Five links on Friday – 15 July 2016

  1. Inside the underground economy propping up New York’s food carts
  2. Continuing my weekly coverage of food from the bogs, here’s how juice companies perpetuate the myth that cranberry juice prevents urinary tract infection.
  3. The history of food poisoning.
  4. Japan’s oldest single malt whisky has been released.
  5. Ruth Reichl admits that the timing in a delicious meatball recipe is pure fiction.. Nothing is sacred.

Five links on Friday – 8 July 2016

Food blogging is dead (again), so it’s probably as good a time as any to give up the ghost and put on the flesh.

  1. My dream book idea was once reviewing every revolving restaurant on earth. I was going to call it “Sit in This and Rotate”. Here’s Heather Wells Peterson’s take on the history of eating while rotating.
  2. War Is Boring’s Benedetta Argentieri traverses the thousand kilometre border with the Islamic state to present a culinary guide to the Kurdish front line.
  3. Old cow is the new black
  4. Fellow white people, here’s how not to do travel writing.
  5. Theoretically the stuff is still edible — but we wouldn’t say it’s advisable” is probably advice I wouldn’t take if I discovered ten kilograms of bog butter.

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. 121BC NSW
  2. 2KW Bar and Restaurant SA
  3. 4Fourteen NSW
  4. Aarli Bar, Broome WA
  5. Africola SA
  6. Albert St Food & Wine VIC
  7. Alpha NSW
  8. Bellota VIC
  9. Biota Dining, Bowral NSW
  10. Bistro Dom SA
  11. Bistro Gitan VIC
  12. Bread in Common WA
  13. Byron Beach Cafe, Byron Bay NSW
  14. Cafe Di Stasio VIC
  15. Cafe Nice NSW
  16. Catfish, Ballarat VIC
  17. Cecconi’s VIC
  18. Chianti SA
  19. Chin Chin VIC
  20. Co-Op Dining WA
  21. Cupitt’s Kitchen Ulladulla NSW
  22. Da Orazio NSW
  23. Dandelion VIC
  24. Divido WA
  25. eightysix ACT
  26. Esca Bimbadgen, Pokolbin NSW
  27. Est NSW
  28. Fino, Willunga SA
  29. Fish House, Burleigh Heads QLD
  30. Flying Fish NSW
  31. Garagistes TAS
  32. Gerard’s Bistro QLD
  33. Gladioli, Inverleigh VIC
  34. Glass Brasserie NSW
  35. Harvest Cafe, Newrybar NSW
  36. Hentley Farm, Seppeltsfield SA
  37. Hill of Grace Restaurant SA
  38. Il Centro QLD
  39. Innocent Bystander, Healesville VIC
  40. Italian&Sons ACT
  41. Izakaya Den VIC
  42. Jolleys Boathouse Restaurant SA
  43. Josh’s Cafe, Berrima NSW
  44. Kazuki’s, Daylesford VIC
  45. Kitchen by Mike NSW
  46. Knee Deep, Wilyabrup WA
  47. Little NNQ SA
  48. LuMi NSW
  49. Madame Hanoi SA
  50. Magill Estate Restaurant SA
  51. Maha VIC
  52. Malamay ACT
  53. Manfredi at Bells, Killcare Heights NSW
  54. Market Street Cafe, Mudgee NSW
  55. Mezzalira ACT
  56. Mocan & Green Grout ACT
  57. Moda QLD
  58. Momofuku Seiobo NSW
  59. Montalto, Red Hill South VIC
  60. Ms G’s NSW
  61. Neram Harvest, Armidale NSW
  62. Nobu Perth WA
  63. Novaro’s,Launceston TAS
  64. Osteria at Stefano Lubiana Winery, Granton TAS
  65. Pei Modern NSW
  66. Pendolino NSW
  67. Pipers of Penola, Penola SA
  68. Pope Joan VIC
  69. Porteno NSW
  70. Public Dining Room NSW
  71. Pulp Kitchen ACT
  72. Pure South VIC
  73. Restaurant Como, Blaxland NSW
  74. Restaurant Mason, Newcastle NSW
  75. Ricky’s River Bar and Restaurant, Noosa Heads QLD
  76. Rockpool Bar & Grill NSW
  77. Rocksalt, Broadbeach QLD
  78. Rumi VIC
  79. Sailors Thai NSW
  80. Saint Crispin VIC
  81. Sayers Sister WA
  82. Silo Bakery and Cafe ACT
  83. Spice Temple VIC
  84. Spirit House, Yandina QLD
  85. St Isidore, Milton NSW
  86. Supermaxi VIC
  87. Tartufo QLD
  88. The Artisan ACT
  89. The Daniel O’Connell SA
  90. The Peak, Maryvale QLD
  91. The Pot Food & Wine SA
  92. The Studio Bistro, Yallingup WA
  93. Three Japanese TAS
  94. Tomah Gardens, Bilpin NSW
  95. Vini NSW
  96. Voyager Estate Winery Restaurant, Margaret River WA
  97. Vue de Monde VIC
  98. Wharf Restaurant & Bar, Nowra 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.

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.