2 Restaurants: Same Location: 1 a Success: 1 a Failure


One of our favorite holiday spots is Goa. We enjoy relaxing on the beach spending the whole day alternating between the water, sun and shade and recharging our batteries with the solar energy :-). Normally we stay at the same resort (comfort zone) which is a stones throw from the beach. On our earlier trips, sometimes we used to dine in an Italian restaurant which is housed within the resort. Great food, great ambiance, great service.

Recently on our vacation this year, we saw that the resort had started another restaurant in premise. This was a restaurant serving Indian cuisine.

I observed that whenever we made dinner plans, we never really felt like trying this new restaurant, whereas in all our 7 days, we managed to dine at the Italian restaurant twice. I also observed that it was season time, and there were foreign guests coming into the Italian restaurant, whereas the Indian restaurant had virtually no guests. Since I run a business myself, I was curious to learn from what was playing out, to make one of the restaurants successful and the other a virtual failure.

I ran through a little diagnosis to arrive at the possible cause:
1. I first looked at the location and ruled that out since both were in the same spot. The same footfalls were available to both businesses.
2. I then looked at their model and presentation. While they were different, they both were fairly good and standard. They both displayed prominent signages, prominently showed their menu at the gate to help the discerning visitor to take a decision, and had decent layouts.
3. I then pondered over whether the type of cuisine is making a difference and ruled that out as a possible cause since there were other Indian as well as Italian restaurants flourishing in the same market.
4. Its quite possible that simply by virtue of being around for longer, the Italian restaurant was more successful. Being longer, means word of mouth referrals would have built up a loyal guest following who revisit year on  year.
5. I did feel that the name of the Indian restaurant was not much suggesting that it was representing an Indian restaurant.
6. While all of the above were very minor considerations, I feel that the clear difference in the two restaurants was that of the attitude of the respective owners.

I recall that when we visited earlier, the owner of the Italian restaurant (an Indian business man from North India) would have conversations with us, while he would be waiting at the gate of the restaurant to draw in guests. I also recall how he would walk upto the guests as they would scan the menu and converse with them about their preferences and also inform them of any offers which were in play. Subsequent years, he would remember us and take the efforts to talk to us. All evening he would shuttle between the restaurant and the gate and do the selling himself. I have seen him personally standing and receiving orders from guests, so he can also consult them about the food.

I didn’t note any of this in the owners of the new startup. I observed them to be always preoccupied in their own little world and never found them selling, talking to guests or really being present on the floor. The staff of this restaurant would always be sitting around since there were no guests. Little did they realise that these were subtle gestures to keep guests away. The energy was that of “Are you sure you want to eat here”. Come to think of it, in all the 7 days we must have passed the restaurant 3-4 times a day while going to and from our room, but not once were we invited to have a meal at the restaurant, or any special offer made to us as resident guests. I must say that none of the owners made any effort to have conversations with us. I would say that resident guests are prime targets for in premise restaurants. Once they dine in, the word of mouth kicks in. Essentially I felt as if the owners were really not interested to run this restaurant, which obviously percolated down to the staff and all in all they put up a listless performance. It was almost as if they were happy not to have customers.

I feel that while systems and processes, presentation etc are necessary but these are not sufficient. Without a deep interest what you are creating, continuous improvement in the product and operations, and that entrepreneurial go-getter energy, most businesses, even great ideas are bound to fail.

On the other hand, the commitment energy of the owner is contagious and soon spreads to the people to create a rocking team. You have to just watch for getting into a founder’s trap 🙂

Its all about attitude. Talent, Capability and Skill only compliment a great Attitude.

How’s your Attitude and Being?
Are you welcoming customers or driving them away?
Do you think of customers as a boon or a bane?
Do you look at customer complaints as problems or opportunities?
Are your best people facing the customer?
Do you have frequent conversations with your customers?

Our yoga institute (Param Yoga) has a very interesting and apt slogan
“How we do” matters more than “What we do”

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