Tripadvisor Replaces The Brand Name

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From our Swindon Correspondent:

From The Independent

I have eaten there more times than I can count, more times than I can remember; and yet I have never eaten a bad meal there. That’s always been its secret, the silver bullet that set it apart. Yes, it might be boring, generic, predictable. But flip that notion on its head, and what have you got? Dependable, safe, good quality every single time. The chain took the concept of a fast-food franchise – the idea that, no matter where you are in the world, a Big Mac will always taste the same – and applied it to a sit-down pizza restaurant. Genius.

OK, it’s not adventurous, but it’s that rarest and most precious of things: an unerringly pleasant, risk-free dining experience. It’s comforting to know the menu off by heart. It’s strangely enjoyable to read the entire thing each time, as if there’s any real possibility you might order something different from the same two dishes you have eaten there on every single visit for several decades. Of course, you don’t – but hey, it’s fun to pretend.

This is, roughly speaking, about brands and their importance. You know that a Pixar movie or a Toyota car are going to be pretty good because the last 3 were.

If you’re in a strange town, looking for somewhere to get the kids fed, you know that Pizza Express is going to be fine. Maybe not the most exciting place, but not bad. And you know what you’re going to get.

And the decline of brand restaurants is, I suggest, down to TripAdvisor. Instead of eating somewhere because of brand, you rely on the sum total of opinions of other customers. It actually works better than a brand. You don’t get to eat in an OK place, you get to eat in a good place.

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SpikeMrVeryAngryMichael van der Rietjohn77Leo Savantt Recent comment authors
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Spike
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Spike

That is exactly what a brand is for; McDonald’s prospers because of predictability, not excellence. Mass reviews by wiki can take the place of a brand’s information value, though they are susceptible to deliberate misinformation. Wikis are not better than a properly managed brand. It can be improper management if the brand tries too desperately to always reinvent itself, thinking Taco Bell.

Bloke on M4
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Bloke on M4

I’m not quite sure what “properly managed brand” means. If you’ve got a great restaurant, the amount you need to spend on graphic design, marketing, advertising, is sod all. Word of mouth will bring people to your door. Historically, that was asking people in the Manchester office for a good place to eat (normally Chinatown), but TA does it bigger. I’ve found great places in Caen or Bern to eat.

Spike
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Spike

PS – On the decline of branded chains, their menu prices in the US took a quantum leap upward with the passage of Obama-care, which subjected them to nutritional labeling rules. Not that a chain couldn’t handle it, but it made entry into the industry a little more difficult, as I’m sure they knew.

asiaseen
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asiaseen

That all assumes that Tripadvisor is honest and above board.

Bloke on M4
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Bloke on M4

If it’s not, it’s not going to stay in business.

All review/award sources have a feedback loop. You don’t keep using it if the reviews don’t chime with your experience. People have realised that Oscars are for dull, preachy movies, so take less notice of them.

Bloke in Germany
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Bloke in Germany

Did you get to meet Prince Andrew though?

Leo Savantt
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Leo Savantt

The proof of the pizza is no doubt in the eating, Pizza Express to this eater is almost indigestible, bland and the dough unspeakable. However, when comparing the Independent’s advice and TripAdvisor it is not always easy to pick a winner, but the advantage of TripAdvisor is that it polls numerous palettes, who rather than being paid to deliver their verdict, have done so without remuneration and therefore presumably with genuine enthusiasm. So TripAdvisor it must be. Although perhaps an even more successful, although not always feasible, way of assessing quality is to peer through the window and make a… Read more »

john77
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john77

That works fairly well for Chinese restaurants: my wife always looks to see if there are Chinese people eating there.

Michael van der Riet
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Michael van der Riet

And if there are you stay well clear.

Spike
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Spike

Likewise, when looking for a joint off the Interstate, go where the trucks (lorries) are parked.

MrVeryAngry
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MrVeryAngry

In the UK in the NE in the 1970’s (when I was in my hippy period and driving a van for a living – don’t ask), the best indicator was outside which transport caff the NCB (National Coal Board – or colloquially – No C***s Bothered) lorries and vans were parked. (FWIW there was an excellent one in Sedgefield… for A C L Blair fans to note)

Spike
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Spike

Another good rule of thumb, in a university town, pick the restaurant closest to the Administration Building. They are either there because they are good, or because they replaced an eatery that got sick of all the complaints by Ph.D.s with too much time on their hands.