Two updates – Real time bus maps and Filipino restaurants

This post is merely two additions to previous posts, neither of which warranted a post on their own.

The first relates to this post from September where I talked about the idea of realtime mapping of bus services using GPS data.  Better people than I had the same idea and, through the Apps4NSW competition, Flink Labs has produced this prototype for Sydney and Newcastle buses. I think it’s great. I may have anticipated the means by which it would come (Google maps and Government 2.0) but I got the timing way out – I thought it would take years. Hopefully the new government will run with it so it becomes more phone friendly.

The other relates to my speculations on the paucity of Filipino restaurants. One hypothesis I didn’t mention is that Filipino migrants might be less prone than  other migrant groups to cluster into certain suburbs (the way we can see suburbs that are notably “Greek” or “Vietnamese” for instance), so that that a given restaurant would struggle to have a local returning customer base within it’s own community. This could be plausible if Filipino migrants have better English skills (due to American colonialism) and are therefore less likely to seek other speakers of their language to live near. Alternatively, the gender imbalance and associated exogamy may mean they are more geographically spread out.

I didn’t feel this hypothesis explained much (hence I didn’t mention it), but I kept it in mind. The other day I was using CData to map 2006 census data on migrant groups for an unrelated question (on which I’ll probably post in future), but this gave me the opportunity to compare Filipino settlement to some other groups. Notably I compared residency in Sydney and Melbourne by people born in the Phillipines with those born in two other countries, Korea and India. I chose these two because their periods of migration roughly coincide with Filipino migration, so they’d be facing similar house prices and job opportunities which would alter their choices relative to post war migrants. Additionally, unlike the Vietnamese or Lebanese (or more recently East Africans), there’d be no refugee aspect where settlement would be dictated by government decisions. Furthermore, Korean and Indian restaurants are abundant. The comparison is still flawed of course.

The maps (and some notes) are below the fold. I can see some element of greater concentration amongst Koreans and Indians, at least in Sydney (and in places where you’d find many restaurants in said cuisines), but not nearly enough to explain the disparity. The concentration of Filipinos in the spur of settlement between Blacktown and Penrith is notable – half the Filipino restaurants I know of in Sydney are in Blacktown (i.e two). Maybe there’s a lack of suitable commercial real estate there?

I don’t think there’s more for this hypothesis though, but you can look for yourself.

The colour thresholds were chosen by Cdata based on the variance between postcodes for that ethnicity for the entirety of NSW and Victoria. This is why they are constant in both cities but are different for each country of birth.

The Korean data presumably includes Korean adoptees, which makes the concentration in a few places (Eastwood, Lidcombe, the CBD etc.) in Sydney alone all the more striking.

15 thoughts on “Two updates – Real time bus maps and Filipino restaurants

  1. Looking and thinking about the map and where Korean and Indian restaurants are, I think one big factor is what people eat. Notably:
    1) Almost everyone is willing to eat Chinese food and Chinese food can be made quickly
    2) Almost everyone is willing to eat Indian food and Indian food can be made quickly

    So these two have a natural advantage over any other cuisine where this is not the case in any areas where restaurants are working on high turnover (which is most in Aus), and so it is easy for them to make money at lunchtime from students/workers etc. . It also means that restaurants can get established quickly, because people will generally be happy to eat the food they cook from day 1.

    3) Most Korean restaurants in Melbourne (where there appear to be very few Koreans) tend to be around universities where there are lots of East Asian students or around other areas where there are lots of East Asians. My observation is that other East Asians (e.g., Chinese) seem happy to eat Korean food, whilst the market from other groups is more limited (although growing). This probably a big factor in why Korean restaurants are more limited in terms of where they are.

    So I think a problem for Phillipino restaurants is that there are basically no areas where more than just Phillipinos are willing to eat their food on a really regular basis.

  2. Japanese restaurants are what get me…there seem to far more of them that would obviously be justified by the number of Japanese people here, and it’s not immediately obvious why Japanese food would be more popular than, say, Indonesian food. According to the 2006 census there’s close to twice as many Indonesians as Japanese here, yet yellowpages.com.au returns over 10 times as many results for “Japanese restaurant” vs “Indonesian restaurant”.

  3. Oh, and going by the census vs Yellow Pages comparison, if anything Korean restaurants are significantly *under*-represented. I’m not sure I’d say there’s *very* few Koreans in Melbourne – it’d surely be close to 10000 by now, including students, given there were 6300 Victoria residents born in South Korea recorded in the 2006 census, though it’s true they do seem to concentrate themselves in NSW.

  4. “it’s not immediately obvious why Japanese food would be more popular than, say, Indonesian food. ”

    My bet is that it is because people perceive it to be healthy (it is!), and it is very amenable to take-away (at least the sort of pseudo-Japanese stuff sold in Melbourne). It also appeals to people that don’t like spicy food and garlic — which I think is a lot of people. There are in fact Korean equivalents to a lot of Japanese food (in a broad sense), much of which would make really good take-away, but curiously I almost never see Korean food getting sold like the way Japanese food is (although there are certainly Koreans selling Japanese food).

    “it’d surely be close to 10000 by now”

    I don’t think 10,000 is a lot in terms of what we’re talking about — If the average person buys a meal twice per week, then this means that you would only sell about 4000 meals per week, which is not a lot. Looking at the breakdown of Melbourne here, there are obviously lots of other groups with more people. I also think that when you are thinking of ethnic food, you have generational effects — lots of people don’t qualify as being born elsewhere, but because they are used to eating the type of food that their parents did growing up, they are probably more likely to buy it given the opportunity. Thus the numbers that like Korean food because they are used to it are probably very close to the number here (Koreans, in general, being a fairly new group), versus, say, the numbers that like Italian food.

  5. First up: I see a lot of speculating and hypothesing going on. Has anyone asked one or more Filipino people? Looking at ABS data is one thing, but there are real live people waiting to be surveyed…

    Now to add some speculations of my own:

    Hypothesis 1: perhaps there’s something about the nature of emigration from the Philippines? Perhaps there’s a general lack of entrepreneurial spirit in the people who leave to work – perhaps, it’s culturally encouraged in the emigrant group to work for someone else and not take a risk by starting a business?

    Hypothesis 2: Are there many native Filipino eateries in the home country? What if, Filipino restaurant food just isn’t common “back home”?

    Hypothesis 3: Perhaps there exists an inferiority complex about Filipino food?

    Hypothesis 4: Perhaps Filipino cooks prefer to cook more “exotic” cuisines, like spanish and chinese? This has been hinted at above, but, just putting it there for shooting down :)

    Please deconstruct the options, doing so might winnow some other ideas.

    PS: I disagree with the assertion that Conrad made that Indian food can be done quickly. Indian food tastes better when it is carefully stewed for hours or even days. The slow cooking imparts the right consistency and maturity and development of flavour.

  6. wizofaus – Whilst restating my general disinclination to preference based explanations, I do agree with Conrad below on Japanese food. In fact, I’d say Japanese food is very similar to McDonalds in it’s reliance on simple fat/sugar/salt flavours (in addition to it portability). I’d also say that a solid majority of Japanese restaurants are run by Koreans. Also, on the apparent paucity of Indonesian restaurants I’d suggest that there’s sufficient overlap between Indonesian food and the Malay part of Malaysian food that Indonesians can be (imperfectly) served by the abundant Malaysian restaurants. Along ANZAC parade in Sydney there’s abundant restaurants both because of (I suspect)the Colombo plan era association with UNSW (I’ve heard of a similar situation around Monash uni) and the Indonesian consulate. It’s often difficult to determine if a given restaurant should be called Indonesian or Malaysian.

    Fishzle – I referred to my conversation with a restaurant owner in the first post, and I later talked to other Filipino Australians. Additionally Paul has inquired within his own family here and here. The results weren’t too enlightening – which shouldn’t be surprising. There’s no reason why a given member of a group should be able to explain the motivations of the theoretical representative member of their group – that’s just a form of the fallacy of composition.
    Your first hypothesis is very similar to my original hypothesis in the first post (which judging by your opening statement you didn’t read). The third hypothesis is supported by an assertion I know of that the upper class cuisine (which becomes restaurant cuisine) in the Phillipines has traditionally been Spanish based, with the native food being shunned. But there are plentiful counter examples of peasant food becoming haute elsewhere,and the hypothesis is difficult to verify.

  7. Fair enough Conrad – surprised there’d be me more Polish people here than Korean, but I do live in an area (near Swinburne) with a high Asian student population, many of whom are Korean. I don’t think I’ve *ever* seen or heard of a Polish restaurant in Melbourne (likewise for Dutch or Bosnian).

  8. I can’t help noticing that the bus data in the NSW catalog is under a license that expressly prohibits derivative works… and although my formal legal training is extremely weak the Flink Labs maps do look very much like a derivative work to me. What’s more, Flink include the requisite disclaimer at the bottom of their page:

    The accuracy or suitability of the Data is not verified and it is provided on an “as is” basis.

    So you know that they did actually read the license.

    As a software developer myself who has wasted half his productive output struggling with legalities, I can well understand why other people would want to skip that step… on the other hand, the penalties for putting a step wrong are humongous.

    Maybe we can just presume that there was some sort of private agreement made in this particular case? Government 2.0 driven by unseen and unknowable backdoor agreements just like Government 1.0 but mow more techno.

  9. The concentration of Filipinos in the spur of settlement between Blacktown and Penrith is notable – half the Filipino restaurants I know of in Sydney are in Blacktown (i.e two). Maybe there’s a lack of suitable commercial real estate there?

    I think you would find that on average, people around Blacktown don’t go out to a restaurant nearly as often as people around Strathfield (e.g. Korean) or Westmead/Wentworthville (e.g. Indian) for very simple socio-economic reasons. I would say there’s a critical point in the balance of disposable time vs disposable income where restaurants become viable.

    BTW there’s plenty of sushi bars around Sydney and I think the convenience would have something to do with it.

  10. I wasn’t really considering sushi bars/take away places, and I suspect most wouldn’t show up under a yellow pages search for “Japanese Restaurant”. I would happily allow that typical Japanese restaurant fare probably does have a broader appeal than typical Indonesian cuisine, but it’s the sheer magnitude of the over-representation that surprises me.

    Of course it’s the Poms and Kiwis with the real explaining to do, easily outnumbering all other ethnic groups yet I don’t think I’ve once since a *restaurant* sell itself as obviously “English” or “New Zealand…ish”.

  11. “Of course it’s the Poms and Kiwis with the real explaining to do, easily outnumbering all other ethnic groups yet I don’t think I’ve once since a *restaurant* sell itself as obviously “English” or “New Zealand…ish”.”
    Isn’t that the pub?
    Modified to suit local tastes of course.

  12. Pub != *restaurant* (not when it has asterisks around it!). Which is not to say there aren’t pubs that serve up pretty decent fare.
    FWIW (not much) YP only returns 12 hits for “Hotels-Pubs refined by British Feature” (23 for Restaurants refined by English cuisine, of which a significant number don’t appear to logically belong in such a list) – “New Zealand/Kiwi” doesn’t even exist as a category for either search. These numbers are for the whole of Australia too, BTW. It does surprise that so few restaurants/pubs bother listing themselves, or at least ensuring they’re correctly categorised.

  13. I’m a Filipino who lives in Blacktown and I have to say that there are more than just two filipino restaurants in my area. They’re not as well known though, coz most people i.e non filipinos, have never even heard of them. They’re only usually advertised in Filipino magazines coz they cater specifically to Filipinos. There are also a few filipino restaurants located in Liverpool, and Campbelltown that I’ve heard of, but haven’t had the chance to visit yet. The thing is, you gotta ask around. I know of a few Filipino restaurants that have tried to extend from its Filipino base of customers that have failed, simply due to lack of interest from Non Filipinos. One example I can think of is a Filipino restaurant in Paramatta which shut down years ago even though it was situated in a popular area. People were passing it by to go to more popular restaurants, which were usually the vietnamese or chinese ones.

    Hypothesis 2: Are there many native Filipino eateries in the home country? What if, Filipino restaurant food just isn’t common “back home”?

    That’s actually untrue, since there are plenty of eateries in the Philippines. street food is very popular there. In fact, most Filipinos will tell you that it’s easier to open up a business in the Philippines because not only is it cheaper but they’d know what would sell best due to the familiarity of the people and the customs.

    There are however, also a few non Filipino restaurants that are owned by Filipinos. The Vietnamese restaurant in Westpoint (blacktown mall) used to be owned by a Filipino couple, although last I heard they sold it off. And in Main Street, there is also a cafe which sells Aussie food but is owned by a Filipino.

    If you’re wondering why there aren’t as much Filipinos opening up their own restaurants compared to the Chinese and Indians, I think it’s coz we are averse to the risks involved in starting up our own business. It’s safer to be an employee of a large company than to be self employed.

  14. and just like to add a bit further, we are more averse to starting up filipino restaurants coz we are aware that our food isn’t as popular compared to chinese or japanese, indian, or even lebanese food.

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