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. 10 William St NSW
  2. A Tavola NSW
  3. A.Baker ACT
  4. Akiba ACT
  5. Andre’s Cucina & Polenta Bar SA
  6. Aubergine ACT
  7. Bacash VIC
  8. Bar Lourinha VIC
  9. Berardo’s, Noosa QLD
  10. Berowra Waters Inn NSW
  11. Bistro Guillaume WA
  12. Bistro Thierry VIC
  13. BLACK by Ezard NSW
  14. Bloodwood NSW
  15. Bread in Common WA
  16. Cantina 663 WA
  17. Capitol Bar & Grill ACT
  18. Celsius Restaurant & Bar SA
  19. Centonove VIC
  20. Char NT
  21. Chill on Tedder, Main Beach QLD
  22. China Doll NSW
  23. Cho Cho San NSW
  24. Coast, Hervey Bay QLD
  25. Da Noi VIC
  26. Dainty Sichuan VIC
  27. Danjee NSW
  28. Duende WA
  29. D’Arry’s Verandah Restaurant, McLaren Vale SA
  30. El Publico WA
  31. FermentAsian, Tanunda SA
  32. Fish Face NSW
  33. Frank Restaurant and Bar TAS
  34. Gaucho’s Argentinian Restaurant SA
  35. Gerard’s Bistro QLD
  36. Gladioli, Inverleigh VIC
  37. Gowings Bar & Grill NSW
  38. Grazing NSW
  39. Green Park VIC
  40. Harrisons, Port Douglas QLD
  41. Hordern’s, Berry NSW
  42. Izakaya Fujiyama NSW
  43. Kappo VIC
  44. Lalla Rookh WA
  45. Lau’s Family Kitchen VIC
  46. Lee Ho Fook VIC
  47. Little NNQ SA
  48. Long Apron, Mountville QLD
  49. Madame Hanoi SA
  50. Maha VIC
  51. Mamasita VIC
  52. Margan, Broke NSW
  53. Marque NSW
  54. Matilda Bay Restaurant WA
  55. Millbrook Winery Restaurant Jarrahdale WA
  56. Monopole NSW
  57. Moon Park NSW
  58. Nunam WA
  59. O Bar and Dining NSW
  60. Oscillate Wildly NSW
  61. Ottoman Cuisine ACT
  62. Pearls on the Beach, Pearl Beach NSW
  63. Pendolino NSW
  64. Pleased to Meet You WA
  65. Port Phillip Estate VIC
  66. Prego WA
  67. Prive 249 QLD
  68. Prix Fixe VIC
  69. Public QLD
  70. Red Cabbage Food & Wine WA
  71. Reserve, Maleny QLD
  72. Restaurant Amuse WA
  73. Restaurant Two QLD
  74. Rockpool Bar & Grill VIC
  75. Rosetta VIC
  76. Ruby’s Mount Kembla, Kembla Heights NSW
  77. Sake QLD
  78. Shira Nui VIC
  79. Skillogolee, Sevenhill SA
  80. Supermaxi VIC
  81. The Argus Dining Room, Hepburn Springs VIC
  82. The Bathers’ Pavilion NSW
  83. The Bridge Room NSW
  84. The Carlton Wine Room VIC
  85. The Daniel O’Connell SA
  86. The Foraging Quail QLD
  87. The Peak, Maryvale QLD
  88. The Pot Food & Wine SA
  89. The Press Club VIC
  90. The Source TAS
  91. The Tamarind, Maleny QLD
  92. The Terrace Restaurant, Wahgunyah VIC
  93. The Trustee Bar & Bistro WA
  94. Union Dining VIC
  95. Valentino VIC
  96. Varnish on King WA
  97. Via Alta NSW
  98. Wharf Restaurant & Bar, Nowra NSW
  99. Wills Domain, Yallingup WA
  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.