On restaurants - brand and geographic marketing ~ Sounds + Food 'n' Retail

rach1.jpgFinally, something more food-related! On television, there seem to be two types of shows related to the business of food: apprentice-type shows like "The Restaurant," which present a new challenge every episode and where one team/person loses and gets kicked out; and then there's another type of show, not quite as successful commercially, in which an expert is brought in to help a business in need. Last night, in a bout of insomnia, I got a chance to watch an episode of the latter category, a German show called Rach the restaurant-tester, where Christian Rach, an experienced cook and food-entrepreneur helps restaurants get back on their feet.

This one dealt with a restaurant in Berlin, called "Die Blaue Ente" (translated: "The Blue Duck"), which had some interesting ideas surrounding it, but many were unfinished, and was located in the middle of nowhere, in the outskirts of Berlin.

The restaurant had several things going for it. The cook (59), was energetic and outgoing, had lots of ideas, loved animals and even had a little zoo going with ducks and other farm-animals. The food was adequate and the atmosphere inside was friendly. His wife took care of the welcoming and did so authentically.

But the restaurant had been running badly for some time. The founder had many ideas, but many were unfinished. The restaurant served all kinds of diverse dishes, but there was no clear menu-identity. And the cooking, while good, was disorganised and slow. The business was in trouble.

The challenge was two-fold. Establish a clear identity for The Blue Duck and make people in Berlin aware of the restaurant.

The cooking was already good, but it needed to shine. People needed to come to the restaurant for a reason and leave with good memories. The straightforward answer was to make the food and the name one and the same. Bring more duck-like dishes on the menu, but with a twist. So gone were the diverse dishes that had previously been served. Rach gave them a couple of easy ways to create a broad offering of "winged" dishes, which were not only easy to prepare but also allowed for synergies in cooking (you can make a lot of different dishes from one chicken). But the challenge was to bring the food to the people, and that is exactly what they did.

Creating awareness
The founder had previously been toying with an idea to serve food on the road, with the help of one of those catering-trucks. He bought a second-hand one, but had abandoned the idea and left it rusting in the garden. This gave Rach an idea though. If the people weren't coming to the food, why not bring the food to the people? So he bought the restaurant another small catering-truck, one with which they could use to serve Blue Duck-snacks at a market in Berlin. And he got them a transportable oven, which they could use to keep the food warm, and attract visitors with sweet scents. Bingo! Not only was the cart a raging success, but it lead to exactly the desired result. People started coming to the Blue Duck.

Final thoughts
I wanted to write about geographic marketing for a while, because I consider it a vital ingredient to the leisure business. As a restaurant or other leisure-venue, you don't have much flexibility to move, and I think that the thinking goes that you must be located in a premium location in order to be successful. That's true, but it also reminds me of the gold-rush during "cowboy" times, where everyone would move to the same place to mine their gold and when the gold was gone, the town would be dead. Premium locations are like goldmines, and there's a great first-mover advantage. Instead, an interesting concept is to choose any location (within reason) and try to bring customers to you based on the quality you bring.

An entrepreneur in the tourism-industry, who taught at my school, told us about a similar thing he did. He asked: "as a local tourist-attraction, how important is international business?" As it turns out, it was very important. To him, international activities involved advertising in travel-agencies all around the world, as that is where he would get the majority of his clientele.

Frequently, when I see restaurants/cafés where the staff seems depressed and business is bad, that's the first thing that comes to mind. Have you done geographic marketing?

As for the brand, not much to say there. Clearly no marketing can make a bad product good, and establishing a clear identity is key in differentiating yourself from competitors, and more importantly, gain loyal customers.

It was a really nice show, I thought, more constructive than the typical apprentice-styled alternative. Competition is perhaps part of life, but there are a lot of smart people out there who can help you just as well. All it takes is a little altruism…


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