The original title of this post was, “The perception of Value and its relationship on food/restaurant quality”. A much more academic and civilized name for this entry, but I as started to write about the connection between portion sizes, value and the perception of a dish/restaurant’s quality, I went into rant mode.
The new description is more to the point and better reflects how much this irritates me. I don’t have too many food pet peeves but people who think big portions makes a restaurant awesome is one of them. Another is people who bath their sushi in soya sauce (they must love soya since they have no interest in what the fish they are eating tastes like).
Anyways, I’ve been on holiday break and had the opportunity to spend more time with my family and friends, which includes dinning out with them.
Well my parents are notorious for picking restaurants that they feel are good value. Unfortunately, good value equals big plates of mediocre food (usually Chinese). Restaurants I call “Dinner & Lunch” places. You go in for supper, and you walk out carrying your lunch for the next day.
Well my parents love these places. I get that Vancouver is an expensive place and “Dinner & Lunch” restaurants are great for feeding a family without burning a whole in your wallet. These restaurants have a market and fill it admirably.
My issue is when people think quantity and bang for your buck equates quality. The serving size of a dish and the cost of a meal should have nothing to do with the taste and execution of food.
I feel a restaurant or a particular entrée should be judged on taste and preparation.
Getting a plate of poorly executed food (bland/over-cook/greasy) even if the plate is filled to the brim should not mean that the dish/restaurant is good. However there are a lot of people who can’t seem to make the distinction, my parents included.
It drives me crazy. The popular eating websites like Yelp, Dinehere and Urbanspoons are filled with people who cannot tell the difference quality and quantity. You can spot their reviews pretty quickly since they always mention the portion size of their meal and sometimes they even throw in a comparison to other restaurants in terms of food volume. I usually ignore these reviews.
My favourite example is when in 2005 the readers of the Georgia Straight voted North Burnaby’s Anton’s Pasta Bar as the best Italian eatery in the city over il Giardino and Quattro on Fourth.
Nothing against Anton’s and it is definitely a great place to eat on a budget but come on.
I’m pretty sure if you did a pure blind taste test with those people who think Anton’s is the best with the same pasta dish from all the restaurants mentioned, in the same portion and for free that more votes would swing over to il Giardino and Quattro.
But that’s the funny thing about the issue of value. It can cloud people’s judgments. Everyone calculates value when you decide if you like a restaurant or dish.
I do but I factor in quality of the ingredients, execution in addition to serving size. If you order a main entrée plus an appetizer or dessert, I believe the meal should be filling. You may not be stuffed (ie Turkey dinner at Christmas full) but you shouldn’t be hunting down another meal within 60 minutes of leaving the original restaurant either.
When it comes to how a large portion size can warp a person’s perception of the quality of a dish or restaurant I have a personal theory. I believe the person who cherishes volume over superior taste falls into one or a combination of the below categories:
- They don’t know better. They haven’t had the good fortune to try a high quality version of a particular food item, as a result can’t discern the difference yet. Hopefully if they have the palate and love of food, this will change as they continue their food journey.
- They love the action of eating but not necessarily the food item they are consuming. As long as there is a large quantity of food the person is happy since they can eats lots of it. Quality is not as important so these people are not food connoisseur.
- The cheaper the price / the larger the volume of food received ratio is more important that quality of the food. I sometimes think these people value their hard earned money more than the love of food but sometimes cannot admit it. I think my parents fall into this category.
As a result, I’m always apprehensive about going out for a meal with my parents. You may be thinking why don’t I pick the restaurant. Well, no matter where I pick, my parents will, like clockwork, complain that if we had gone to restaurants X instead, we could have had twice the amount of food for the same price and won’t stop complaining until we go to restaurant X. Sigh.
If you can find a place that is good quality and provides an above average portion, then you should rave about it all the time. Unfortunately, in my experience these places are hard to find. Do you have “volume over quality” food person in your life? How do you deal with them?