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. ¿Procedencia? VIC
  2. 121BC NSW
  3. 2KW Bar and Restaurant SA
  4. A.Baker ACT
  5. Akachochin VIC
  6. Apothecary 1918 SA
  7. Attica VIC
  8. Belle’s Hot Chicken VIC
  9. Black Cow Bistro, Launceston TAS
  10. Bodega NSW
  11. Buon Ricordo NSW
  12. Cafe Nice NSW
  13. Cape Lodge, Yallingup WA
  14. Caveau, Wollongong NSW
  15. Centonove VIC
  16. Char NT
  17. China Doll NSW
  18. Cicciolina VIC
  19. Circa 1876, Pokolbin NSW
  20. Clarkes of Northbeach WA
  21. Coda VIC
  22. Cookie VIC
  23. Darley’s, Katoomba NSW
  24. D’Arry’s Verandah Restaurant, McLaren Vale SA
  25. Easy Tiger VIC
  26. Ecco QLD
  27. Ezard VIC
  28. Fish Face NSW
  29. Flying Fish NSW
  30. Gastro Park NSW
  31. Gingerboy VIC
  32. Gowings Bar & Grill NSW
  33. Grazing NSW
  34. Hare & Grace VIC
  35. Hill of Grace Restaurant SA
  36. Huxtable VIC
  37. Icebergs Dining Room & Bar NSW
  38. Innocent Bystander, Healesville VIC
  39. Izakaya Den VIC
  40. Josh’s Cafe, Berrima NSW
  41. Kazuki’s, Daylesford VIC
  42. Kepos St Kitchen NSW
  43. Knee Deep, Wilyabrup WA
  44. Lark Hill Winery Restaurant ACT
  45. Lau’s Family Kitchen VIC
  46. Lion Hotel SA
  47. Little NNQ SA
  48. Longrain NSW
  49. LuMi NSW
  50. Luxembourg VIC
  51. Madame Hanoi SA
  52. Malt Dining QLD
  53. Market Street Cafe, Mudgee NSW
  54. Mezzalira ACT
  55. Mister Bianco VIC
  56. Mocan & Green Grout ACT
  57. Monopole NSW
  58. Montrachet QLD
  59. Moon Park NSW
  60. Morks ACT
  61. Nobu VIC
  62. Nomad NSW
  63. Osteria Balla NSW
  64. Osteria di Russo & Russo NSW
  65. Pearls on the Beach, Pearl Beach NSW
  66. Pee Wee’s at the Point NT
  67. Petite Mort WA
  68. Pilu at Freshwater NSW
  69. Piqueos VIC
  70. Porteno NSW
  71. Punch Lane VIC
  72. Racine, Orange NSW
  73. Restaurant Amuse WA
  74. Rockwell & Sons VIC
  75. Rumi VIC
  76. Saint Crispin VIC
  77. Sake NSW
  78. Sake QLD
  79. Salt Grill, Surfers Paradise QLD
  80. Shankers Authentic Indian Cuisine SA
  81. Shira Nui VIC
  82. Silks WA
  83. Skillogolee, Sevenhill SA
  84. Stokehouse City VIC
  85. Supermaxi VIC
  86. Tartufo QLD
  87. The Argus Dining Room, Hepburn Springs VIC
  88. The Bathers’ Pavilion NSW
  89. The Carlton Wine Room VIC
  90. The Dispensary Enoteca, Bendigo VIC
  91. The Grand VIC
  92. The Woodhouse, Bendigo VIC
  93. Union Dining VIC
  94. Varnish on King WA
  95. Via Alta NSW
  96. Vintners Bar & Grill, Angaston SA
  97. Vue de Monde VIC
  98. Yellow NSW
  99. Yering Station Wine Bar, Yarra Glen VIC
  100. Zanzibar cafe, Merimbula NSW

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.

Day
Hours
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.