Monday, 4 February 2013

"Great Deal & Great Restaurant" but are you sure?

“It doesn’t always do exactly what it says on the tin”
The restaurant business is tough, as every restaurateur knows. If a restaurant is well run I think it would be fair to say there are probably a bunch of workaholics involved. At Ouzos we’re blessed to have some of the finest workaholics in the business. From the restaurant floor to our kitchens our staff are truly remarkable people who work incredibly hard to keep Ouzos going and give our customers great food, value for money and great service.
I do get annoyed when some company’s or individuals try to take advantage of restaurants and make money without so much as washing a plate. Below I have given you two good examples of what i mean.     
1.     The Daily Deal Websites!
In 2005 we were approached by a UK marketing company. They did what the likes of Living Social, Groupon, Deal Rush and so on do today. The only difference was this company sold the deals locally and door to door. At the time it seemed like a great idea and a great deal, we signed up and I can tell you I still feel sick when I think of the money we lost on that deal.
If you don’t know how these Daily Deal companies work, I will tell you and I’ll keep it simple. A typical deal would be, meal for 2 + wine, value €100, this is discounted by 50% so you, the customer, can buy this deal for €50. That’s a great deal for you, but what about the restaurant? Well, a Daily Deal website recently quoted my company a commission rate of 50%. So we sell the €100 worth of food and wine for €50, we pay the Daily Deal site €25 and we get €25. As a restaurateur, you don’t have to be mathematicians to figure out you’ve just lost your shirt!  
When Discount Deal Websites sell a vouchers for restaurants that has been heavily discounted, the restaurants lose money and the restaurants nearby and around those restaurants have to try and compete, so everyone loses. Restaurants that lose money close and people lose their jobs. The reality is, deals websites are very profitable for their owners but in my opinion they have done nothing but damage to the restaurant trade in Ireland.
2.     The Plaque Plague!

Outside practically every restaurant in the country you will find these restaurant critic or restaurant guide plaques stuck to the wall in an effort to attract potential new customers. They proclaim things like “Best in Ireland 2013”, “Best Restaurant Award” or “recommended By……” and so on and so on…….So the big question is, do the general public believe that restaurants displaying these plaques are better than the restaurants who have no such plaques displayed?
Before you answer that question consider this, did you know that the plaques are not presented; they are not won in some grand competition. They are simply ordered and purchased by the restaurants? Did you know that the price of these plaques is between €125 and €300 per year? Did you know one company selling its famous plaque will even sell you backdated plaques at a discount?
So here are the problems, when a restaurant purchases a plaque from a restaurant guide or a restaurant critic they effectively become a customer of the guide or the critic? Surly that can’t be right? Surly restaurant critics or restaurant guides must stay impartial in order to have any credibility? I don’t believe they can, as long as they continue to sell their seal of approval. Then there's the really big question, Is it right to allow the public to be duped into believing that these plaques have been awarded to the restaurants when the fact is the plaques have been bought and paid for by the restaurants they are meant to be endorsing?  
At Ouzos we don’t do plaques or Daily Deals, we believe in offering our customers great food, value for money, great service, then we rely on the oldest and the best marketing method of them all “Word-of-Mouth” look after the customers you have and they will spread the word.  


  1. Wow, eye opening! I never knew you could just buy those plaques what a sham. Cheers for posting.

  2. Padraic I'm really disappointed at this uninformed generalisation, you have shown no appreciation or understanding to how genuine guides derive their income and what they are trying to achieve. Then when I go to your website the first thing I see is a photo of a well known food critics plaque, is that hypocrisy or what?

    What you refer to above is a marketing spend for hospitality establishments and there is a big difference between all of the companies that offer to sell plaques.

    Some are purely making money out of selling an "award" to establishments that want to make themselves look better to passing trade and are no more than a complete scam, while some are truly independent guides whose stamp of approval is valued by consumer and owner alike. They have guidebooks, websites, apps etc that have been around a long time and consumers trust and value the recommendations within them and use them to make key decisions on where they go.

    The better end of the scale recommend and promote lots of establishments that may never buy a plaque but who will feature on their websites or guidebooks with perhaps no charge at all while at the other end there is the sale of plaques with no guidebook, website etc behind them.

    Guidebooks etc have to make their money somewhere, did you know if you sell a book in a shop you net 25% ie €5 out of €20? Then you have to pay for the printers (c. €3 per book), designers, editors, writers etc. There is absolutely no money in it. Likewise for websites - have you any idea the investment that goes into them to bring readers en masse? To keep the readership they have built up over many years happy, to progress and build? Any idea how much a range of apps costs to develop? I don't think you will find an even remotely wealthy guidebook owner in Ireland so they certainly aren't doing it for money - love, passion etc for the industry most definitely, but money not a chance.

    In this day and age of consumer driven content you would think the Irish hospitality industry would be happy to have a couple of qualified, independent voices out there who are promoting the best in Irish hospitality and telling the world about it. As part of the Irish hospitality industry you should be valuing these companies and promoting the genuine companies independent recommendation, not trashing them and putting them in the same basket with the "buy an award" crowd.

    It's a shame you couldn't offer your readers a balanced view where you discussed the positives and negatives of each company without a directionless rant!

    As a truly independent guidebook you will see that our recommendation of your establishments will remain as long as your standards and quality remain as high as they have done and we've promoted that through whatever medium of business we are operating in (guidebook, website, app, visits to your establishment - all at no charge to you whatsoever). So your very own establishment is a perfect example of one that we recommend, promote and suggest for other schemes that we are involved with without ever billing you for anything. If you want to buy a plaque then great, if not you still get visited by anonymous assessors who pay their own bills and promoted by us.

    Bob Nixon, Director, Georgina Campbell Guides

  3. Hi Bob,

    Firstly, Georgina Campbell is one of Ireland’s most respected food writers and I have tremendous admiration for her work in promoting Irish restaurants over many years.

    In our blog we have simply asked questions regarding the sale of these plaques by restaurants guides and restaurant critics to restaurants. In some ways you have answered the questions yourself. If a restaurant guide looks to the restaurants they are recommending to fund their guide, can they be truly independent?

    The question of whose plaque is better is just lost in the noise. I have had numerous conversations with guests in our restaurants and they all believe that all these plaques are awards of some kind and are impressed when they see a large variety of these plaques stuck to the front of a restaurant. They don’t distinguish between one plaque or another and have no idea how the restaurant got the plaque in the first place.

    Your reference to our website is a bit silly. We appear in many guides and don’t use their free links on our website. The one “recommended by” link on our website is free, we did not buy the plaque because I don’t believe it is right to do so.

    Now that we have started the plaque debate, I think this could be a great time for respected guides to put some clear blue water between themselves and the “buy an award crowd” as you put it. If the plaque was truly awarded and not something that has to be purchased it wouldn’t be long before it was highly sought after, cherished and respected by all.

    Padraic Hanley