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Janet's Blog: 3rd September 2012

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Are our expectations of formal dining just too high?

Casual dining is on the increase with many of us preferring to eat out a couple of times a week in cheaper establishments rather than blowing a day’s wages on posh nosh and an eye wateringly priced bottle of burgundy.  But is this purely driven from the burdening guilt of recession fever or is it that formal dining just does not meet our expectations anymore? 

This weekend I was invited, along with 9 other guests, to dine at an establishment where the owners have clearly spent several millions on the refurbishment of both the gardens and interiors. This, together with the prices of the menu and wine list (the cheapest bottle of burgundy being £40) set, in our minds, a reasonable expectation of slick service and prettily presented dishes of tasty delights. As it turned out, our excitement soon turned into disappointment when not only did they try and palm us off with a limited menu (“due to the party size”) but the chef turned out to be a better word smith than cook: flowery menu, utterly dull and poorly cooked food. There was a plethora of service issues that whilst individually weren’t cause for huge annoyance, as a collection, just became irritating. So when the bill came, with 12% service charge added, we paid and left feeling utterly ripped off. 

So there we go: 10 customers that will never eat there again and nor will any of our friends! But sadly this is not a rare experience. I am more often than not completely underwhelmed by formal dining experiences and I am not alone but why is this so?  Is it because we expect too much for our money these days? Have we been overly educated by restaurant fix it programmes? Or is it because there are now many more nice looking pubs and restaurants delivering a similar experience for half the price? Ultimately, it seems that there is no guarantee that a dining experience will be any better just because you pay more.

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