By Tom Chapman
Does everyone remember Simon Rimmer’s days on the BBC, happily presenting Something For the Weekend with Tim Lovejoy, joyfully bouncing around a kitchen whilst we nursed hangovers on a Sunday? Sadly those days are gone and his new move to Channel 4 has turned the loveable chrome dome into a human shit stick and Darth Vader of the hospitality industry. Rarely have we seen such damage done to something since Hitler ruined Germany.
Whilst name dropping that he has his own restaurant at every given opportunity, he simultaneously and ironically tarnishes the reputation of key competitors. Each week Simon and co. lift the veil on the ‘tricks’ of the restaurant trade, where it turns out everyone from the General Manager to the Pot Wash is raping you for every penny. Week one shockingly reveals that your 99p burger might not be as good for you as a £9.99 gourmet one, but co-produced by a lady called Victoria Hamburger… She didn’t really think that through did she?
We are also introduced to the “golden table”, a mythical beast where only the most attractive customers are sat. Apart from sounding like a weird upgrade of the sexual “golden shower”, the “golden table” doesn’t exactly exist and anyone who thinks they have made it there should probably take an ego check. But the damage is already done and the fallout felt, restaurants across the U.K now have their penny pinching diners asking if they can be sat at the “golden table”, searching for it like some Willy Wonka ticket.
The most sickeningly vile ‘experiment’ from Episode 1 was to put this theory to the test, employing two (semi) attractive models to enter restaurants and see where they are sat. Then presenter Adam Pearson, who suffers from neurofibromatosis, was sent in to see where he was sat. Apparently tucked away in dark corners, hidden from sight, or generally turned away… APPARENTLY. Surely Channel 4 wouldn’t be so slanderous as to suggest Adam Pearson received a different level of custom due to his affliction? Would Simon Rimmer’s show conduct such an experiment with someone of a different race, a sexual orientation, or are they saving that for a week six bonanza special?
Back for more, and still reeling from the rage of Episode 1, we angrily tuned in to Episode 2 with a notepad at the ready. This week it was the turn of pizza to go under the scrutiny of the heat lamps. Unsurprisingly Mr. Rimmer’s restaurant serves neither burgers or pizza, although we are still waiting for the week where they scrutinise ‘beer battered onion rings’ or a ‘leaf salad’ that costs £3.50, we wait with baited breath.
Visiting Bedford, apparently the Little Italy of the U.K, Simon heads to a family run pizzeria that has been operating since 1976. He presents a host of ‘regulars’ with Papa John’s finest pizza instead of their normal cuisine but not before slating toppings such as Cajun Chicken and stuffed crusts. Oh no, people not liking something that they haven’t ordered and wouldn’t normally order, call Ofcom! One outraged diner exclaims she is disgusted with being presented with such a satanic sacrificial offering. We can only liken this to entering a vegan restaurant and offering each person there a 99p double cheeseburger, not sure they will be too impressed. A little biased there Mr. Rimmer?
Elsewhere, token tits and teeth Kate Quilton (no we have no idea either) enjoyed a slap up meal at The Ritz, presumably comped by C4. Here she spent the majority of the segment taking selfies and admiring the architecture at the leisure of the viewer. £50 each for afternoon tea!? Not bad when you aren’t paying Kate Quilton, but oh no, this wasn’t enough for her.
Next experiment, to recreate the opulence of The Ritz in an East End Cafe as some way of disparaging us from parting with our cash in this British institution. Crusts cut off her M&S prawn mayo, doorstopper scones arranged and a pot of Yorkshire tea ready, Kate looked surprised when Dot Cotton and Peggy Mitchell weren’t prepared to stump up £50 for her greasy spoon offering – frankly ‘luv’ you can keep your stale baps. They briefly touched on the matter, but you can’t compare Kathy’s Cafe to The Ritz, however, if this show keeps people out of The Ritz and makes more room for the rest of us, please carry on.
But it is the staple of each week, hauled up in a quaint Manchester eatery, that Simon really does his damage. Conducting his own Milgram Experiment, where half the people are given normal service, whilst another half are subjected to his own Dr. Frankenstein version of Celebrity Big Brother. Simon claims that restaurants make an extra £10,000 a week by rushing you through service, or that lacklustre service affects your own moral compass. His own restaurants operate a 100 point system, where if your experience dips below 70 points you will never return. Simon, don’t worry, I assure you, you have lost 99 points just for this show. Backfiring on himself, ‘bad service’ couple Sam and Reece say that they would return even after Simon’s own Dick Dastardly plan to deter them failed.
Quite how many toupees or how much scalp wax Simon has been paid to star in this show remains a mystery, but continue to watch we must. The Watchdog fanatics and serial complainers are sure to don their best Tripadvisor gloves and take to the web as keyboard warriors against the tyrannical restaurants. The quote “remember, if your server is being nice to you, they are just trying to upsell” is perhaps the favourite. I can assure you dear reader, if I am being nice to you, I am only after a tip, not to upsell you olives and still water.
Hopefully, if you can do more than boil the water for a Pot Noodle, you won’t be fooled by the coming weeks of PR spin and self glorification. This is not investigative journalism and this is not MacIntyre Investigates. Simon Rimmer, the smoke has dissipated, so pay no attention to that man behind the curtain – can you please remove the service charge?
Tom has worked in hospitality for a number of years. Despite his angry demeanour he is actually a pleasant person with cracking facial hair. Promise. You can find him on his Facebook or on his twitter: @TomTomChap
You can watch ‘Tricks of the Restaurant Trade’ if you really want to on Channel 4 on a Tuesday at like 8pm or something? You’ve got the internet, you find out.
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Main IMG: Richard Ansett | Channel 4