Mark Garner issues a warning and some advice
Brexit. Pandemic. War. Dear God. I’m not looking forward to the plague of locusts, though I have eaten a couple of the little mothers this year. Or was it last year? Who knows after three years of mind-numbing mayhem.
The bug eating was In Australasia. Other protein is available at the late, great Tim Bacon’s masterpiece and precursor of the wave of Pan-Asian cooking that has washed across the UK over the past seven years. Tim’s crispy belly pork is still a thing.
These coming two years are going to be tough, and independent restaurants are at real risk of going under.
John Lennon was right; life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. And life came at us like an express train in the form of Covid. No one has been spared by nature’s flexing its muscles. Has Mother Earth had enough of what she possibly believes is the real virus, the pandemic of the human race destroying the world?
The hospitality industry has been hit hard by Covid. Brexit has added red tape and tariffs striking supply chains to and from the European Union. Brexit may also have been a factor in losing many of the workers who helped keep the industry going. This is less clear as there are similar staffing problems in the rest of Europe and North America.
What is clear is the last twenty pre-pandemic years have seen Manchester and the North West hospitality industry change beyond recognition. Confidentials.com launched in 2003 and there were 40 something restaurants that would score over 13/20 in our system. A score similar to the movie industries 3/5. You will enjoy it at the score and above.
We did an audit during lockdown, and the count had increased to a staggering 512. We then took our nineteen years of writing, without fear nor favour, about the restaurant scene in the region and beyond and decanted the knowledge into a structured guide for our readers. This became the unexpected success that is ConfidentialGuides.com which has enabled us to look at the phenomenon with real experience stretching back a couple of decades.
We saw trends emerging, maturing and settling back as the weak fell by the wayside and the fickle dining public moved on to the hot new thing. We witnessed in normal times these sine waves and saw predictable patterns.
Burgers anyone? Thai anyone? Spanish anyone? Pan Asian anyone? Small plates anyone? Ramen anyone?
Trends are easy when money is cheap and easy. We know food is fashion and as sure as flares are in one year, drainpipes elbow them aside cruelly the next.
We are heading for a period where money is going to be expensive. It’s been cheap for two and a half decades. No longer folks. There is going to be seismic change in the next two years, which will re-fashion our lives until we deliver cold fusion and leave mother nature to get on with her masterpiece, photosynthesis.
We are at war. It may not feel like it, but we are and anyone denying this is a fool. Defending democracy will extract a cost from everyone in the affluent, soft west to a certain degree. Maybe we will have to leave that thinner TV for another year. Or dine out one night less a month. In Somalia, it’s a bit different. Mass famine is on its ugly way again.
These coming two years are going to be tough, and independent restaurants are at real risk of going under. Most will look at their costs and cut them. Cut the days they are open. Close at weekends, to look after the mental health of their employees. But what of the mental health of their workers when these restaurants close completely and they are out of work?
Back in 2009, the aggressive survived, coming out of that recession at speed. They came up with innovative marketing. They knew there were too many covers with too few diners to go round. So they rolled their sleeves up and went to war. Not with tanks, but with loudhailers, remarketing and retargeting existing customers and went out searching for new diners. And they pulled a lot of those from the restaurant up the street. The guys whose shutters were pulled half down.
You can’t sell if you don’t tell.
Above all, there is one absolute rule. Confidentials has survived three recessions in its nearly twenty years of being here; we have seen competitors fold, both print and digital. Trolls have come and gone, as has the merry band of ligging bloggers of the late noughties and early teens. That rule for us is the same as the rule for restaurants and bars.
Content is king.
At Confidentials we consistently have the best content writers. We stick to what we know. Our readers want to be sure that when they are opening our pages on whatever platform we publish, they will find content that will educate, inform, entertain and yes, on occasion irritate. We have become a trusted brand.
It's time to wrap this up. What can I forecast for the coming year? I’m sure there will be a lot of pundits going on with themselves.
My Opinion? I haven’t got one mate. I haven’t got a fucking clue.
Read next: The best things we ate in 2022
Read again: 'Beautifully cooked with big flavours' - The Hinchliffe Arms, Cragg Vale, reviewed
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