I had this published in the London Evening Standard on Tuesday 9th December 2008, commenting about how restaurants might survive in the current credit crunch:
The dire economic situation will definitely affect London's restaurants, but in different ways:
Established local restaurants that have a proven formula and a regular clientele will not be significantly affected. They will tweak their offering, reducing dish prices and offering more set menus, but they will survive.
Established 'famous' restaurants, such as The Ivy, Le Gavroche etc, will also be fine. They will relax booking policies, making it easier for diners to book and increase their booking channels by making use of online booking platforms like LiveBookings. Whilst they might see a drop in business from locals, I expect this to be more than made up for by an increase in bookings from overseas customers. With near pound to euro parity and a dollar fifty buying a pound, London is getting cheaper and cheaper for tourists. Ten years ago, 70% of visitors to The London Restaurant Review website were from outside the UK. Nowadays it is more like 10-15% but we expect this to switch to 50/50 over the next 12 to 18 months.
Finally, the newly opened restaurants will struggle. They will have built business plans on trade estimates that are now out of date and will therefore take longer to recoup initial outlays. With no loyal customer base, they will have to rely on PR and advertising to get the word out and ensure that the first impression is a great one. If it is mediocre then customers will not be prepared to give them a second chance in these tough times.
I was asked by The Evening Standard to comment on the recent Zagat finding that London is the most expensive city in the world to dine out in.
The letter was published in this evening's paper (!)
Here is the transcript:
London is the most expensive city in the world for eating out? Nonsense. Restaurant prices in the capital have gone up over the years but not significantly so. If you are lucky enough to get a table at The Ivy for example, you'll find plenty of dishes priced under £15. And Chez Bruce, recently voted number one restaurant in Zagat, offers a three course lunch menu for well under £30. That is not expensive for Michelin dining. In many US restaurants, by the time you have added the 20%-25% service charge, the bill is often more than an equivalent restaurant in London. The poor exchange rate means our American visitors will moan about the price of everything, not just eating out. Take the 'Trophy Restaurants' off your list and use the restaurant review websites to help you find somewhere to eat in London that is not only a great dining experience, but is also great value too. Trust me, they are out there. Value for money is just one of ten different attributes that we and our website visitors rate when judging a restaurant (well, loo cleanliness is important too)! Don’t be put off visiting London because of Zagat. There are hundreds of great value restaurants in our wonderful City – just do your own homework!