Reality Check – How To Define “The Best Food” : Living For Those Eureka Food Moments

Written by@Joehairie
(Photos by curiostraveller.com team members)

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Thought of the day-“Best List are revised, great flavors remain great.”-Tony Maws (Best Chef Northeast 2011 & Best New Chef 2005 from James Beard Foundation)

It is interesting to read one email this morning, still is! A reader sent an email, asking, how did we precisely listed the best food & dessert (as published in the last 2 entries)? Is it a valid list? Do we have the authority to lined-up such long list? A little check on the background of that particular reader indicated that he’s from Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. Uhhh that’s our base yeah? I asked @Lan. He smiled. Let’s do some reality check, he said.

Prelude

We checked on the IP address, surprise, surprise, it’s a restaurant, the source of that email, so to say. Yes, no one authorized us to do one long list. We are freelance writers and we write things that we like. We do not need any authorization as long as we don’t break the law. Simple as that. Perhaps this reader was a bit annoyed when he read our list. Perhaps he’s upset that his restaurant was not listed.

Remember, that article (in 2 parts, HERE and HERE) are of our opinion, the food & desserts that we remembered the most. We are still ably to recall that moments when we ate that 30 great food & desserts as all of em’ were so delicious, reasonably priced and served with attention to the details, from cleanliness right up to the smile of that person who served it. That’s it.

It does not have to be super classier meal from one high end restaurant, we really do not care if it’s being the most highlighted meal in Instagram. What counts, we’re satisfied with what we’ve had seen and taste. If one or two famous restaurants (in our base) were not listed in That Top 30 Great Food & Desserts, that was not our fault and not theirs too. No one was at fault.

Definition(s) & Opinion(s)

We applied the term ‘Great’ opposed to ‘Good’. Great, as being best among the best in terms of affordability, taste and cleanliness. Good Food has different meaning, academically speaking as mentioned in Michigan State University definition;

Good food means that it enhances the condition of is consumers and growers; its production maintains the health of the environment while generating a profit for the grower. These three conditions, people/society, environment and profit are also referred to as the triple bottom line. In a triple bottom line system people/society and the environment are equally as important as profit. Michigan State University (2013, January 15)

When we both read the article twice, we came to one important phrase;

Many think of good food as primarily fruits and vegetables, but it also includes meat, dairy and grains. And while good food is nutrient-dense it is also tasty and visually appealing. Michigan State University (2013, January 15).

There’s another article that attracted our attention so much. Few phrases worth to mention here;

How does one define “Best” when we’re trying to evaluate something emotional and sentimental like food? Asked Tony Maws in the referred article (2013, May 15).

Tony Maws added;

I believe that “the best” restaurants can’t really exist on a list — not really. Instead, they change depending on the day, the time, the company. They change based on mood and hunger. For “the best,” you need to recognize the context. Because being the best restaurant, for me, really comes down to making people happy as often as possible — while we do what comes naturally to us at Craigie on Main. “Best” means meeting, and beating, their expectations on how they’re going to feel when they leave my restaurant. Being the best is about making sure they’re having a good time all the time.  

Tasty and visually appealing were mentioned in Michigan State University definition’s of ‘Good Food’. Happy and having good time were 2 indications used by Tony Maws. Hope these phrases will help readers to understand the scope of this particular article and to have that correct sense of our direction.

Our ‘Stand’ when dining

We both always stick to one word, ‘Quality’. Quality can be defined as “The distinctive trait, characteristic, capacity or virtue of a product that sets it apart from all others.”(Marie Ferree, February 1973).  When we eat, we keep thinking of quality. It does not matter if that food we are about to eat is from a roadside stall or one grand restaurant. There’s a famous saying:

“You are what you eat”
We have another saying to be universally applied for all eateries (Regardless Status);
“You (Restaurateur & Restaurant) are what you served to your customers”

Customers will always judge an eatery based on the food served to them; the overall quality, especially in terms of taste and presentation. The way food tastes, ranks high on the family and institutional food buyer’s list of quality standards (Marie Ferree, February 1973). Again, it does not matter if that food is from a roadside stall or 7-star restaurant. What counts is, the customers ably to be satisfied with what they see and taste.

Price is important when dining out of home. Regardless budget, customers always wanted to receive something that is equal to what they are about to pay. Having said that, majority customers don’t dine in at high-end restaurant on daily basis. Majority are looking forward to find something that is affordable. If somehow big budget is available, customers will want to ensure that they eat something that is parallel to the overall quality shown on their plate(s).

For both of us, we are not that rich to dine at high-end restaurants. We rarely do that, if you see that we always published great dining experience in 5-star restaurants, it’s because we were invited. Honestly, we will dine at eateries that we can afford to, affordably speaking. That said, we will always focus on ‘affordability‘ when we want to recommend something good to our readers.

Next that we always look into is Customer Service. This term is equally important to the food overall quality and price(s). Give one great food, with detailed attention to its presentation and taste but ask the waiter/waitress to serve it with the most annoying attitude. That customer will surely not be coming again.

Customer service is the assistance and advice you provide to your diners. Customer service is equal parts communication and genuine attention to your diners.When guests visit your restaurant, you want them to feel welcome. When you treat them with care and respect while providing an excellent meal, they’ll come back to your restaurant again and again (restaurantengine.com, 2015 January 12)

Delivering satisfactory customer service is the most important aspect of managing service quality within hospitality firms as well (Butcher, Sparks et al. 2009).

Last but not least, cleanliness. Eateries must focus on hygiene. Everything inside the eateries must be spotless, clean from all unnecessary elements. Customers eat with their eyes, first. Not only that they will look what’s on their plate, they are sure to be observing the entire restaurant. Restaurant cleanliness or sanitation was found to be a factor affecting customers’ service quality evaluations. Becker et al. (1999) ascertained that customers in American and Hong Kong have different expectations of restaurant service with regard to restaurant sanitation (Becker, Murrmann et al. 1999).

Our Evaluation

The process: For the past 2 weeks, we compiled about 1425 images of food and desert that we had throughout the year of 2016;shortlisted it to 100 images and later to 30 images. We then ranked each image by giving a scale from 00 to 10, based on 3 factors; Affordable, Clean, Tasty. The higher the rank means we remembered that food/dessert more, mostly for its uniqueness. Our intention is to share with readers the best food/dessert that we had in 2016.

When we were drafting our list of Top 2016 30 Great Food & Dessert in Malaysia-Our Pick (Click HERE and HERE ), we focused on 3 elements/factors that we simplified (the information) from all of our references as quoted in this article as well as from other books that were written using academic approach.

Affordable-Reasonably Priced & accordingly
The price(s)-not that too high, affordable by us and to the others (readers/future customers). If it’s expensive by any means, we or other customers must be ensured to receive food that is of high quality.

Clean
Hygiene is equally important  when preparing food for customers. We observed how our food were being prepared and brought by the staffs to our table, how they serve it, most importantly, not even an inch of their finger touch our food.

Tasty
Simply put, delicious. That’s what food is about. Everyone wants their food to taste great, delicious.

These 3 factors indicated our level of happiness. That’s why we named it as Happiness Score. We scored each element, individually and calculated the average. That’s how we ranked each of all that 30 food/desserts. How did we choose Top 30 from the shortlisted 100 images? Simple. We both went through each image and discussed how much we ably to recall those Eureka Food Moments. We kept going through until we both came to the final 30 images.

Conclusion

Restaurant owners/managers now need to understand the uniqueness of their customers and what contributes to their value to retain and attract new customers and at the same time remain competitive and profitable (Walter, Edvardsson et al. 2010). Customers are now being very picky about what, when, where and how they want to eat.

To the person who sent that email this morning, your food might be in that shortlisted 100, maybe but it didn’t make the cut to the Top 30, for 1 reason; there were much better 30 food & desserts ahead of your food. That simple. We are just normal bloggers and food critics. We are not of that big websites such as TripAdvisor so there’s no need to feel sad if we didn’t list your food.

While your email was a bit harsh, in language and its meaning, we prefer looking and handling it professionally. That’s why we published this lengthy article to explain how we concluded the list. At the same time, we are sharing with readers some valuable quotes from sources that were written academically. You wrote that email in full of style, so we reverted in a more stylish way, with academic orientation.

We both are different from other food writers and bloggers. We do always emphasize on reading academic sources, we read a lot and we applied all that we learned, systematically. We at times created simple formula(s) if we have to do some evaluation but rest assured that all that formula(s) will be based on some academic research done beforehand.

While we do come to restaurants/eateries on invitation basis, we do come as impromptu guests as well, without the knowledge of the owners/managers. If we think that the food being served is great enough, we will make it a point to write about it. If we’re invited, we will make sure that the owners/managers do not stand a chance to influence us, in any whatsoever way, in our writings.

To all  future eateries/restaurants that we both are to become customers, take note that we are serious Food Critics and we evaluate accordingly, pushing aside all emotions and bias thoughts. We will write if we professionally thinks its worth to mention it in this blog, we will skip it if it’s necessary to do that. We both are living for those Eureka Food Moments.

 

Reference(s)/Reading List

Ajzen, I. & Fishbein, M. (1980). Understanding attitudes and predicting social behavior, 1st ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Becker, C., S. K. Murrmann, et al. (1999). A pancultural Study of Restaurant Service Expectations in the United States and Hong Kong. Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Research 23(3): 235-255.

Bredahl, L., Grunert, K. G. & Frewer, L. J. (1998). Consumer attitudes and decision-making with regard to genetically engineered food products: A review of the literature and a presentation of models for future research. Journal of Consumer Policy, 21, 251-277.

Butcher, K., B. Sparks, et al. (2009). Predictors of customer service training in hospitality firms. International Journal of Hospitality Management 28(3): 389-396.

Candel, M. J. J. M. (2001). Consumers’ convenience orientation towards meal preparation: Conceptualization and measurement. Appetite, 36, 15-28.

Canning, Patrick. (February 2011). A Revised and Expanded Food Dollar Series: A Better Understanding of Our Food Costs. USDA Economic Research Service: Report Summary.

Grunert, K. G. (1995). Food quality: A means-end perspective. Food Quality and Preference, 6, 171- 176.

Karel, M. (2000). Task of Food Technology in the Twenty-first Century. Food Technology, Vol. 54, No. 6, pp. 56–64.

Lindsey Day-Farnsworth, B. M. (2009). Scaling Up: Meeting the Demand for Local Food. UW-Extension Ag Innovation Center, UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems.

Marie Ferree (February 1973). What is food Quality? Journal of Food Distribution Research :University of California, Berkeley, California.

Michigan State University (2013, January 15). Defining ‘good food’. Retrieved on February 26, 2017 from: http://msue.anr.msu.edu

Nollet, L. M. L. 1996. Handbook of Food Analysis, Vols. 1–2. New York, Marcel Dekker.

Oliver, R. L. (1993). Cognitive, affective, and attribute bases of the satisfaction response. Journal of Consumer Research, 20, 418-431

restaurantengine.com (2015 January 12) 5 Ways to Deliver Excellent Customer Service at Your Restaurant. Retrieved on February 27, 2017 from: restaurantengine.com

Rotaru, G., Borda, D, Sava, N., Stanciu, S. (2005), Quality Management in Food Industry, Ed. Academica, Galati, Romania.

Sinar Harian (2014, 2 Mei). Pertingkat Tahap Kebersihan Premis. Sinar Harian. (LINK)

Taylor TG (2002). Nutrition and Health; Edward Arnold Publisher, London.

Shimada, T. (2009). Lost Dollars, Empty Plates. Oakland: California Food Policy Advocates

Tony Maws (2013, May 15) How Do You Define ‘The Best’ In Today’s Restaurant World? Retrieved on February 27, 2017 from: www.foodrepublic.com

Walter, U., B. Edvardsson, et al. (2010). Drivers of customers’ service experiences: a study in the restaurant industry. Managing Service Quality 20(3): 236-258.

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