How to close a good eatery

Gastronomic products and businesses are becoming categorised by rating systems, thanks to the likes of critics such as Robert Parker and TripAdvisor, who decided that consumers were more likely to understand a numerical classification than a written description.

The majority of these listings and ratings are commercially-orientated, but occasionally a conscientious blogger or even professional critic will chip in with his three h'appence worth. One such is Kevin Alexander, a prize-winning journalist on an Oregon (USA) newspaper.

He proposed to his boss that he spend a month visiting the 330 hamburger joints in the State, and at the end of the tour draw up a list of the best.

No-one needs telling that hamburgers are considered as whatever passes for real food by our American cousins, and are even consumed in the place of a proper meal!

The winner was Stannich's, in Portland. In the words of Alexander, "I fell in love as soon as I walked in. It was perfect.

"The meat patty, perfectly charred on the grill, caramelised onions, melted American cheese, gherkins and mayonnaise on the top and ketchup and mustard underneath.

"The end product was much better than the sum of the parts."

At the award ceremony Stannich burst into tears, and kept repeating how proud his parents would have been of him.

Five months later it closed its doors, never to re-open.

According to what Stannich told friends and customers, he considered the award the worst thing that had ever happened to him.

A hamburger joint which served the local area was suddenly catapulted to fame and became a destination for half the State.

Queues of five hours and a different type of customer changed everything in a day.

Much later Alexander had to return to Portland on another newspaper assignment, and, unaware of the closure, thought he'd have some fun with the taxi driver.

"I've heard there is a really outstanding hamburger joint in this town" he remarked.

The taxi driver's reply was not what he expected.

"Indeed there was - the best in the county - but thanks to some [unprintable adjective] journalist, it closed."