Which 2016 restaurant trends need to die already: emoji menus? Rainbow foods? Frosé? How about colonialism. Considered a source of deep shame for many in the Western world, a couple of restaurants have inexplicably decided that Britain’s colonial exploits would make a fine theme for their respective eateries.
As the Guardian reports, a recently opened restaurant in Brisbane, Australia has sparked outrage with its bizarre marketing push. Called British Colonial Co., its website originally explained the concept as “inspired by the stylish days of the empirical push into the developing cultures of the world, with the promise of adventure and modern refinement in a safari style setting.”
Critics quickly took to Twitter to decry the restaurant’s romanticized view of colonialism. Attempting to rework the plundering of cultures, economic exploitation, and deaths of millions of people into a slick, “stylish” restaurant concept doesn’t sit well with many people:
Hard to imagine how naming a restaurant British Colonial Co ever seemed like a good idea https://t.co/8r9ESq9v4m— Rebecca Sullivan (@beck_sullivan) September 19, 2016
There is a restaurant in Brisbane, Australia called "British Colonial Co," which aims to recapture the "stylish days" of the British Empire— Miنi (@miniestmini) September 19, 2016
I went to the British Colonial Co, they beat me up, took all my money, injected me with opium and gave all my food to the manager.— Jonathan (@poundstoremike) September 19, 2016
after the success of Uncle Ho and British Colonial Co. in Brisbane, pleased to announce i'm opening a Mussolini-inspired pizza joint next yr— Vince Rugari (@VinceRugari) September 19, 2016
The owners of British Colonial Co. have since amended the website copy; it now reads simply, “A refined and modern dining experience with the adventure of east meets west in a plantation style, club setting.” They’re forging ahead with the restaurant as originally imagined, however, saying in a statement that they “never intended to cause offense” (naturally).
Meanwhile in Portland, a restaurant and bakery called Saffron Colonial has triggered similar outrage. Shortly after its soft opening was announced in March, local journalist Zahir Janmohamed fired back with a response reflecting on the harsh realities of colonialism in India, writing, “What we are doing is urging people, especially white people, to be more considerate, to be more [conscious], to be more respectful, about experiences they may not have had...the issue here is about more than a name. It is about taking a people’s food and décor but caring so little about their pain.”
After Saffron Colonial’s owner told local media that she would not change the name of the restaurant, it was besieged by negative Yelp reviews and protests. The owner has changed her tune in the months since, though: The restaurant is now known as the British Overseas Restaurant Corporation, or B.O.R.C. for short.
Future restaurateurs with visions of Out of Africa-inspired vistas and pith helmets as quaint decor are hereby encouraged to go back to the drawing board.
• Outrage at Restaurant’s Homage to ‘Stylish Days’ of British Empire [The Guardian]
• Controversial Colonial-Themed Restaurant Sparks Multiple Protests [Eater PDX]