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Insane Journalist ?

message posted 16-Oct-06 11:54:59

The Think Tank: We should decide our own restaurant bills

ELIZABETH McMEEKIN October 16 2006 The Herald

We've all been there: sitting round a designer table, anticipating a pleasant meal with friends. You order the chicken, they order the beef, you sip on a 20-a-bottle wine from a large glass and wait for the feast to arrive. And it's well, all right. Average. Mediocre. And you'll be paying 40 a head.
You think about sending it back, but then it's perfectly edible. It's just not the dining experience you'd anticipated from such an expensive and stylish restaurant.
But what if there was a dining alternative which meant you wouldn't ever have to leave a restaurant feeling as though you'd paid designer prices for something your granny could have made on a Monday night while watching Coronation Street?
Well, there is. It's a little idea called "the customer is always right" so right, in fact, that we should be allowed to dictate the price of a meal, not have it dictated to us.
At least, that's what the Weinerei Cafe in Berlin thinks. Its belief is that the food it serves is only worth as much as the customer deems it to be. The idea is simple: find a table, help yourself to the fresh food on offer and then leave some money when you leave. The amount is entirely at your discretion. You could
even eat for free if that's what you really wanted.
Silly, you scoff. Amateurish, you might think. Well, perhaps. But there's no taking away from the fact that this is a thriving business which has earned a name for itself in the German capital. Diners at the Weinerei Cafe rave about its quirky atmosphere and good food. Indeed, the cafe has a formidable reputation among diners who appreciate value-for-money cuisine.
The cynical among us would assume that most people would leave without paying, happy in the knowledge that they've legitimately had a free meal. Yet if that were the case the Weinerei would have shut its doors long ago. While the philosophy might sound a little shaky from a profit perspective, it does seem to be working diners are getting good quality food and the restaurant is presumably making a profit, or at least breaking even.
It's a lesson that certain restaurants in Scotland could learn. You know the type: slick decor, a hint of designer charm, a vaguely recognisable name and enough hype to feed the five thousand. But when you get there and order your three-course extravaganza the food is lacklustre and certainly not worth the three-figure sum that's ringing through your credit card at the end of the evening. And that's before we even consider the service charge.
Let's think about it for a moment. Were this restaurant, and indeed every other in the land, to adopt the Weinerei model, there wouldn't be any more disgruntled diners. Why? Because the good restaurants would thrive on word of mouth and generous payments. The bad ones would close in a matter of weeks.
Better still, this nonsense about celebrity chefs being able to charge astronomical sums for their dishes would all stop. Food would be democratically rated by the people who eat it, not priced according to the name and type of chef who designed the menu. The winners would be triumphant and the losers would either have to shut up shop or radically increase their kitchen standards. It's a win-win situation.
Under the Weinerei model, there could only ever be good restaurants because bad chefs or bad service would seriously jeopardise the profitability of a business. These problems would simply cease to exist, because the customer willed it to be so. Just think: no more undercooked food, no more tasteless sauces and no more waiting for an hour between courses. It's the diner's utopia, and it's only a small pricing issue away.

message posted 28-Feb-09 02:16:50
What a marvelous idea, why restrict such wisdom to the restaurant world.

My bin only gets emptied once a fortnight and the roads around me are a chuffing disgrace so I'll be writing to the council to tell them they are getting twenty quid a month from me until they sort it out.
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