Right. For all those who came and supported the very first For Food’s Sake event in The Sugar Club recently (Thursday 29 March to be exact) here’s a bit of news. Actually, even if you weren’t there for the first one, you might well be interested.
We promised that we would keep up the good work and bring you another For Food’s Sake evening on the last Thursday of every second month (that’d be May, July, September, November and so forth). And so here you have it.
We’ve locked down our theme and panel for the next For Food’s Sake discussion, to kick off at 7.30pm on Thursday 26 May in The Sugar Club, Leeson Street, Dublin 2 (doors at the earlier hour of 7pm, discussion kicking off at 7.30pm sharp), when we’ll be asking the question:
Panelists will include:
- Paul Cadden of Saba, and President of the Restaurant Association of Ireland
- Caroline Byrne, Dublin editor of the Bridgestone Guide
- Joe Macken, restaurateur (JoBurger and Crackbird)
- [Final panelist TBC]
We’ll also be asking, if they are up the swanny, how did they get there?
Did they paddle themselves up there on the back of the Celtic Tiger during the so-called ‘Rip off Ireland’ days? Are restaurants a great way to make a quick buck and are restaurateurs laughing all the way to the bank, or is the industry really in a crisis as the Restaurant Association of Ireland (RAI) say? Why do we pay so much more for a meal in Ireland than the equivalent in – for example – Spain, and where exactly is our money going? What kind of overheads do restaurants have to deal with, and is there anyway we can bring down the cost for us all?
Is it fair to ask them to pay above the national minimum wage and to pay up to double time on Sundays? Is it fair to ask restaurant workers to take a reduction in their wages? Or is it better that employers and employees have the flexibility to reduce wages in order to secure jobs?
And what about tips in restaurants – who should they go to and who do they go to? Should we tip like Americans or like the French? Which is a fairer system and which would give us better service? Do we value front of house staff enough? We expect better service but how can we encourage it?
And what about chefs? If you believe what you see on TV it’s a very glamorous rewarding life, but what’s the reality? Why do even the leading Irish restaurants find it hard to staff their kitchens?
If we have had one Irish restaurant or coffee shop closing every day in the last two years (as the RAI have reported) and if we are to expect 10 closures a week over the next year, as they have warned, is this an inevitable thinning out of an unsustainable ratio of restaurants to hungry punters? Do we have too many mediocre restaurants in the country which have gotten used to being able to serve overpriced mediocre food? Is competition not a good thing for consumers, and will the result not be that only the fit will survive?
Or are all restaurants struggling with unsustainable rents, wages and rates? And will the result be that only the bland survive and that restaurants aren’t in a position to take risks with their menus? Is it a race to the bottom?
And another thing (bear with me now, nearly there): for all the restaurants that closed last year, what of those that opened? We can all see plenty of vacant office and retail space around at the moment but far fewer vacant restaurants. Is there a certain type of restaurant doing well at the moment? Do they have a formula that the others should follow?
Expect these and other such demanding questions being battled out in a heated debate amongst the hand-picked panellists from across the industry together with what we hope will be another lively audience who will have more than their fair share to say. (The first For Food’s Sake event attracted over 100 opinionated punters to come to The Sugar Club and chew the cud, not to mention the complimentary smoked tuna, sour dough, artisan breads, chutneys and relishes.)
Oh and, as usual, there will be several food producers plying you with free tastings. And some prizes to win. And even more planned fun than I can possibly reveal at this point.
Besides, it’s only April still, and all of this isn’t happening until the end of May. But we’re so excited about it, we couldn’t help but start spreading the word.
You might do the same?