Whenever you visit another city be it here or abroad, what is it you find to criticise or praise about your destination?
You might talk to your co-holidaymakers about the cleanliness or lack thereof, you might discuss the local transit system, you might even come to that paradoxical assessment beloved of the Western tourist that somewhere is “too touristy”.
One complaint you’re unlikely to make, however, is that your destination has too many restaurants.
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This is almost certainly because as a visitor you’ll be grateful for all the variety of choices on offer and for the fact that every restaurant isn’t full to bursting complete with a ravenous, impatient throng queuing outside.
But when it comes to our home city, the rules are rewritten. We hear, instead, the oft-repeated refrain: “Canterbury has got too many restaurants.”
We heard this with the opening of Five Guys earlier this month. Curiously, one of those making this observation is a Conservative candidate in May’s Canterbury City Council elections.
You might have thought that the supposed party of business would not wish to micro-manage the free market on a High Street or city centre level.
But that is what would be required: an authority such as the city council would have to act, forcing restaurants to shut and making people unemployed in the process – all in the name of reducing the number of places to eat.
How would one choose which to target?
If all that sounds unpalatable, but you continue to believe that Canterbury has too many restaurants, then the other option would be to take preventative measures against their appearance in the first place.
This would come almost certainly have to come in the form of a cap of, say, 30 or 40 eateries. Again, how would this be determined?
If, however, like me, you think that neither of these prospects is appealing – quite the opposite, in fact – then you can accept the obvious truths about why Canterbury has a healthy number of restaurants.
This entails understanding that the marketplace is a primal source of information: the information it tells us here is people like restaurants and use them.
And like any tourist destination, it necessarily has to have places to eat for visitors who have no kitchen in which to cook.
Moreover, a proliferation of restaurants is an indicator of a population with a disposable income which goes to pay employees or can be translated into profit to be reinvested.
Finally, there is the reality of the changing nature of the city centre. Businesses are vacating either to do more online sales or to move to out-of-town sites which offer more space and better access for vehicles.
Stepping into the vacuum created by their departures are the restaurants – and all those other businesses which people complain there too many of: coffee shops, hairdresser’s, nail parlours and so on.
Without them, however, there would be a far greater number of empty shop units than there are at present. Is that what anyone wants?
Most of the points I’ve made are so obvious they shouldn’t really need saying – and yet I find myself every few months confronted by the complaint that “Canterbury has too many restaurants”.
Of course, If you’re still convinced Canterbury has too many restaurants, you could always go and live in Ashford or Sittingbourne or Dartford which don’t suffer from this perceived affliction.
And please do make use of the Toby Carvery on the soulless windswept retail park and reflect on the complaint that Canterbury too many restaurants.