Rant: Menu Rage

by The Editor

Dear Canberra Restauranteurs.

Thank you.  Thank you very much one and all for your efforts over 2011.  It’s certainly was a hard year for the industry.  Belts have tightened across the board and, thanks to Masterchef and its imitators, almost every domestic kitchen is kitted out with a rice cooker or sous vide.

So, at a time when the Restaurant and Catering Awards are but a hazy memory and the hospitality community prepares ramps itself back up after a brief rest before another year of hard work, The Canberran feels it is time to sit back, reflect, and gain a perspective of where the local dining scene is at.

Since the downturn in 2008, there has been little activity in the market.  This year however, has seen the introduction of a number of new ventures, and a couple of slow burners have come into maturity.

However, there appears to be a growing problem in some of the better Canberra venues…

One of the worst bad habits of Canberra venues sadly gaining momentum is the idea that a particular venue ‘owns’ a particular item on their menu.  Frankly, this trend is an embarrassment to what is, in the majority, a sturdy industry with great operators, both in the kitchen and at back of house.

For those not privy, here is how this peurile (and rather damaging) behaviour presents itself:

Venue Owner 1:  “Hey Venue Owner Two!  I can believe you’ve got freakin’ chicken schnitzel on your menu.  Don’t you freakin’ know we do chicken schnitzel???  Take it off, or I’ll unleash (insert ridiculous threat here) on your arse.”

Venue Owner 2:  “Where do you get off?  I’ve been doing pizza for at least 8 months now.  Why did you decide to do pizzas?  Are you trying to copy me???  Stop it, or I’ll (insert something more serious/ridiculous than previous threat) your entire family.”

And so it goes.

Really, what is this?  Every industry… including hospitality… is built on the idea that you provide a product or service in a competitive environment.  No one owns a particular product unless you possess a legally defensible trademark on a unique technological advancement (a development most unlikely regarding yet another ‘foam’).

So please shut up.  Just. Shut. Up.  Honestly, you sound like a bunch of children in a market far more mature than behaviour like this might suggest.

The lesson to be learned is simple.  If someone down the road starts serving pork belly in what you consider an attempt to replicate your menu, perhaps you’d do better to acknowledge the fact that imitation is the greatest form of flattery.   If you’re still not sure, then perhaps it’s time to look inwards and improve that offering you’re so afraid of losing to competitors.

Perhaps your product is not as good as you think.

Download: Rant – Menu Items.pdf