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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Promoting Restaurants

Promoting Services is a really complicated exercise and particularly restaurant business is quite tough to operate in competitive market place. Anniversaries happen once a year, so do birthdays, dates happen across various locations, and that is why restaurateurs find it difficult to do promotions. To generate enough footfalls every day you have to have a really large clientele.
However, a reputation once created and regularly reinforced by sustained good experiences can act as a sustainable competitive advantage making a player successful in spite of the competition. A lot of new sets of ideas can be generated by focusing on the customer life cycle.

The customer Focused approach - attaching to the customer life-cycle
Touch points for various customers are different. As a person goes from age of college and dating (hopefully a lot of dates at the same place!), to jobs and marriage (and commitments along with it), the priorities change drastically. The expectations from a restaurant, as a result, changes. Some of the expectation changes could be mapped as below:
1. a hangout place
2. an exotic place for pampering your date,
3. a place where you get a meal fast during office lunchtime,
4. a place where you bring your clients to,
5. a place where you want to celebrate your anniversary,
6. place where you want to go after a movie (along with your wife)
7. a place to socialize to enhance your interpersonal relationships (for career growth)
Along these lines the strategy can evolve to attract people.

For example, as a hangout place, there may be designated days (Wednesdays / Thursdays nights, Saturday mornings, Sunday mornings - not Mondays/Tuesdays as you are not in the mood for hanging out then - No Friday/Saturday/Sunday nights as they are “primetime”). The menu should also reflect the change (out goes the wine and in comes the beer - 2 mugs against a cover charge - coffee and grub take preference over cuisine - music changes – layout changes lounge sofas come in – concentrated lights creating luminous circles on tables and dark spaces around them hiding the people - etc)
A Client Meeting place should involve telephonic reservation facility, customized menu card (with sponsor companies name and charge column left blank- chefs specialty included – can be made by any creative DTP person). As earlier the layout and arrangements should change – exotic wines – signature accessories – welcome boards at restaurant entrance (marking the guests name correctly) – company specific welcome drink branded in sponsor company name GE special banana milk shake (with a unique recipe of course not replicated on other menus - will work well with local businesses) - lights should be good enough for people to see each other clearly – small laptop stool should be made available along with notebooks and voice recorder if required. Client meetings should be available throughout weekdays.

Office time meal approach calls for pre-paid coupons – meal packages – meal cycle (set of varying menus that office goers can pick-up so that they do not get bored (same combo repeats once in two months), are well fed, meal is complete in terms of vitamins, calories, no-fat, fiber, carbohydrates, etc. Here too company sponsorship may be possible – company can sponsor dietician to customize the menu for their staff – this will be special menu – dietician has to work with restaurant menu as a superset of staff menu.

Finally a small note - care should be taken to keep tastes distinct, an ordered meal has to taste special and office-time meal has to taste homely. Restaurants are all about tastes – some in the mouth and some in the mind. Further, a lot of ideas can be developed by learning from the clubs of London of 18th and 19th century.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Killer App definitely from Microsoft!!

People who know me also know of my admiration for the one Mr. William Henry Gates III or Bill Gates as we know him. This has had a rub-off on my expectations from Microsoft. Now, after having tested the X-box 360, Vista and read the specs of Zune, is the time to upwardly revise the probability of killer app from Microsoft.

Slipping through the door - The X-box
If the X-box is a game station then why call it “X” box? Duh! It plays DVDs, channels in the HD TV, plays Dolby Sound, shows and edits pictures, networks wirelessly, has family settings apart from playing games! It is a sort of expandable functionality box! Is it the original Microsoft idea? As expected, it is not! The Sony Playstation is essentially the very same things. However, the key difference is Vista! I would bet the X-box sits on a Vista version allowing it to do significantly more things than Sony can even dream of doing.

The visionary “X” in X-box

The day I saw the X-box, I shuddered! It spells “tough times” for makers of DVD players, Music Systems, Desktop home computers, hand held MP3 players! With the X-box, Microsoft has put into your home an entertainment enabled Hub! Each of the accessories, like Music System, MP3 players, home computer, is a node (or spoke)! Whoever successfully captures the Hub will have a say in what becomes of the node. Truly Microsoft! Capture the most essential part of the value chain and then dictate the terms!

The bigger plot!
It has already started putting the nodes in place with Zune! The credits from playing on-line games can be re-deemed for Zune songs. This is an equivalent of earning and spending online! This indicates development of an “entertainment ecosystem” comprising variety of nodes connected through the net. The variety of software (Operating systems for governing these nodes, content for these) can yield further revenues.

The business genius!
Apart from this technological ingenuity, Microsoft brings superior business sense to the table. (Microsoft must have lots of brilliant strategists amongst all those who cracked the round-man-hole kind of interviews effectively!) Let us imagine Microsoft did think about all these ideas and started work on business strategy. What would have made them put these Trojans into an entertainment machine? In my opinion, luck or otherwise, “entertainment” is the best bet for entering homes. It has the right mix of emotional attachment, passion and perception of need to make it a must buy.

In sum
While we are all busy fighting Microsoft on the security issues, they have quietly built up a platform that can bring them into our homes and much closer into our pockets. Soon Microsoft will touch every part of our life in ways that are more evident. IF someone knows how to buy Microsoft stock sitting in India please let me know!