The Leeu Collection announced yesterday that its Le Quartier Français hotel has closed its Garden Room and Bar, to make way for Protégé, a new casual-style Eatery managed by Chef Scot Kirton, who already owns Le Petite Colombe restaurant in the Franschhoek hotel. The new restaurant and bar is set to open in late October. Continue reading →
Last week I ate lunch at Mondiall twice. The first was a family lunch, and the second was an invitation to try the new Winter Menu at Mondiall and to meet new Chef Riaan Burger, who has been at the restaurant for six weeks. The experiences were chalk and cheese. Mondiall has been repositioned as a French Brasserie, serving ‘refined comfort food’, rather than as an around-the-world restaurant when it opened.
The family lunch followed the scattering of the ashes of our late mother, which we had done in Table Bay on the yacht IQ, which moors outside Mondiall. I was very disappointed with the lunch, which was a special group menu, a reduced version of former Chef Peter Tempelhoff’s menu. Chef Riaan was not working on the Freedom Day public holiday, owner Patrick Symington was not there, and Reservation Manager Mandy Smith whom I had dealt with in making the booking and discussing the menu, was not there either. The let-down was the waitress, and poor communication between Mandy and the Manager Franco. The food quality was not as expected either. I admire Patrick for proactively sending a sms to ask how the lunch went, and I told him about my disappointment. What was amazing was the glazed pork belly, offered as a Tapas dish, served with crackling, and a honey soy glaze. This dish remains on the new menu. Continue reading →
Local restaurant consultant Michael Said has evaluated the potential impact of eleven international restaurant trends on restaurants in our country, writing for www.bizcommunity.com. The trends were documented by Technomic Inc, an American market research company.
1. More ordering of “retro cocktails and high-end spirits” and craft beers, away from mass-produced alternatives, at fine-dining restaurants, as restaurant patrons want to celebrate their increasing confidence in the year. Said’s reaction is that the stricter ‘drink/driving’ legislation may counter this trend locally, and predicts a greater focus on non-alcoholic cocktails in general, and cocktails for designated drivers in particular.
2. Restaurants are becoming mobile, moving location, without a fixed abode. Said says that rent-free location is attractive, but is still too large a leap for South African restaurants.
3. A move away from a celebrity chef to the celebrity farmer, who supplied the ingredients, in marketing communication. Said is sceptical of seeing “Farmer Brown” style advertising in South Africa.
4. Technology in restaurants, to gain a competitive edge, including iPads with menus and winelists, and hand-held devices for payment at the table, will grow. Said says that social media marketing, location-based advertising and online reputation management will certainly be replicated in South Africa. He is however sceptical about the widespread use of iPads, with the danger of them disappearing with the cutlery and condiments!
5. The ‘Korean Influence’ is forecast for the USA, resulting from immigration, but is discounted by Said for South Africa.
6. The trend of ‘Tired of being poor’ could see restaurant patrons spoiling themselves with indulgences on higher-priced menu items. Said says this could apply locally, given that interest rate decreases have put more Rands into customers’ pockets.
7. Contradicting the previous trend, but not mutually exclusive, is that customers are demanding even greater value for money, and restaurants will have permanent value offers on their menus, a trend Said agrees will apply locally too. I would like to add that Cape restaurants have recognised the value of value-offerings, and 37 Cape Town restaurants are offering summer specials, a commendable business policy.
8. Restaurant chains will reinvent themselves with new branding and looks, as customers look for “new and exciting places to celebrate the new found financial freedom”. Said recommends that restaurants reinvest their greater income back into their businesses.
9. Comfort food will remain in demand, as will traditional dishes, either as they are, or with a modern interpretation. Said questions this trend forecast, as he doubts that patrons want to eat more of the same ‘home food’ at restaurants. He recommends that they be enticed back to restaurants with ‘old favourites, new experiences and plenty of “love”‘.
10. Supermarkets are increasingly competing against restaurants, offering their customers family value-for-money eat-in ideas and products. Locally, Pick ‘n Pay and Woolworths “are taking customers out of restaurants and into the aisle”. Said recommends that ‘warmth and hospitality’ cannot be bought in a supermarket, and are points of difference for restaurants.
11. Restaurant menus will see a balance of healthy (starters) and indulgent (desserts) items. Said sees challenges for restaurants caused by menu-labelling requirements, and the Consumer Protection Act, said to be effective from April. I would like to add my own note to this trend, and call on restaurants to specify the fat content per 100g portion, and the carbohydrate content per serving for diabetics, as it is done on all Woolworths packaging – diabetes is a ‘price’ that is paid by restaurant lovers, and diabetics should be encouraged to eat out healthily without feeling that they are losing out.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.comj Twitter: @WhaleCottage
The Sweet Service Award goes to Keagon of Knysna Tourism, who twice within 24 hours showed how he walks the extra mile for the tourists coming to Knysna, a reason why this Tourism Bureau is rated so highly. At first a visitor to Knysna wanted to find the Knysna Fine Art Gallery, not to be confused with the Knysna Art Gallery. The former was not listed in the Garden Route Art brochure, so Keagon googled the gallery, found it, and called them to confirm their address. The following day the tourist asked Keagon to help her trace Piccolo Italia, a coffee shop across the road from the Tourism Bureau. As he had no contact details for them, Keagon offered to go to the outlet to get the name of the owner, and his contact details, which he did promptly.
The Sour Service Award goes to DISH at The Rex Hotel in Knsyna. A customer walked past the restaurant, and was impressed with the look of the restaurant, and its interior design in particular. The lone waiter/barman had the airconditioner on high heat, at a European level, as he was so cold. It was unbearably hot. He seated the customer, the only person in the large restaurant, right at the back of the restaurant, so that he could keep the airconditioner closest to him on. The pasta dish was tasty, but the waiter took no trouble to interact with the customer, other than to answer questions when asked. When the customer left, he did not bother to say goodbye or thank you. The Rex Hotel brochure contradicts itself in describing the restaurant’s fare as “5-star cuisine” and then as “upmarket Bistro style cuisine”. Adding to the positioning confusion is the restaurant’s newsletter, which talks about its “comfort food”. Restaurants, or food served by them, are not judged on a star basis, as are accommodation establishments.
The WhaleTales Sweet & Sour Service Awards are presented every Friday on the WhaleTales blog. Nominations for the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be sent to Chris von Ulmenstein at firstname.lastname@example.org. Past winners of the Sweet and Sour Service Awards can be read on the Friday posts of this blog, and in the WhaleTales newsletters on the www.whalecottage.com website.