Somerset Food go undercover with
The Restaurant Inspector
Armed with hidden cameras and microphones sewn into our clothing, Elaine Steven and I visited the restaurant as mystery diners. I won't dwell on the experience, but suffice to say there was room for improvement. Six weeks later, after owners Alan and Luke Vinnicombe had combined Fernando's insight with hard work and a good measure of Devonshire humour, we were invited to the launch party.
The evening was a pleasure from start to finish - from the West Country Lamb, to the creme brulee and from the comfy sofas to the original artwork and the warm welcome of Alan and his team - and all carried off with the added pressure of the film crew ever poised to record any mishaps.
Alan Vinnicombe, who took over the restaurant in July last year with his son Luke, says he was wary of taking part in the show, but knew that he had to make Panoramic stand out from the crowd in a busy market. He agreed with Fernando's advice that he could never compete with the likes of Weatherspoons and also with the suggestion to present a more premium proposition, for customers who like their food cooked to order and don't mind a bit of a wait for something truly special.
Interior designer, Steve Murray, from Cornwall, came up with a new colour scheme and layout, whilst new chef Edward used created an artistic menu that Alan and Luke can be proud of.
It wasn't always an easy ride though, and Alan says "we like to enjoy our lives and see the funny side of everything, even when we're in the midst of a disaster, the TV crew didn't always get that!"
" I have only ever been to Somerset with the Restaurant Inspector" says Fernando, "but the county makes me think of farmland and fresh seasonal produce, for sure.
Restaurateurs need to focus on making customers happy and in a recession giving them the best food they can at the keenest prices possible. Service always with a smile and remember that every customer is very special.
To stand out 'in a strip' or other busy market ensure you have great decor and lighting, clean windows, fresh flowers, maybe a smart and friendly doorman and an excellent menu clearly visible out front."
He advises against catering for tourists, saying "I feel very strongly that tourists should not be treated any differently to locals. I feel the whole the whole idea of "tourism" to be somewhat abhorrent. I love travelling; I love trying out new food; I hate "tourism". The worst places in any city are aimed at tourists; when travelling you should only eat where locals eat and do what locals do."
"Spontaneity! Turn up without a reservation, smile at the Maitre d', have a Martini at the bar and wait for a table to come free. The best times are had on the spur of the moment."
Maybe a good tip for life itself too!
Our thanks to Fernando Peire and Channel 5
The Restaurant Inspector
The Panoramic, Weston super Mare