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Improving The Scottish Food Experience For Overseas Visitors

These suggestions are from the professional guides and interpreters who work with different nationality visitors to Scotland.

Visitors from different countries often have different food preferences and if you are even slightly familiar with their particular tastes and try to accommodate them, you will not only make them feel more welcome and comfortable but you will be raising your own standard of service. We are not advocating serving Spaniards with paella or Japanese with sushi (unless that is your business of course, in which case you can still promote quality Scottish ingredients!). Most nationalities visiting Scotland do want to eat Scottish food, but the way it is cooked, or something as simple as the provision of bread and water on the table can make all the difference to their food experience.

Scotland ’s official tour guides work with all types of visitors and nationalities and are at the sharp end when it comes to receiving no-holds-barred comments and criticisms. Overseas clients often ask them to recommend places for visitors to stay and to eat in Scotland. We asked several guides the question, “From your own experience, what do overseas visitors love and hate about food in Scotland?”

The most common comment about Scottish food is about the lack of variety - too much chicken and salmon. What visitors want to taste is the food that they see around as they travel through Scotland - lamb, beef, fish, fruit.



The following comments were provided by Viola Lier and her colleagues, who guide German tour groups and also run cultural awareness workshops. She and her colleagues discussed German visitors’ food likes and dislikes and now offer the following advice:

Most of the guides deal with coach groups of Germans and their preferences tend to be:-

In short, most group hotels have a very limited range of food on offer. The guides said that the variety of food served in most of the bigger hotels does not reflect the variety of food Scotland has to offer.

Traditionally, Germans eat their main meal at lunchtime, then have coffee/tea and cake mid-afternoon, followed by a light supper such as open sandwiches and beer. Their diet is substantial and meaty and they enjoy a nicely chilled beer with lunch and dinner. They are used to unsalted butter, good fresh coffee (including decaffeinated) with cream, and when they ask for “marmalade” they expect what we would call “jam”, made from sweet fruits, not from bitter oranges!

While in Scotland, most German visitors would probably enjoy a full Scottish cooked breakfast, they could be tempted by freshly made fish and chips, good pub grub or interesting sandwiches at lunchtime, and of course, good home baking accompanied by whipped (not pouring) cream. Home-made soups and stews with potatoes and fresh vegetables are likely to be enjoyed but porridge and creamy bland desserts are not appreciated. Of course, a well-chilled beer is always welcome.”

Viola Lier, English/German, Tel: 0141 334 3170, email: [email protected]


Daniela Luciani-Pagliari is an Edinburgh-based guide who has been working with Italian visitors to Scotland for over 10 years.

Feedback from her customers suggest that food in Scotland has improved enormously in the last 5 years!

As is well known, Italian cuisine is some of the best in the world and the simplest!  And it is this simplicity that Italians say is still lacking in Scottish cooking!   They love the ingredients, but NOT the heavy sauces that often go with them, with cream and butter everywhere.  They believe they kill the flavour of meat and fish!

Italians would like to taste more grilled dishes, more use of olive oil on the vegetables and more herbs. Finally, and most importantly, they would like to have much more bread on the tables. They are astonished that there are still Scottish establishments that don't offer bread at all!

Daniela Luciani-Pagliari, English and/or Italian, Tel: 0131 667 1662, email: [email protected]

Spain and South American countries

Originally from Argentina but now based in Edinburgh, Mary Kemp Clark guides throughout Scotland for Spanish-speaking groups from Europe, the Americas (north, south and central) and occasionally from the Philipines. She explains that the Spanish-speaking world is vast and that food preferences vary from country to country. Therefore, for the purposes of this Foodkit, Mary concentrates on visitors from Spain , as they make up the majority of her guiding work.

She has the following useful tips for food-serving tourism businesses, based on comments she has received about Scottish food from her groups.

“Visitors from Spain have noted the following:

Spaniards have a varied regional cuisine so this is a generalisation. However the above generalisations do apply to most groups from Spain.”

Mary Kemp Clarke, English and/or Spanish, Tel: 0131 552 1971, email: [email protected]


There appear to be few differences in the food expecations of Americans, apart from:

Various nationalities and observations

Tour group menus are very limited, nearly always chicken and salmon with neither dish being very imaginatively served.

There are always, now, vegetarian options on the menu which is great news, but, again, lack of imagination is too often in evidence - pasta with a tomato-based sauce is great - but not all the time!

It would be great if more menus included the provenance of the produce - people love to know they are eating food that has been sourced locally. And they would love to see more lamb, pork and beef on tourist menus in hotels - visitors see these animals in the fields all the time but they never sample them on their plates.

Scotland does have amazing food and wonderful restaurants and it would be great if more visitors returned home raving about them as much as they do about Scotland's scenery and friendliness.


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