The Good Food Guide is back, scoring, awarding hats and supporting an industry in flux

After a two-year hiatus, The Good Food Guide is back with its hats and scores in a new format with reviewers fanning out across NSW and Victoria, awarding hats and hearts to 600 restaurants.

For the first time in its 40-year history, the Guide will award one, two or three hats to deserving restaurants, along with a new category of ranking – a heart, which denotes this is a place reviewers would cross town for because it provides an experience that adds something special to the dining scene.

nearly 60 Guide Reviewers in two states head out into a hospitality industry trying to balance intense demand for seats with a chronic lack of staff that leaves restaurants unable to operate at full capacity.

Thomas Pash, CEO of Hunter St. Hospitality and Pacific Concepts, led an overseas recruitment drive seeking staff for the...

Thomas Pash, CEO of Hunter St. Hospitality and Pacific Concepts, led an overseas recruitment drive seeking staff for the group’s restaurants Photo: Louie Douvis

“If ever we needed a Good FoodGuide with teeth (one with scores and hats), it’s now,” says Terry Durack, the chief reviewer for The Sydney Morning Herald.

“It’s a rollercoaster out there at the moment as some great new restaurants open and bookings are strong. But if you peek behind the kitchen door – which is also part of the job for a reviewer – then you realize that some restaurants are still really struggling with staff shortages.

“Not enough staff means fewer opening days, shortened operating hours, and tighter, smaller menus; something the reviewing team needs to take into account; and the diner, also,” he says.

“If ever we needed a Good Food Guide with teeth (one with scores and hats), it’s now,”

The industry is responding to the shortages in increasingly innovative ways. Thomas Pash, chief executive officer of Hunter St. Hospitality and Pacific Concepts, led an overseas recruitment drive seeking staff for the group’s restaurants, which include Spice Temple and Bar Patron in Sydney.

Pash says they met hundreds of hospitality staff in six countries over three weeks, hiring 120 people. The company will pay for their airfares, visas and temporary accommodation when they arrive, as well as providing “on-going support when they land, including setting up bank accounts”.

Chef Neil Perry says he is having to rely on training “a new generation of schoolkids” to help fill 110 staff positions at his Double Bay hot-spot, Margaret.

“My daughter has enlisted 35 of her teenage friends,” says Perry, who has been awarded more Good FoodGuide hats in his long career than any other Australian chef.

“We are training them, teaching them life skills, professional skills and giving them a culture, such as sitting around a table together to share a beautiful staff meal, which we hope will create an environment they will want to stay part of.”

Durack says the Good FoodGuide plays a critical role in supporting the restaurant industry.

Neil Perry on the pass at Margaret.

Neil Perry on the pass at Margaret. Photo: Steven Siewert

“You don’t help a great restaurant just by telling it how great it is, or by puffing up the ego of the chef by calling him or her a genius. You help it by creating benchmarks for dining that provide context and balance, by Seeing the restaurant sector as a family and a community, and by helping diners make intelligent, savvy choices. Basically, by helping good diners find good restaurants, and vice versa.”

Callan Boys, the editor of The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide 2023, says this is the most respected independent guide in Australia, which means the venues are reviewed anonymously and scored according to a transparent and rigorous rating system, and meals are always paid for in full.

“This new edition of the Guide will have a sharper focus on suburban gems in Sydney,” says Boys. “A new critics’ choice heart symbol will indicate the restaurants and eateries we love to cross town for – places that may not be awarded a hat, but still provide knock- out food and are integral to the city’s dining culture. A hole-in-the wall serving deeply delicious noodles for example, or a takeaway-only pizza joint slinging the best pepperoni slice around.”

the Guide, in a magazine format for both NSW and Victoria, will be released later this year.

Good Food’s new white-and-gold restaurant gift card is fee-free for restaurants so every dollar you spend goes directly back into the industry. Visit

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