Friday 26 December 2014

It's the eat-and-Tweet craze!

We all enjoy a nice meal out, but do we need to document it too, asks Joe O'Shea

Not in my restaurant: Michel Roux Jr doesn't like diners to photograph their food

Diners who Eat and Tweet had better beware. You could be driving your fellow gourmets to distraction and making a mortal enemy in the kitchen.

The recent craze for live-tweeting restaurant experiences, complete with arty Instagrammed photos and a course-by-course critique, is causing consternation among chefs and customers in some of the world's best restaurants.

And a growing number of high-class establishments are banning smartphones and cameras from their tables, coming down hard on what one Michelin-starred chef has called "the height of bad manners".

So-called food bloggers, amateur critics who record their dining experiences in often minute detail, are facing bans from posh eateries in London, Paris and New York.

Known in the restaurant trade as "gourmet tourists", they are accused of irritating fellow diners (often by using flash-photography and tapping away on smartphones or tablets), boasting about their lifestyles and showing disrespect to their chef.

In London, celebrity chef, Michel Roux Jr, has advised customers at his two Michelin-starred Le Gavroche, that his staff will not look kindly on tweeters and bloggers who show "the height of disrespect".

"It should be flattering, but it annoys me when I see people taking photos of their food," says Roux.

"It's disruptive for the people around them and it spoils that person's enjoyment of the meal. Personally, I think it's incredibly poor manners."

Roux says that while a persistent offender may get a quiet word from the maître d', a smartphone and camera ban would be too difficult to enforce.

However, his counterparts at the seriously fashionable Momofuku Ko restaurant in New York's East Village are not so reserved when it comes to dealing with amateur food critics.

Staff at the white-hot "American Nouveau" establishment have been known to ask customers seen taking snaps of their food to put their smartphones away or risk the ultimate and highly embarrassing sanction, a stern request to vacate the premises mid-meal.

Here in Ireland, our leading chefs and restaurateurs say they have had to adapt to the rise of social media and the fact that a smartphone now makes every customer a potential critic.

"And it can be a bit unnerving, when you realise they could be doing a running criticism of the food, especially when you might know that they have thousands of followers on Twitter."

Máire says she and Paul decided to just jump into the social media revolution, they both now use Twitter and regularly interact with customers, even if it's to deal with complaints.

"If somebody is unhappy with any part of their experience at The Tannery, we will try to interact with them and deal with that.

Irish Independent

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