) and Ireland (1) – now a far cry from the Relais de Campagne of 1954 (See Relais & Chateaux 2012 Press Release).

There has also been a near five months process of re-design and re-development of fine-dining-guide.  With many thanks to David Taylor of Glass Slipper Interactive, this was completed in early December and was marked by the sending of an email newsletter on December 6th 2011.  As well as easier navigation, the site has better organized content with superior landing page presentation: The objective being a more enjoyable visitor experience.  Packed with new features to help the visitor explore, the site is backed by google analytics and much stronger SEO.  This can only help the site’s content into the future.

Along with Rebecca Burr, four further interviewees gave insights into their professional lives.

Interviewees to December 2011

Former Michelin two star chef John Campbell (See Interview, Restaurant Review) spoke about his journey of technical discovery in cooking and about how he gives back to the industry he loves.  John Williams MBE has been quietly changing the fortunes of the dining room at the Ritz, while in another role, promoting the future of the industry through The Academy of Culinary Arts (See Interview, Restaurant Review ).  Thierry Tomasin (See Interview) spent over a decade in charge of the cellars at the great Le Gavroche, his latest venture – Angelus (See Restaurant Review) – is proving a great success.  Peter Egli (See Interview) is general manager of Whatley Manor (See Hotel Review) and provides interesting insights into balancing the appeal of a Michelin two star restaurant (See Restaurant Review, See Martin Burge Interview, See Food Image Gallery) with the breadth of facilities of a luxury ‘resort style’ hotel.

Twitter/Facebook: Both continue to deliver good traffic to the site – @finediningguide has over 3030 followers in December and the newer facebook page 425 likes.

Podcasts: The podcast series on iTunes is under review.  With the site’s change in hosting company there is more technical work to be done.  We expect the service to resume in the New Year 2012.

Opinion/News: During these prolonged difficult economic times we see restaurant openings still occurring at a rapid rate.  The market, in London at least, is doing very well, with enough customers to go around.  Along with the new there will always be the old favourites, indeed most enjoyable visits this year came at Roganic (See Review), Medlar (See Review), The Waterside Inn (Search Various), Coworth Park (See above for links) and Whatley Manor (ditto).

As has been discussed before, there are a combination of factors at play with the ‘market for food in restaurants.‘  On the demand side people are working longer hours and have less time to cook at home so going out for a meal is an easier option – so long as the price point is right.  This is where so many mid-market eateries (brasserie/bistrot) have opened and done well.  People are also looking for more diversity in their food and restaurant experiences – hence concept venues offering a variety of smaller courses from a burgeoning variety of cultures and cuisines.

Internationalism is the flavour of our times in London and the younger, well heeled, professionals market has an endless stream of choice.  At the same time the bastions of gastronomy – The Institutions – continue to deliver, possibly by aiming at a slightly different demographic.  Lunch at multi-Michelin starred Le Gavroche, The Ledbury or The Waterisde Inn remain tough to get bookings.

Congratulations to The Square (See Phil Howard Interview, Restaurant Review) who recently celebrated 20 years of opening.  A remarkable achievement to have retained the exceptional level of quality and consistency required by a great restaurant.

Otherwise, experiences in the food world this year have been more about wine and learning about the dynamics of this market. Three years ago a podcast episode discussed fine wine and restaurant lists (See Emperor of Wine).  It was argued that in the information age, where the retail prices of wines have been available instantly via a fingertip type into the likes of google (now also Wine Searcher, Andy Hayler’s mobile app), then the greater knowledge of consumers must inevitably drive down mark-ups in restaurants.  This has still not happened.  Mark-ups remain at 300% to 400% of retail.  However, by the end of this recession, it would prove a useful experiment to see if mark-ups at 150-200% of retail demonstrate that the demand for this product is elastic enough such that people will drink more, be more satisfied, return more often, thereby retaining the profit margins for the restaurant.

In any event, let’s hope that an economic spring is around the corner and that this fascinating industry goes from strength to strength.

Until Next time, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Happy Eating!