In the same way as our retail High Streets are being taken over by a rash of building societies and chain stores, so our food outlets are increasingly under the control of large corporations. As I ordered a meal in a gastropub in a small village in Bedfordshire the other day, I realised I had ordered exactly the same thing in Broadway the previous week. And it turned out that these so-called family places were in fact part of a chain of family orientated gastropubs. There are dozens of them throughout the country with the same menu, the same wine list, the same look.
So is there a future for the small, independent restaurant of which Wilde's is an exemplar?
We believe so, but we need to distinguish ourselves from the chains by the food we create, the wine we serve and the ambience we develop.
This is what we have been doing over the last few weeks in Wilde's.
We are investing in the future. We have re-decorated and re-furbished the restaurant. We have introduced a new menu at lunch and dinner, together with some new wines.
Importantly, we have a young management team both in the kitchen and at front of house.
So far, the feedback has been gratifyingly encouraging, but not unanimously so. When an institution changes, it disappoints some who miss particular dishes, or a specific wine or simply a way of doing things which had become comforting and familiar.
But of course, the things they miss were themselves new not so long ago. And we promise that we are not changing for the sake of change. And nor are we changing the essential character of the restaurant.
Wilde's has changed many times over the last 36 years and it will doubtless change again. But Wilde's will always be Wilde's.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose.