Educating the consumer helps to build brand loyalty and authority that doesn’t push them away
So, all the while I was busy deriding aggregators the world embraced them. And then, last month, I wrote about how Zomato’s stance against non-secular comments was inspiring and around the same time, everyone took them down for their allegedly nefarious and monopolistic ways. Timing is everything in news and mine was as off as amateur nights at the local comedy club.
For what it’s worth, and here’s my take on the matter. Aggregators are no saints but they are in the business to make money too so the option to opt in or out always rests with outlets. True that they retracted a lot of their promises and have suffered long from the God syndrome but, that said, there are a few other culprits on the scene.
First, the landlords who expect such exorbitant rents that restaurant owners succumb to ill-planned schemes, expecting a steady flow of crowd in return. A new restaurant may wish to depart from the tried and tested, serve up novel fare and fine drinks but the consumer may not be all too accepting at first. Adaptation and incorporation takes time, time, which the promoter doesn’t have as rents and taxes and other levies threaten to swallow the entire operation faster than quick. A revenue-share plan is more sensible but there are few takers for this model, yet.
Secondly, the investors who are oddly turned on by the macro-ness of it all (how many outlets, daily footfall) seem to get behind projects without even having evaluated their independent sustainability reasonably. Trouble is, new outlets keep opening even as the older ones flounder and struggle to meet costs. Which is when the aggregator discounts seem lucrative to the owner as it promises volume, something that can help with future investments. But this behaviour is worse than being blind; it is choosing not to see even when one has eyes for often such volume of sales comes at the cost of worth which first sends quality reeling and eventually the repute of a space into a downward spiral.
And lastly, we can blame the consumer who continues to remain ignorant about quality and chooses to hunt for deals irrespective of how bad the product gets for everyone in general.
But this last one isn’t all inherent. As one from the industry I believe the onus of educating the client rests with us so if we intrigue them only with deals and steals then it’s only fair when someone else lures them away from us with an even cheaper option. Instead, to educate the consumer helps to build a brand loyalty and authority that doesn’t push them away every time a new outlet opens. If the consumer keeps ordering basa for fish it’s maybe because nobody ever offered barramundi or trout. Similarly, pandering to the crowd by serving food or drinks that are highly adapted to please the masses isn’t the way to push the F&B envelope forward.
So, invest in clients, in educating them and providing a more enriching experience rather than on aggregator-based discounts and packages. Sure at first clients may not come flocking, but over time, the more they travel, read, see, and explore, they broaden their outlook. In the end, one can only hope this metamorphosis happens before the rent axe and the investor pressure take us all under!
The writer is a sommelier