London has outstripped Paris as Europe’s capital of cuisine thanks to the ‘complaining culture’ of American tourists, experts have claimed.
The city’s top-end restaurants are now “notably better” than those in the French capital because Britons are embracing the “candid cynicism” of US visitors.
Where unhappy diners would once have remained silent, increasing numbers are now adopting the “speak-up”, outspoken attitude commonly associated with American consumers.
Doing so has “drastically” improved the quality of food, the ambiance, and the standard of customer service.
The trend may even have spurred some restaurants to reduce their prices, and “particularly pretentious ones” to become less ostentatious, according to the critic Barry Verber.
He believes that London has, in the last 12 months, set a formidable benchmark in cuisine – a standard the French fall “far below”.
Verber has held a monthly Supper Club at different restaurants in London for over a decade. Membership consists of wealthy businessmen and politicians including Lord Lee of Trafford, the Liberal Democrat life peer, FT columnist and author of “How to Make a Million – Slowly”.
“There can be little doubt in anyone’s mind that London has finally triumphed over its arch enemies in Paris,” he said.
“For the first time in at least 30 years, I can now say – with some confidence – that the capital’s restaurants are notably better than those in Paris.
“Why so? Because Britons have finally found their voice. British diners are being influenced by – and, moreover, embracing – the forthright complaining culture of the Americans.”
He added: “As a nation we are, in my view and from personal experience, benefiting from doing so. There are no greater restaurants than those in London at this time.”
The British are famous for being fuss-averse and rarely, if ever, complain, however terrible the service may be.
Research conducted in 2013 found that 75 per cent of British consumers who experience poor customer service or buy shoddy products don’t issue complains with the companies at fault.
Verber says the same can be said for diners. This, he says, has given restaurants in London and other major cities “free reign” to act, charge and serve-up “whatever they please” without recourse or fair criticism.
He said: “Britons are notoriously shy when it comes to making a fuss. But in the context of a restaurant, making a complaint is even more intimidating because fellow diners can hear – and do hear – your dispute.”
Verber has eaten in hundreds of restaurants worldwide, including most – but “definitely not all” – of those found within Greater London.
He said the tide began to turn a few years ago when America’s so-called “complaining culture” finally caught-on here.
“Diners, me included, were encouraged by overseas visitors who had no problem whatsoever in making a complaint,” he said.
“Many people, including me, will have found this shocking at first, but the frankness of Americans, as well as Russians, Chinese and French visitors, has ultimately proved an inspiration.
“As a result, over the course of the last decade, but particularly since the mid-2000s, most British diners are no longer afraid to hold their tongue.”
The result is, Verber claims, “beautifully obvious”.
“The quality of cuisine in Paris has stood still, as has its service. London, meanwhile, has excelled – spurred on, no doubt, by the thought of British diners becoming as vocal as their American counterparts.”