Um, The Reason Why Sales Are Down Is Because BC Restaurant Patrons Are Bored?

February 1, 2011 

A little bit of morning WTF from the Vancouver Sun

“It would appear the restaurant consumer in B.C. is much more sophisticated than restaurant consumers across Canada,” Carter said citing a theory that B.C. consumer expectations are so high that consumers are now bored. Although B.C. is the culinary apex of the country, most full service dining restaurants (think Cactus Club and Earl’s) are now serving very similar menus — menus which are successfully expanding across the country, but no longer appealing to B.C. consumers who seek ever greater innovation and variety.

I get the sophisticated part, but bored? It’s a nice idea – that the BC public has grown weary of the culinary ubiquity found in the Fuller family’s yawn-worthy boob palaces chain restaurants – but it seems entirely far-fetched. Perhaps I read it incorrectly…

B.C. diners are eating out less and spending less, but not because of the economy, the HST or even strict liquor laws — the problem is they are bored.

Cough-cough, sputter-sputter…

…while the introduction of the HST and strict liquor laws do have an impact on the marketplace, B.C.’s unemployment rate is lower than the national rate, and consumer confidence is higher than the rest of the country, Carter said. So while economic impacts play a role, they are not a key driver to full service restaurant traffic declines. [my italics]

Is that so? Well then allow me to posit that an elephant can hang off a cliff with its tail wrapped around a daisy and that newspaper circulation will recover when they stop printing dumb stuff.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the “international consumer and retail market research firm” that is making the point – the NPD Group – is just plain wrong on this one. Economic factors are the key cause of these receipt declines. The HST and strict liquor laws have done more damage to the industry’s bottom line than the public’s inability to stay enthralled by chicken wings served by high-heeled robots. To me, it sounds as if the NPD Group either landed some major outlier results in their research or that they’re actually from planet Dorkfrap and this is just a ploy to confuse us prior to invasion. Either way, I’d take it with a grain of salt and a bourbon chaser.

PS. Typical of any Sun/Province story, the real gold is in the reader comments, where you’d think a wasp’s nest has been power-washed with vinegar and repeatedly poked with sharp sticks.

  • Brad

    Actually, I would put the cost AND the boredom as to main reasons. In fact, my wife and I started going down to the U.S. for most of our meals out and our grocery shopping, long before the HST came in. Even when our dollars were not as close as they are now, we were still heading down.

    Part of it was the cost, but a lot of it is the fact there are so many more options in the U.S. both in restaurants and in grocery stores. Ever been to a grocery store up here, counted the varieties of Campbell Soup or Lean Cuisines, and then head down to a grocery store in the U.S. and see how many there are there? It is night and day. Same thing goes for restaurants.

    Another main factor that wasn’t mentioned in the article at all, was customer service. I think in B.C. most companies have simply lost this concept all together, especially the larger companies. And I am not just talking about dining, but all major aspects of our spending, customer service is simply not around any more. Why would it be? When most of the dine-in chain restaurants are owned by the same company, or Best Buy and Futureshop are owned by the same company, or cellphone and Internet companies are simply swapping their customers back and forth? We simply need more competition in Canada, that would solve a lot of the problems.

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  • Dana Reinhardt

    You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that the HST and the super strict liquor laws are the reason for the decline. This is across the industry. Maybe people have also wised up to the mediocre food at not so competitive prices being served by the “boob” chains and should look to the great smaller, fresher and innovative restaurants Vancouver is full of.

  • Bill Barilko

    The article doesn’t make a distinction between the province and Metro Vancouver-which is where people aren’t bored they are spoiled rotten.

    My sense is that the ‘researchers’ actually dine out very little and then only @ mainstream places.

  • David J. Cooper

    There are a few things that bore me.

    All BC wine lists.

    300% wine markup.

    Lists that are dominated by California and Australian fruit bombs.

    Ridiculous driving laws that target a couple who share a bottle of wine with dinner instead of the guy who leaves work drinks all night and drives home.

  • js

    Mediocre food, high prices. Recipe for boredom for this diner.

  • Anton

    Andrew thank you for posting this. It’s a very enlightening and disappointing read at the same time.

    You know, it’s one thing to introduce new policies, taxes and guidelines in which businesses can operate – all during an already difficult time in the service industry – without public education or a transition period.

    …but it is a completely other thing when they rub it in the faces of the business owners who are undoubtedly working harder, longer, and stronger to retain a fraction of the customer base that was present a year ago.

    I say it is borderline offensive, and the policy makers are not gaining any more trust or followers by speaking so sharply to the public about it.

    I would say if anything, consumers are getting more value, creative menus, and larger portions, than ever before. The local restaurant scene is becoming extremely dynamic and inspiring! It’s a great time to dine out …… if you can afford it.

  • Doug

    I don’t dine out at fancy restaurants anymore, I don’t go too bars, I don’t spend money on fast food anymore and it’s all because of the HST, I get so angry when I get the bill it ruins my dinner and my night….I bought a large pizza oven , a beer fridge and a learned how to make good food at home.
    If I ever go out it is in Alberta or Washington State at least I don’t feel ripped off.

  • David J. Cooper

    Doug. Did you pay HST on the oven and fridge? How much did that piss you off?