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State of the Union

Written by Christopher menning

Innovation Issue, 2024

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Looking back at 2023, I reflect not only on the events of last year but also on the years preceding it, reminiscing about my initial experience in Bangkok. Once known simply for pad Thai or perhaps spicy green curry, the city has evolved into the gastronomic epicentre of Asia, boasting top-tier dining establishments and creative cocktail bars.

Every week, a new venue emerges, each as exceptional in service and concept as the last. Bangkok’s socialites have a plethora of social media spots; food enthusiasts can explore exciting venues nightly; and the city’s avid imbibers have an abundance of watering holes to choose from.

Yet, is this truly the golden age of Bangkok’s culinary experience, or does it mask underlying difficulties? While consumers may perceive all as well, the reality reveals some looming challenges. Many restaurateurs note that financially, 2022 was a better year than 2023. With tourism not reaching its peak and a significant portion of the Thai community relocating to other countries, the year presented its share of challenges.

From an F&B perspective, the industry is becoming saturated, prompting questions about the existence of a glass ceiling. Another challenge is the diminishing desire for travel. With numerous offerings close at hand and traffic at its peak, exploring other parts of the city becomes less appealing. With the opening of Emsphere, a hub of food establishments that exacerbates traffic issues, the question arises: What are the viable options? Building up or down, a second BTS line, or implementing a congestion charge are all considerations for the government.

Staffing poses another hurdle. Despite the influx of new bars and restaurants, turnover among bartenders and staff is rampant. The new generation often views spending a brief time in one establishment before moving on as sufficient for their learning curve, but this approach is a grave mistake. As someone who has been a beverage manager, a CV reflecting multiple changes in a year raises concerns. It suggests a lack of commitment. The advice for the younger generation is to find a place where they are content, seek a good mentor, and settle down, aiming for a minimum of two years in one location.

On a different note, amidst Bangkok’s burgeoning dining scene, a pressing question emerges: Where are all the food critics? The absence of honest and critical reviews can be attributed partly to the media and our own complicity in maintaining a superficial relationship with restaurants. There’s a prevalence of Instagrammers who focus more on self-portraits than providing genuine insights into the culinary experience. Restaurants now expect favourable reviews, and any deviation leads to hurt feelings. However, constructive criticism is essential for improvement. The city needs honest critiques, and we are committed to implementing this in our strategy moving forward. On that note, if you are a food critic with a penchant for honest writing, please send us an email.

In 2023, Gastronomer Lifestyle experienced both highs and lows. Like any business, we faced challenges, but the realisation of a dream—a free-to-read food and drink magazine—was a highlight. To our readers, partners, and fellow foodies, thank you for being part of our journey, reading our content, and sharing our smiles. As we look forward to 2024, we anticipate a bright year and invite you to continue joining us for the ride.

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