The End of Expertise

A rebellion slowly cooking in food and branding

Feb 2, 2018 · 5 min read

Some of the luminaries in the food and lifestyle world recently challenged the status quo by snubbing establishment brands and influential personalities. As individual business owners begin to usurp corporate control and take matters into their own hands, is there a power shift going on? Or is it the dawn of anarchy?

Shedding Michelin Stars

Bras isn’t the first or only one to attempt such a move. There’s a growing sense of discontent amongst top chefs that recognition by the Michelin Guide may be more of a bane than boon. In constant fear that the restaurant might lose its stature, chefs and managers have to juggle volatile ratings, bitter food critics, the costs of hiring extra-attentive staff and maintaining flawless décor. As top chefs start to undermine the Michelin brand and investigate whether the stars help or hinder their creativity, we’re watching to see if more follow suit.

Trolling TripAdvisor

What a slap in the face for TripAdvisor, a restaurant website that prides itself on trusted, transparent reviews! While this secret, Punk’d-style operation is a great commentary on our blind faith in the internet, it’s also a dark reminder that ratings are not the be-all-end-all of culinary standards. The emphasis in any platform hosting user-generated content should be on the word “user.” Butler successfully called out TripAdvisor for its claim that its content “reflects the real experiences of real travelers,” thereby challenging its perceived authority in the food world.

Banning Blagging Bloggers

Stenson, in keeping with his famously acid sense of humor, publicly responded to Darby on his hotel’s Facebook page and roasted her. Not only did he flatly decline her offer, he proceeded to list all the hotel’s staff members that her “exposure” wouldn’t pay for, and told his own social media following that he would never kiss ass for favors. Because of their “hissy fits” and “sense of entitlement,” the next day he announced that he would henceforth ban all bloggers from his hotel and café.

What just happened? I reckon it’s a paradigm shift in the way brands behave with prospects and customers. Instead of pandering to anyone and everyone willing to stay at Charlesville Lodge Hotel, Stenson’s hotel brand stuck to its loyal following. He rejected the influence exerted by someone like Darby on social media, fully aware that he antagonized an entire potential target market of bloggers that could have boosted his business.

So where does that lead us?

It’s chilling but hardly surprising to hear the same message echoed in our Twitterer-in-Chief’s Presidential campaign and just-completed first year in office, which signaled that Beltway experts and people on the Hill should make way for the politically inexperienced and great unwashed.

Some are even joking that the “Tide Pod Challenge” — where teenagers are posting videos of themselves biting into detergent packets — is a collective online effort to rid brands like Tide of their ability to co-opt memes and make them uncool.

Premeditated or not, it could mark the beginning of the end for self-proclaimed experts — the establishment restaurant guides, ratings businesses and clout-touting gatekeepers of social media.

This post was written by ThoughtMatter Cultural Strategist Shivani Gorle. ThoughtMatter is a creative branding, design and strategy studio in New York City’s Flatiron District. Find us on Twitter.


ThoughtMatter is a creative branding, design and strategy…

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