The worth of restaurant food without the restaurant

By Lorraine Koh - Monday, Apr 09, 2012

“The food here is so expensive,” said my guy friend in hushed tones.  I met him by chance at Savour 2012 (a food event where one aspect of it includes 15 restaurants from around the world presenting their signature creations from $6-$21). He is a computer programmer and one of those who managed to get a complimentary entry pass through “a friend of a friend”. By his income standards, spending $21 for food should not be “so expensive”, yet he thought it was. As I was chowing down my $9 Chicken Yakitori (savoury and tender no doubt, and it did not have any dry aftertaste of the chicken meat) by a steel table, underneath the night sky, I wondered if the true worth of a restaurant can ever be judged just for its food. Strip away the fancy interiors, attentive staff and glitzy advertising, would the dining experience at Saint Pierre or Forest be the same in funfair-like circumstances? Or would it be better to just dine at the restaurant itself?


Food vs. Ambience


“Good food is necessary but not sufficient for a world class restaurant,” says Loh Lik Peng, hotelier and restaurateur, who had also attended the event.  He adds, “Décor and service all play a part in the experience but the factor that plays the overwhelming role is the food.”


Eldwin Chua, CEO of the Paradise Group believes that balance is the key to a good dining experience. He comments, “You need good food, good service at the right price with the right ambience.”


The Price is Right


Price is a major element for diners too. Eldwin remarks, “If you are serving food which cost more, consumers will expect the service and décor to be of a higher standard. “


So back to Savour 2012, why did so many attendees find the food too expensive? Do remember the portions are of “sample size”, even though there is nothing to fault regarding the taste of the food.  Loh Lik Peng says, ““I quite liked Savour’s format and I liked the informality but the prices were way too high and largely inaccessible for the average person. If prices remind at this level I think public interest will wane. ”


Laura Chan, 32, bank executive who attended Savour 2012, begged to differ. “The price is reasonable because how else will I get to sample dishes from exquisite restaurants from Spain and Peru? If I were to dine at a similar restaurant in Singapore, it would be five times the price!”


Teo Wei Jia, 21, writer adds, “I thought the event had a good balance of a fine dining experience – from food to supermarkets, wine appreciation and beers to masterclasses.”


Tell us what you think. How much should fine dining cuisine be priced without the restaurant?


Savouring fine eats at Savour 2012