Restaurant Hype3

Sitting at the Chefs Table the other night at The Chiltern Firehouse, that doyenne of celebrity exclusivity, I wondered how I got here.

I thought that reservations here were organised by demanding executive assistants, months in advance and that the best tables were allocated on recognition of Hello! photos (or don’t I mean Instagram accounts…).

Has the Firehouse lost its cache when the (very) ordinary person like me can make a half-hearted attempt at a reservation for later that day, expecting to be laughed out of the gold plated reservations centre, and secure a premium spot overlooking the action, just a few hours later?

Or perhaps the celebrities are still holed up in their Cotswold barn conversions. That’s certainly where I saw David, Victoria and family a couple of weeks ago… at their reserved table in my un-reservable local pub (while I had to dine on a stool).

This got me thinking about hype vs. hot vs. not and what was good for our industry. We all know we need to have a strong marketing plan to launch a new venture and PR makes sure the influencers can pass the message on, but when does marketing ‘miss the mark’?

I see it in Dubai, where our business has been established for over 20 years. The buzz around a new restaurant is a stampede that would match any Serengeti migration and then just a few short months later these celebrated venues are brushing the dust and tumbleweed out of their over invested interior designs.

Yes, some of these businesses lack substance and integrity and only show a veneer of desirability – how dusky pink and flower strewn their photos look – a restaurant tinder, if you like. But many others are from long formed dreams, well planned and executed with robust offers in good locations… until they ‘arrive’.

Restaurant Hype1

I think we can safely call this overhyping and according to the Cambridge Dictionary this is: to advertise or discuss something in newspapers, on television, etc. too much, so that it seems bigger or better than it really is.

Overhyping and underdelivering create a cycle of disappointment for ‘real’ customers that can lead to a decline in business, negative reviews, and decreased customer loyalty. However, the damage caused goes beyond just the immediate impact on the business. It creates a toxic work environment that can leach into the wider industry, distracting from the craft of creating experiences that could have lasting integrity.

When a business overpromises, it creates a culture of pressure, stress, and dissatisfaction among its employees. Low morale and high turnover rates follow and a general sense of disillusionment abounds, resulting in the quality of service declining and further perpetuating the cycle of disappointment and dissatisfaction.

And it doesn’t just end there, the desirability of a neighbourhood can be affected, the confidence of great teams and leaders crushed and the customer puts on another layer of cynicism.

So, what to do… no more marketing messages? No PR push? No social chat? No instant Insta? We need all these tools but we need them to slowly build making sure the foundations are strong and in touch with the values of the brand, team and founders.

Sitting watching the kitchen team at The Chiltern Firehouse it was everything I wanted to see… it had all the drama of a Shakespearean tale; the characters, the language, the showman and painstaker. The fast pace and the gentle nurturing. The smiles and the furrowed brows. The recognition and the relief.

Watching the raw food around me being shaped into perfect dishes by craftspeople who cared beyond just doing their job, reminded why I loved this industry and have done since my first job in it at, aged 17.

This was not ‘hype’… this was ‘heart’ and it was heartening to see.

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