One wonders why New Media Publishing is changing its Eat Out 2014 magazine, announcing on Monday that it is reducing the size of the restaurant magazine by more than half, in carrying only 500 restaurant write-ups, compared to the listing of 1100 restaurants in Eat Out 2013!
The cost saving in reducing the size of the magazine is evident, advertising sales for the magazine probably being a greater challenge this year, given how tight the economy is. Another reason must be the power of the internet, with fewer restaurant lovers paging through the Eat Out magazine, and more Googling information about restaurants, often finding the websites of Food24 and Eat Out, with the largest listings of restaurants. Bloggers are a threat to these two sites, as increasingly top restaurant bloggers find their reviews on the first page of Google too. The blog reviews may have greater credibility than the conglomerate restaurant sites, in being more honest. The conglomerate restaurant sites have been seen to copy restaurant information directly from the restaurant websites, without writing their own reviews in many instances, thus affecting their credibility as an information source. The Eat Out website has been criticised for carrying out-of-date information about restaurants.
To try to detract attention away from the drastic reduction in the Eat Out 2014 content, New Media Publishing announced that restaurants must apply to be considered to be included in South Africa’s Top 500 restaurant list! Closing date for applications is 30 June. The applications will be evaluated ‘by a panel of 50 of ‘South Africa’s top food/restaurant industry experts (to be announced)’. Restaurants will be evaluated on menu composition, ingredient seasonality, wine, service, and ambiance, plus other (unnamed) factors. In case the message is not clear, the Eat Out announcement emphasises that only the Top 500 selected restaurants ‘that impress our 50-strong editorial panel’ will be included in the restaurant magazine next year. The form to be completed requests a description of the restaurant, the year in which it opened, its seating capacity, its signature dishes and the average price of the main courses (how does this work for a Tasting Menu?), its policy on BYO wine and the corkage fee, and the credit cards accepted by the restaurant.
It is disconcerting that the criteria for inclusion have not been clearly stated. Of concern too is that one of the most sensitive issues, being that the chef has to have been at the restaurant for a twelve month period from November 2012 onwards, is not mentioned, and one does not know if any/all restaurants, no matter how recently opened, will be included in the Top 500 Restaurant list. It is also not clear if the Top 20 shortlist, and the ultimate Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant list, will be derived from the Top 500 list!
Eat Out Top 500 Restaurants: http://www.myjotform.com/EatOut/restaurant Closing date 30 June. Image: Eat Out
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage