Hard to stomach

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[This entry originally appeared on Clare Lynch’s blog, goodcopybadcopy]

Regular readers of this blog will recall that in a recent post I ranted about the overuse of the word ‘experience’ by advertising copywriters. I want to return to the topic with some real-life examples of one particularly ubiquitous type of ‘experience’: the ‘dining experience’.

A participant in a writing course I gave recently put it to me that surely a writer using the phrase ‘dining experience’ was merely trying to differentiate their restaurant from all the other, lesser restaurants out there.

That may indeed be the case. But type the word ‘dining experience’ into Google and see how many pages are returned. Actually, I’ll save you the bother: it’s 1,310,000.

An example that amused me:

‘La Tasca Spanish Themed Dining Experience is a careful blend of everything that is good about Spain – warm decor, authentic Spanish tapas cuisine and friendly hospitality. All these aspects together create a unique and genuine dining atmosphere that is enjoyed by so many, but especially those on Hen nights.’

Hen nights? Hen nights? Any initial doubts as to the authenticity of the restaurant’s Hispanism that are raised by the use of the phrase ‘Spanish Themed’ (cf ‘chocolate flavoured’), are instantly dismantled by the assertion that you can expect to find yourself ingesting your patatas bravas among gaggles of British women downing tequila shots, screeching obscenities, flashing their G-strings and terrifying the waiters.

A ‘Dining Experience’ (note the importance imbued by those capital letters) that not only carefully blends all that is good about Spain, but also all that is bad. An experience indeed.

Or how about this, from what purports to be an impartial review of a restaurant in a publication called the Monmouthshire Country Life but reads more like a marketing brochure created by a copywriter so bored with their job that their only source of amusement is to mock their subject matter with feigned praise. (In actual fact, the journalist undoubtedly got the meal for free).

‘The difference between a good meal and a great dining experience is surely in the unexpected extra touches – and the Court Restaurant at Llansantffraed Court Hotel, near Abergavenny, has those aplenty… The four-star historic family-owned and run hotel epitomises gracious living.’

There are certain other giveaways here – namely the mock-archaic ‘aplenty’ and the ‘gracious living’ (only 303,000 entries on Google) that a meal at this establishment ‘epitomises’.

Now, this may be a very nice restaurant (and Abergavenny is, after all, famous for its food festival), but my point is that overblown language like this leads the sensitive reader to suspect that the ‘unexpected extra touches’ on offer at the Court Restaurant have been designed to bamboozle the customer into mistaking for Gordon Ramsian delights a repast that is as under-seasoned as it is over-microwaved.

If the phrase ‘dining experience’ still doesn’t set alarm bells ringing that you’re about to be ripped of in a singularly spectacular manner, I suggest you take advantage of the ‘Disney Dining Experience’. In exchange for the meagre sum of US$85, this discount programme offers you 20 percent off food at various Walt Disney theme restaurants. If you’re not put off by the fact that one generally does not expect gastronomic fireworks from an establishment that has as its key selling point the fact that the waiting staff are dressed up as Mickey Mouse, you should probably be aware that the programme entails numerous terms and conditions cited as ‘benefits’ by its creators.

How, then, to differentiate your ‘dining experience’ from the other 1,310,000 ‘dining experiences’ out there? Why combine it with that other overused favourite of the lazy, hyperbolic (or just plain inexperienced writer), of course: ‘ultimate’.

I’m sorry, but when I hear the phrase ‘ultimate dining experience’ (only 31,500 entries on Google) the words ‘Alexander Litvinenko’ and ‘Nobu’ spring to mind.

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