Five (or more) links on Friday – 27 May 2016

  1. Halal Snack Packs on Smith St – the indefatigable Brian Ward rounds up the best places to eat the best halal sensation to hit Australia since Indonesian trepangers came for our delicious sea cucumbers.
  2. Erstwhile collaborator Austin Bush documents every Thai noodle soup for Lucky Peach
  3. Latent symphorophilia? Then like me, you’ll be obsessed with Thermomix disaster journalism. I wish JG Ballard was alive to see this.
  4. If you have a spare $135,000 lying around, why not blow it on a Rene Redzepi-fuelled private jet tour of the world’s fine dining.
  5. Zomato: in 23 different markets and profitable nowhere.
  6. Fish: still doomed.

Footscray Market Opening Hours – Christmas 2015

I’ve now been blogging for 10 years. In that entire time the Footscray Market, one of Melbourne’s biggest wet markets, has never published their Christmas opening hours online. This post marks the 7th year of my Christmas vigil to celebrate it.

Here are the opening hours as published on a photocopy on the door:

Tuesday, 22 December 20157:00AM-6:00PM
Wednesday, 23 December 20157:00AM-6:00PM
Thursday, 24 December 20157:00AM-6:00PM
Friday, 25 December 2015CLOSED
Saturday, 26 December 2015CLOSED
Sunday, 27 December 2015CLOSED
Monday, 28 December 2015CLOSED
Tuesday, 29 December 20157:00AM-4:00PM
Wednesday, 30 December 20157:00AM-4:00PM
Thursday, 31 December 20157:00AM-6:00PM
Friday, 1 January 2016CLOSED
Saturday, 2 January 20167:00AM-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


It’s a Christmas miracle. The hours are now published on their website. Herein ends my vigil, unless they forget to update them next year.

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. Abla’s VIC
  2. Africola SA
  3. Ajo NSW
  4. Andre’s Cucina & Polenta Bar SA
  5. Bentley Restaurant & Bar NSW
  6. Berowra Waters Inn NSW
  7. Bodega NSW
  8. Bomba VIC
  9. Bridgewater Mill, Bridgewater SA
  10. Bucci QLD
  11. Cafe Paci NSW
  12. Cafe Sopra NSW
  13. Cantina 663 WA
  14. Capitol Bar & Grill ACT
  15. Catalina NSW
  16. Chiswick NSW
  17. Circa VIC
  18. Circa 1876, Pokolbin NSW
  19. Dainty Sichuan VIC
  20. Dandelion VIC
  21. Danjee NSW
  22. D’Arry’s Verandah Restaurant, McLaren Vale SA
  23. Esca Bimbadgen, Pokolbin NSW
  24. Estelle VIC
  25. Fino, Willunga SA
  26. Flying Fish NSW
  27. Franklin TAS
  28. Galileo Buona Cucina WA
  29. Gastro Park NSW
  30. Gazi VIC
  31. Guillaume NSW
  32. Hare & Grace VIC
  33. Harvest Cafe, Newrybar NSW
  34. Healesville Hotel, Healesville VIC
  35. Hill of Grace Restaurant SA
  36. Homage, Hiddenvale QLD
  37. Icebergs Dining Room & Bar NSW
  38. Innocent Bystander, Healesville VIC
  39. Izakaya Den VIC
  40. Kappo VIC
  41. Kiyomi, Broadbeach QLD
  42. Komeyui VIC
  43. Lau’s Family Kitchen VIC
  44. Lolli Redini, Orange NSW
  45. Lotus Eaters, Cygnet TAS
  46. Lutece Bistro & Wine Bar QLD
  47. Madame Hanoi SA
  48. Magill Estate Restaurant SA
  49. Maha VIC
  50. Margan, Broke NSW
  51. Me Wah TAS
  52. Merchant Osteria Veneta VIC
  53. Moon Park NSW
  54. Ms G’s NSW
  55. Nobu VIC
  56. Nomad NSW
  57. Northern Light VIC
  58. Novaro’s,Launceston TAS
  59. Nu Nu, Palm Grove QLD
  60. O My, Beaconsfield VIC
  61. Ocha VIC
  62. Ormeggio at the Spit NSW
  63. Patricia’s Table, Milawa VIC
  64. Pee Wee’s at the Point NT
  65. Petite Mort WA
  66. Pope Joan VIC
  67. Popolo NSW
  68. Print Hall WA
  69. Prive 249 QLD
  70. Public Dining Room NSW
  71. Public Inn, Castlemaine VIC
  72. Racine, Orange NSW
  73. Remi De Provence TAS
  74. Rockpool NSW
  75. Rockpool Bar & Grill VIC
  76. Rockpool Bar & Grill NSW
  77. Rockpool Bar & Grill WA
  78. Sailors Thai NSW
  79. Sails, Noosa Heads QLD
  80. Sake NSW
  81. Seaduction, Surfers Paradise QLD
  82. Sepia NSW
  83. Shiki SA
  84. Smoque ACT
  85. South on Albany, Berry NSW
  86. Spice Temple NSW
  87. Spirit House, Yandina QLD
  88. St Michael WA
  89. Stillwater, Launceston TAS
  90. Supernormal VIC
  91. Tartufo QLD
  92. Terre, Tuerong VIC
  93. The Gala Restaurant WA
  94. The Studio Bistro, Yallingup WA
  95. The Trustee Bar & Bistro WA
  96. Tipo 00 VIC
  97. Uccello NSW
  98. Valentino VIC
  99. Wharf Restaurant & Bar, Nowra NSW
  100. Windy Point SA

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.