Stephen Jardine: Throwback to a darker time when we ate gruel

Like racist sitcoms and corporal punishment in schools, this survey from VisitScotland feels like a throwback to a darker time when we ate gruel and were grateful for it. In recent years, research has shown visitors to Scotland have an increasing expectation when it comes to food and drink. It is deeply disturbing to learn we're still not delivering it.
"Throwback to a darker time when we ate gruel". Picture: Getty"Throwback to a darker time when we ate gruel". Picture: Getty
"Throwback to a darker time when we ate gruel". Picture: Getty

With more than 90 per cent of tourists eating out at some point, we need to do better. But how? The findings of the report don’t match my experience but then as a local I know where to go to eat well.

Driving the North Coast 500 this time last year I stopped at a hotel in Aultbea and had a massive bowl of squat lobsters landed that morning for a tenner. Delicious, seasonal and local.

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Compared to how things used to be, the eating out experience has been transformed in recent years but if that is not the visitor experience then something needs to change. A buffet restaurant in the centre of Edinburgh often has a queue of tourists at the door. It can’t be for the food. They would eat better in a dozen other restaurants within a five minute radius but what keeps them waiting in the cold is the brand. Not a very good brand but one they know. We need to develop the food and drink brand in

Scotland to the point where it can offer that reassurance. We can start by examining the national accreditation schemes. Are they working and reaching the audience? Hospitality businesses also need to look at how well they are really serving our visitors.

Over and above that, we all have a part to play policing Scotland’s food and drink landscape.

That means not putting up with poor service, demanding local produce and longer opening hours.

If it isn’t good enough for visitors, why should it be good enough for us?