December 20, 2018 |
Ever since a baby-faced Jamie Oliver told us to stop measuring and to just chuck it in and stir, we have become obsessed with buying food, making food, eating food, photographing food, talking about food, etc. The outcome of this obsession is a global foodie phenomenon that has spawned a series of cooks who believe they are some sort of demi-god, both professional and domestic.
This fascination with food, and where it comes from, has seen an explosion – and subsequent implosion – of cafes, restaurants and bars. Never before has there been such choice, and never before has there been such competition. The desire for creative, authentic, and transparent food has led to an industry that is as competitive and cutthroat as the FMCG sector.
However, this comparison highlights an essential difference between the two industries. One of them has teams that conduct research and analyse the market, engage market research consultants to conduct focus groups, assess the current and future market gaps, create verbal identities and test the visual language on focus groups, then spend millions on product development and marketing. The other thinks of an idea, designs it and opens it as quickly as possible, while trying to save money in the wrong areas, and expecting social media to work its magic and bring it customers.
No surprise then that restaurants open and close quicker than ever before, when they are not developed in a sustainable manner befitting such an investment. ‘The world is changin’, they cry, and yet the way in which they develop concepts remains the same: get a location, hire a designer, get a logo designed, hire a manager and a chef, and hope for the best. Millions of whatever currency you choose left to chance… analogies include pinning dollar bills onto you whilst having a shower, or putting all of your money on a 10-1 shot at the Kempton Park racecourse. Whatever way you choose, it will be a bumpy ride.
Whilst I am not saying that the FMCG way of careful research, analysis and strategy is failsafe, the very fact that this is done enables better decision-making, while challenging or substantiating the ideas of the investor. I find it fascinating that the consumer is hardly ever consulted when an F&B concept is being developed, and that all supporting evidence is internal.
Danny Russell, Fellow of the UK Market Research Society, says:
“By undertaking proper, systematic research and strategy to build your brand, the challenge to distinguishing your brand, in a crowded market, becomes simpler. If your brand resonates with your intended audience, more than your competition then the struggle to build awareness and trust decreases. This feeling of trust and connection is key for brands in the crowded F&B sector – thus reducing your risk and increasing your chances of success.”
The basis for any successful B2C enterprise has to be consumer buy-in – and this starts with developing a brand that talks the same language as the consumer. The development of its back-story, purpose, its promise and supporting personalities, and tones of voice provide a solid foundation from which the visual language can developed and tested with the primary and secondary audiences who have already been identified. Without this essential development, the concept will be built upon weak foundations and run the serious risk of failure, as its subsequent behaviour will be baseless.
However, investors continue to pump millions into developing their ideas that have never been researched, have never had any consumer engagement pre-opening, have never had a consumer journey or verbal identity developed, and wonder why after six months they have to change the menu, offer discounts, and halve their staff count.
My suggestion is a quick bet on a horse called Mr. Big Shot Fails Again in the 2:40 at Ascot.
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