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NRAI organises seminar on local store mgt & managing consumer feedback
Saturday, 11 October, 2014, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Ashwani Maindola, New Delhi
The National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) conducted an interactive seminar on local store marketing (LSM), managing consumer feedback and engagement on social media recently. The objective was to understand the consumers’ mindset and managing menus accordingly.

The moderator for LSM session was Dev Amritesh, chief executive officer, Dunkin Donuts, and the panellists were K S Narayanan, chief executive officer, Pan India Food Solutions; Sanjiv Razdan, general manager, Pizza Hut and Yum India; Sanjeev Bhargava, managing partner, JWT, and Julia Carmen Desa, chef and owner, Tres Restaurant.

It was conceptualised exclusively to help restaurateurs make their businesses locally relevant. Amritesh said that other industries might not even understand having a panel discussion on LSM, but for the food service industry, it is the most important tool. In fact, marketing for many restaurants is just LSM.

Razdan, who has decades of international experience in the food service industry, said, “Serving the guests at your restaurant is a very intimate experience, and it is necessary to customise your offerings and engage with them in a manner which seems personal and relevant to them.”

Responding to a question by Amritesh on driving sales through LSM, K S Narayanan, who has 27 years’ experience with leading brands, said that he had a different view. “Food is only a part of the complete experience you give to a customer, Actually, it is a combination of food, service and retail business that works to make a brand,” he said.

He added, “LSM is way beyond just sending out flyers in a 5km radius. You need to know what is relevant to the consuming public in and around your store and how you are communicating it to them.”

From the perspective of advertising and marketing, Bhargava emphasised on local activations.

“Ticking out the right parameters from the brand matrix to get the maximum local leverage and magnifying them to use it qualitatively is LSM. A local store should understand its brand campaign and leverage the right aspect for local relevance and to drive local preferences,” he added.

To understand LSM for owner-run restaurants, Amritesh asked Desa to share tips with the standalone restaurants.

“Personalised service and going out of the way for the customers is LSM, because word of mouth works very well in the industry,” she said.

Desa credited the success of her restaurant, Tres, to the fact that for the past two years, she had done no other marketing for her restaurant, except personalised local store marketing in the form of creating signature dishes for the customers, continuously training to staff to excel, local tie-ups with schools and shops, working with the community, and most importantly, listening to the customers and putting that feedback into action.

She added, “We know our customers. When we say that, it does not mean only their names. We know their spouses and kids, and go that extra mile where we establish a direct contact with the customers, and have their personal information like birthdays and anniversaries, which add a lot to LSM.”

In accordance with Desa’s comments, Narayanan added that they pushed their chefs to go and talk to the customers.

“The moment a chef comes, half the problem is solved. It is a very positive way of marketing the restaurant,” he added.

Bhargava stated that it was necessary to have data on the customers’ last orders, their preferences, etc., which did not cost money, but effort.

Razdan said, “Through LSM, we try and solve three things. Firstly, we get the customer to the store; secondly, we increase the frequency of his visits; and thirdly, we make him order beyond what he prefers.”

“If you are in a shopping mall, get creative with uniforms, car parking deals or catchy names like express lunch or half-price. For high-street casual dining restaurants, identify where your target consumers are, install kiosks outside those colonies, send flyers, put posters across those offices, etc,” he added.

Further, he shared tips on increasing the home delivery food business through LSM. Mentioning that home delivery business is very impulsive, Razdan explained that to successfully run and increase the home delivery business, one should grab the attention of the customers through flyers, giving best incentives and deals.

The moderator of the second session on managing consumer feedback and engagement on social media, was Samir Kuckreja, former president and now trustee, National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) and founder chief executive officer, Tasanaya Hospitality.

The panellists included Sourabh Sengupta, country head, Zomato India; Rahul Singh, founder chief executive officer, The Beer Café; Miten Sampat, business head, TimesCity; Shobita Kadan, vice-president, marketing, Impresario Entertainment and Hospitality; Shuchir Suri, founder, Food Talk India, and Suchita Salwan, founder and director, Little Black Book Delhi.

They gave an overall view of social media – what it is, how it works, the latest trends and developments, and what one must be aware of to fully utilise its powers for his/her own organisation.

This session helped to guide the restaurateurs in defining their social media goals, and working out strategies that would work best for their set-ups.

Kuckreja set the pace by pointing out some interesting and important statistics related to social media. He said:

?There are about 244 million people who are online customers;

?India is the second-largest Internet-using country;

?About 75 per cent of the internet users are below 35 years of age, and

?About 86 per cent of people spend time on social media

Answering Kuckreja’s question on how to manage feedback that comes in all the time, Singh, who bagged four awards within a year after the launch of The Beer Cafe, said, “Being a restaurateur, we need to accept all kinds of feedback and reply to it timely.”

“It is a part of the ecosystem. We cannot be lauded all the time. Our first and basic mantra is to answer it and not to react, but to be proactive.” He also added that social media is something one could not ignore.

Suri, whose three passions include food, people and technology (in that order), said that brands could actually leverage on negative reviews by handling them well and creating goodwill amongst the readers.

“If a restaurant gets negative feedback again and again, there is something wrong with the product,” he emphasised.

Adding on to the techniques one needs to adopt for online posts, Suri said, “When you share a post and a photograph on Friday, there are 60 per cent chances that you would get more likes than you would on a Monday.”

“On Instagram, if you have a post with more than 250 words, there is a 180 per cent chance that you would get more likes,” he added.

Suri also suggested that user-generated content is better than restaurateurs creating them, and one must leverage that as it is free of cost.

Kadan, who handles marketing activities for brands like Smoke House Deli, Mocha and :Social:, said, “At times, people share negative reviews to get free meals and it becomes very difficult to manage them. However, you have to address them.”

“At Impresario, we have a policy where within 24 hours, we respond to every single comment that is made online. We take negative reviews to understand what went wrong with the customer’s experience,” she added.

On responding to who should reply to the online feedback, Kadan said that this business of being personal with the customer should be taken online as well.

“My team who sits at the outlet knows more, and we authorise them to reply to that feedback. The relationship here becomes direct, and we get a lot of useful information as well,” she added.

Kadan also emphasised on finding out a tool to validate and monitor the kind of people writing reviews online about the brand for making it constructive.

Sengupta built Zomato's sales teams in various cities himself, and made it one of the leading influencers in the industry said, “We work on the technical angle to handle consumer feedback to track down fake and the genuine profiles.”

“We took inspiration from Twitter and brought this beautiful concept of followers. If you do not write interesting stuff, you would not have followers. And that is what you cannot buy. You cannot buy social reputation,” he added.

Sengupta said that it was necessary to control spam. “If you notice it, please let us know, so we can keep the system clean. We are trying to give more importance to reviews that happen on the site. We are trying to capture the experience at the point when the action is happening,” he added.

Commenting on tracking return on investment (ROI) through social media, he said we need to focus on the social ROI here.

“We need to keep a track of whether the consumer has tagged us somewhere, clicked a picture through Instagram for building him as promoters out there,” Sengupta stated.

Sharing a tip with the restaurateurs for handling their social media presence, Kuckreja said, “You need someone who actually understands and lives social media.”

Salwan, a blogger herself, questioned the credibility of reviewers. She said, “Restaurants in Delhi are a booming business and there are new varieties coming up every day, with Japanese, Mexican and Vietnamese joining an already crowded landscape of cuisines.”

“However, our palette is still very Indian at heart, and people would take time to understand what different cuisines are all about,” she added.

“We pick up people whom we know are not from the food writing industry and enjoy food, but not for the sake of earning, which helps in keeping things credible,” Salwan added.

“We never give out negative reviews,” she added.

Replying on the ROI from Social Media, Salwan said, “Social media cannot give you a tangible return.”

“It is for creating a personal connect. You might have thousands of likes on your page, but it does not mean you will have thousands entering your restaurant on a day-to-day basis,” she added.

“Social media is a way to communicate, and when you sound like a salesperson on it, no one would like it. Give it to the audience in an interesting way,” Salwan said.

Addressing his thoughts on what should be done in a crisis situation, Sampat said, “You always have to plan ahead about the consequences that you can or might face in future.”

“You always have to be ready with a crisis plan. The tools which can be used for the same could be a public relations (PR) team handling crisis management,” he added.

Sampat emphasised on the importance of addressing issues raised by a customer on the social media as soon as possible.

He added, “Dine-out has verified diners’ reviews, which allow one to review after they have made a booking and dined, in an attempt to make it authentic for diners and restaurants.”

This engaging seminar was attended by 80 restaurateurs from across the city and was very well-received.

NRAI’s seminars are always committed to serve as platforms to provide knowledge on key areas, engage, exchange ideas and network with the industry leaders.
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