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Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Boycotting restaurants

I have written several times about the high cost of living in Barbados (see previous blog). Now, I have decided to do more than write about this. As they say, "Put your money where your mouth is." To me one of the scandals of living in Barbados is eating out at the major restaurants. Frankly, I cannot believe what I am expected to pay. I know from recent experience that I can eat more cheaply and with better quality and quantity (though that is not important) in New York, or Washington, or Jamaica, or St. Kitts. I will travel to London soon and I will see how prices are there (remembering that the pound has risen very strongly against the US dollar/Barbadian dollar). So, consistent with this disbelief I have decided to boycott most of the restaurants on the island. There are still many good places to eat and without taking out a new loan.

I mentioned this to a friend this week as we ate at a beach restaurant/bar to which he had invited me. He laughed heartily. "I've done the same too", he said. He mentioned a visit to a well known south coast restaurant and his bill for two of B$600, and for what, he asked? This is a ridiculous amount to pay, he continued. So, he is putting his efforts into eating at home alone or with friends.

Perhaps the British tourist finds Barbados cheap or affordable. I do not and it's not a question of income. Someone has to convince me that this is not another sector in Barbados that is just gouging its prices. Maybe too few Bajans are affected for this to be a major issue to local people. It certainly is affecting the reputation of the island regionally. The PM is probably not in a position to impose price controls on this sector, so let some economics take over. The price can only be supported if supply and demand are in agreement. My withdrawal of my demand may not make much difference but I hope it encourages others to think hard about doing likewise, and then let's see. The money I save from this boycott can certainly pay for a trip to the US and a good meal out in quick, quick time.

As I said several months ago in a previous blog post:

But looking at places like restaurants, I don't understand why meals including local sea food and other local ingredients are priced as if these were coming from Europe. It's hard to find a good restaurant that charges less that B$ 150 (about US$ 75) a person for a two course meal. Only if you eat roti or go to a place like Oistins for fish fry or outdoor BBQ joint like Just Grillin' does a meal come at a reasonable cost, say B$ 15-20 a person. Sure, tourists can deal with these prices over their vacations, especially coming from the UK with the pound very strong...

I am still convinced that there is something not very right going on!

I try to be a logical person and if it makes no sense then there probably is no sense. So, if any restaurant owners are out there and feel that they can put up some convincing arguments I would love to hear them.

14 comments:

Suzanne said...

Please, can you call out some names of South Coast establishments so I can know what you are talking about...thanks.

Suzanne

Dennis Jones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

If my own experience over the past few years is a guide I think the south coast culprits would include Aqua and Restaurant at South Sea. Both have reputations as being "good" but their prices are astronomical. Another rip off is David's, whose simple Bajan fare is so over priced as to make me choke. But there are others. On the west coast I would include Daphne's. The prices these places charge give a good idea of the ranges that I think are at issue.

Anonymous said...

The high cost of everthing in Barbados is responsible for the high cost of meals.

I am responsible for purchasing in a large hotel here. Believe me it is not easy. I received new price lists from suppliers only Friday, 2 Nov. 2007 and most of the items which we purchased to service our menus will be increased from Monday, 5 Nov. 2007.
That means another round of increses on menu items from next week.

Suzanne said...

But, I would put Aqua and SouthSea in the "occasion" bracket, there are plenty of affordable, relaxed restaurants throughout BB that provide good value. My husband and I went to Aqua for our 4th Anniversary last year--and including champagne (of my choosing) we spent about $300 BB, and again after having lived in NYC the food is of international caliber, so spending $150.00US was fine.

I agree with your comment regarding the "home style" Bajan restaurants-- there is some kind of "chip" in the Bajan programming that tells them that Bajan carrots should sell for $4.00 per/lb, and that cars from 1993 haven't depreciated. I am still amazed by this...

Dennis Jones said...

Suzanne, name some of those restaurants which would you call "affordable". I think this discussion has been helped by being specific. However, the comment from the hotel purchaser tells me that we have an inherent problem and perhaps he can help us with another comment that says something about "why".

zanne said...

Well, let's see: I have consistently enjoyed Cafe Sol, Bellini's, Southern Palms, Carib... nothing fancy. I also really like Opa, and Just Grillin'. My husband and I went to Joseph's for my Birthday and it was ok, the sushi was dreadful. I could have cried. I could have made better sushi. As a NY'er I am always in search of good, cheap Chinese...it is ridiculously expensive here! As for the why on price increases, my mind tells me that it is pure greed.

Dennis Jones said...

I should have made a distinction because unpretentious places such as Just Grillin' and Carib are exactly the kind of bar/restaurant that I will continue to go to. I have never eaten at Josef but my wife had a terrible experience there, with the staff being very rude: she swears she will never go there again. Some very ordinary restaurants, however, are pricing themselves as if they are "very good" and they are at best ordinary.

Anonymous said...

I read in one of the local papers that Clyde Mascoll, the Minister of State for Finance, argued that the high cost of living reflects Barbados' high standard of living. That must be one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard. Is he trying to convince Bajans that they have become like the Swiss or average European in terms of life style? The high costs of food items reflect in part heavy duties that protect local products/producers--such as the 185% duty on imported chicken. Barbados is self-sufficent in chickens but produced at too high cost. If Bajans were allowed to enjoy the lower cost chicken that would benefit a far greater number than the number of chicken farmers on the island. This is a similarly mistaken policy as wanting to protect (inefficient/high cost) sugar production).

zanne said...

I don't think that chicken is a good example though: with a 2yo I was buying all of the Perdue NYC had to offer at ridiculous prices, I say ridiculous because although "chicken breast" was about $6.99US a pound it was full of antibiotics, dry, tough, and generally not appetizing. In addition I would also say easily 1/4 was trimmings that had to be removed and tossed. Here locally the chicken is delicious, fresh and without any waste. So if I am paying $10.00US (which is actually less than Perdue!) a kilo for fresh local chicken I am all for only local products such as chicken or beef. Plus the US is now full of food borne illness.

richard said...

Ten years ago, we used to eat at restaurants every couple of weeks, but now, the prices are just plain ridiculous, and we, too have decided to cut down. If we are going to pay through the nose, then we would choose a very high class restaurant such as Sandy Lane's brilliant Sunday lunch, where at least you feel closer to getting some value for your money. Doing that every 3 months or so seems to us to be a better idea than to eat at poor value restaurants more often.

Dennis Jones said...

I am travelling via New York, London and Paris and saw an interesting article in The Times (London) yesterday, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/food_and_drink/article2806620.ece. I will let you all judge about Barbados' prices and value for money. Remember that the B$ is now over 4 to the pound sterling.

zanne said...

sorry Dennis, which article...oh yes the decline of the dollar, please don't remind me! our family pet is in a quarantine facility in Manchester and each day it keeps getting more and more expensive.

Craig said...

We've been in about 30 countries in the last 24 months. I know how weird restaurant pricing can be. Barbados reminds me of our time in Malta, especially...but not quite so bad.