Australia’s top 100 restaurants

With the Australian Financial Review‘s announcement of Australia’s fifth top 100 list of restaurants after the one below, Gourmet Traveller’s, Yelp’s and Dimmi’s, I started to get that feeling of deja vu about the usual suspects who will populate the list. Now that readers don’t care what a printed newspaper says about restaurants and just want a listicle of places that they can search for on Urbanspoon or Yelp, who better to build that listicle than the votes of Australia’s chefs who don’t need to be paid for collating the list? So asks the AFR. My answer: a random number generator.

Press reload to try and make a better list. Try once per annum to generate an annual award show and give them a series of imaginary hats.

  1. 2KW Bar and Restaurant SA
  2. 4Fourteen NSW
  3. A La Grecque, Aireys Inlet VIC
  4. Alpha NSW
  5. Attica VIC
  6. Balla NSW
  7. Bar Lourinha VIC
  8. Bentley Restaurant & Bar NSW
  9. Berardo’s, Noosa QLD
  10. Bib&Tucker WA
  11. Bistro Dom SA
  12. Black Bird QLD
  13. Bloodwood NSW
  14. Bodega NSW
  15. Bread and Bone Wood Grill SA
  16. Brooks VIC
  17. Cantina 663 WA
  18. Catbird Seat QLD
  19. Caveau, Wollongong NSW
  20. Chaco Bar NSW
  21. Chat Thai NSW
  22. China Doll NSW
  23. Co-Op Dining WA
  24. Cutler & Co VIC
  25. Dainty Sichuan VIC
  26. Dandelion VIC
  27. Divido WA
  28. Du Fermier, Trentham VIC
  29. D’Arry’s Verandah Restaurant, McLaren Vale SA
  30. Ecco QLD
  31. Esquire QLD
  32. Est NSW
  33. France-Soir VIC
  34. Galileo Buona Cucina WA
  35. Garagistes TAS
  36. Grazing NSW
  37. Green Park VIC
  38. Hanuman NT
  39. Hare & Grace VIC
  40. Huxtable VIC
  41. Innocent Bystander, Healesville VIC
  42. Italian&Sons ACT
  43. Jasmin SA
  44. Kepos St Kitchen NSW
  45. Kiyomi, Broadbeach QLD
  46. Komeyui VIC
  47. La Scala on Jersey NSW
  48. Lau’s Family Kitchen VIC
  49. Lutece Bistro & Wine Bar QLD
  50. Malt Dining QLD
  51. Market Street Cafe, Mudgee NSW
  52. Mister Bianco VIC
  53. Mocan & Green Grout ACT
  54. Montalto, Red Hill South VIC
  55. Movida VIC
  56. Movida NSW
  57. Mr Wolf VIC
  58. Mrs. Jones Devonport TAS
  59. Must winebar WA
  60. No. 8 by John Lawson VIC
  61. Nolita WA
  62. O Bar and Dining NSW
  63. O My, Beaconsfield VIC
  64. Oscillate Wildly NSW
  65. Osteria di Russo & Russo NSW
  66. Paringa Estate, Red Hill South VIC
  67. Pata Negra WA
  68. Pipers of Penola, Penola SA
  69. Piqueos VIC
  70. Public QLD
  71. Public Inn, Castlemaine VIC
  72. Pure South VIC
  73. Restaurant Mason, Newcastle NSW
  74. Restaurant Two QLD
  75. Ricky’s River Bar and Restaurant, Noosa Heads QLD
  76. Ruby’s Mount Kembla, Kembla Heights NSW
  77. Sake NSW
  78. Salt Grill, Surfers Paradise QLD
  79. San Telmo VIC
  80. Sezar VIC
  81. Simone’s, Bright VIC
  82. Sixpenny NSW
  83. Skillogolee, Sevenhill SA
  84. Social Eating House, Broadbeach QLD
  85. Spice Temple VIC
  86. Spirit House, Yandina QLD
  87. Subo, Newcastle NSW
  88. The Commoner VIC
  89. The Gala Restaurant WA
  90. The Lane Vineyard Restaurant, Balhannah SA
  91. The Mayflower Restaurant SA
  92. The Vasse Felix Restaurant, Cowaramup WA
  93. The Woodhouse, Bendigo VIC
  94. Town Hall Hotel VIC
  95. Town, Bangalow NSW
  96. Urbane QLD
  97. Valentino VIC
  98. Wharf Restaurant & Bar, Nowra NSW
  99. Wills Domain, Yallingup WA
  100. Yering Station Wine Bar, Yarra Glen VIC

Footscray Market Opening Hours – Christmas 2014

Welcome to Year 6 of my Christmas vigil to commemorate Footscray Market’s complete inability to publish their Christmas/New Year’s opening hours online. Here are the opening hours, this year presented by the special request of Pat Nourse.

Saturday, 20 December 20147:00AM-5:00PM
Sunday, 21 December 2014CLOSED
Monday, 22 December 2014CLOSED
Tuesday, 23 December 20147:00AM-5:00PM
Wednesday, 24 December 20147:00AM-5:00PM
Thursday, 25 December 2014CLOSED
Friday, 26 December 2014CLOSED
Saturday, 27 December 20147:00AM-5:00PM
Sunday, 28 December 2014CLOSED
Monday, 29 December 2014CLOSED
Tuesday, 30 December 20147:00AM-5:00PM
Wednesday, 31 December 20147:00AM-4:00PM
Thursday, 1 January 2015CLOSED
Friday, 2 January 20157:00AM-7:00PM
Saturday, 3 January 20157:00AM-5:00PM

As for the regular Footscray Market trading hours, they are as follows:

Monday – Closed
Tuesday and Wednesday – 7:00am-4:00pm
Thursday – 7:00am-6:00pm
Friday – 7:00am-8:00pm
Saturday – 7:00am-4:00pm
Sunday – Closed

What if influencer marketing does nothing?

The Yelp Elite Party Kiss of Death

In Melbourne, online review platform Yelp holds parties to reward their elite users, freebies where their high performing members get to sample the wares of Melbourne’s restaurants. Yelp’s elite are their best users who are handpicked for the frequency and quality of their online reviews, Yelp’s unpaid labour that earns each elite member some degree of influence.

The parties are replicated by Yelp the world over and for businesses have the same basic premise: that having these influencers in your business will improve the business’s prospects on Yelp. There’s good data to suggest that in other markets, a change in average Yelp scores has a causal effect on the profits of a business, so in theory, it should work well for restaurants.

In Melbourne, it marks a restaurant for death.

Senoritas, Joe’s Cafe, Virginia Plain, Orto Kitchen and Garden all closed post their Yelp parties. Happy Palace changed from offering an “ironic”/racist take on Chinese food to a paint-by-numbers burger bar. I’d hardly say that the Yelp parties are causing the closures and the correlation may have to do with a restauranteur having reached a point where they’re willing to try anything to market their business. The problem is that they’re not changing the status quo nor giving restaurants a boost that ensures their long-term viability. The failure rate is probably close to industry average which would mean the long term impact of this form of influencer marketing on a restaurant is zero.

Influencer marketing for food and travel either does nothing or its impact is so marginal that almost any other form of marketing is vastly superior.

The best travel bloggers money can buy

Over the last four years, I was social media manager at a destination marketing organisation, Tourism Victoria. I was the person that upon whom every travel blogger pitch would eventually land. As a social media manager, every travel blogger that you see is up for sale. About a year in, based on a huge body of research and a few campaign successes, I decided not to support any influencer marketing at all. No more freebies from my pocket, and as much as I could, discouraging it from everyone else in the whole state.

Over that four year period, international arrivals grew by 7.8%, outpacing the Australian national average of 4.3%. Domestically, it was a similar story. It’s unlikely that the decision not to do influencer marketing caused this but it certainly didn’t hurt. It also meant that I could focus on things that had more easily measurable results.

There was an inevitable backlash from bloggers. I particularly like this post from Caz and Craig Makepeace, who after I refused to bankroll their family holiday to Wilsons Promontory complain that:

But why haven’t I, or almost everyone else I’ve spoken to from NSW and other states out of Victoria, been there or heard of it?

For one, Tourism Victoria does a crap job at promoting their state. That’s evidenced by the fact that we only planned on being in Victoria for one month because we thought the state would be boring besides Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road, and possibly Phillip Island.

Tourism Victoria were doing such a crap job that where they were planning on staying in Wilsons Promontory was fully booked when they arrived.

We were super-annoyed that we didn’t plan better and book ahead for accommodation. We just turned up expecting to get a camp site and pitch our tent.

But with Wilsons Prom being popular with Victorians we had no chance of getting a powered tent site.

I’ve paid attention to what other destination marketing organisations are doing. Room 753 in Queensland; where influencers were invited for a customised, all-expenses paid visit to the Gold Coast. They held the world’s biggest Instameet with a reach of 22 million which would be the equivalent of 10% of Instagram if it was reach to unique users. The Human Brochure campaign in ACT which invited hundreds of influencers to experience Canberra and frankly, I thought was a great campaign from a state with a small budget willing to back a big idea. At the other end of the scale is Thailand’s BFF mega famil, where 900 journalists, bloggers and travel industry types got the best international junket that a military dictatorship could buy.

It hasn’t shifted the underlying problems anywhere whether they be dated tourism infrastructure and experience, the underlying wrong perception that a destination is boring school excursion territory or beachside murders during the first military coup that looks to have worn off the teflon. I can’t find any destination that has shown a measurable improvement over the past 5 years as a result of giving away free travel to anybody with an above average social following.

Both ACT and Queensland have lagged behind the other Australian states for tourist arrivals and expenditure. The states that are more heavily invested in influencer marketing are going backwards roughly proportional to what they’re spending on it.

What if they all picked the wrong influencers?

In social media, there are no right influencers, insofar as somebody’s past performance is not predictive of their future performance and the most cost effective strategy is to target a massive number of average- or below average influencers(pdf) rather than cherrypicking from the top. This looks more like traditional mass marketing than influencer marketing.

But we got a lot of Likes

This is the end slide of every case study in social media influence in the travel industry. A number in the millions followed by a measure unique to a social media platform and a giant blue thumbs up. A reach the size of a medium sized nation-state. It’s rare to see a solid measure of effectiveness like sales, arrivals or even something vague but measurable like brand awareness or sentiment. It is straightforward to measure this with independent pre- and post-trip surveys of an influencer’s audience and thanks to Facebook and Twitter, it is cheap to target those audiences with a survey. But virtually nobody does.

Influencer marketing is a grand distraction for the tourism industry but at least it is one that seems mostly confined to industries that don’t traditionally hire people who study maths. There’s a reason that you don’t see many finance bloggers getting a free home loan. It is probably illegal.

Not an economic analysis of food trends

Thomas the Think Engine takes on an economic analysis of food trends and the growth in American barbecue in Melbourne, and it’s really quite wrong.

The whole city is suddenly buzzing with American cuisine – and just a few short years ago, that would have seemed like an oxymoron.

The reason is one restaurateurs almost grasp.

“Alabama-born, Dallas-raised Jeremy Sutphin, chef at Le Bon Ton, attributes it to adventure and awareness. ”I’ve been here eight years and the palates are searching for something different – and people are becoming more aware.” “

He’s right about that awareness. Australia’s knowledge of America is now a lot deeper and wider – we’ve now been to America enough that we’ve ventured beyond LA and New York.

He draws a link between travel to different countries and the perception of increased interest in their food. The problem is that the food trends that get written about in the Australian food press from Broadsheet to Epicure bear absolutely no relationship to how the vast majority of Australians eat in restaurants. They bear something of a relationship to how a minority of inner city urbanites eat in the short term, but even then, they’re a terrible guide. Claire from Melbourne Gastronome and I have had a running joke that every year since 2004 someone in Epicure has announced that this will be the year of Peruvian food, but that never happens. I’m still waiting for my plate of delicioso cuy con papas.

Actual food trends are long term and driven by a huge number of factors. If it was as easy as tracking overseas departures, I’d be rich after my investment in an L&P distribution deal. New Zealand is Australia’s biggest destination for short term departures but it’s still pretty tough to get a paua fritter in Melbourne. There probably is a link between Australian travel and interest in foreign food but it isn’t a sufficient condition for it to become popular in Australia.

Here’s a better representation of Australian restaurant trends in Google search data: searches in Australia for different national cuisines in the Restaurants category of Google.

Italian is still dominant with Thai breaking away from Indian and Chinese in mid-2005. Interest in American food has stayed relatively static with some growth in interest since 2011, but not nearly as much as the hype suggests.

For another confirmation of the difference in scale, Urbanspoon lists 1228 Italian restaurants in Melbourne and 131 American restaurants excluding McDonalds, Hungry Jacks, KFC, Subway and Pizza Hut (which should probably also go in the Italian column). Including the chain restaurants, there’s 233. American food is really quite marginal.

When food writers talk about food trends, they’re really talking about a game of cultural capital to distinguish themselves and their readers from others, rather than what most people eat or will be eating in the future. Food writers are talking about American food because it distinguishes them from the mass of people who still love a creamy carbonara and Hawaiian pizza from their local Italian joint. The easiest way to predict what food writers will call a trend next is to see which restaurants open within walking distance from their house or office.