Restaurants may die as promoters fail to balance the growing appetites of consumers for the new and the economics of creating the new
There are at least six locations I have been to in Mumbai in recent times that have seen a new restaurant replace an old one. The same is true, I am told, across the globe.
As people, we are changing. We don’t read a book consistently (if we read at all anymore). We start several at the same time, we open multiple tabs across multiple screens, we become different people. As we have multiple usernames and handles, we like to experiment and get new experiences. We don’t travel to the same place again and seek newness each time. Ticking off a list, we have fragmented attention spans, doing many different things peripherally rather than one in depth. We are showing behaviours that do not require commitment; rather, they exemplify moving on.
The rent vs buy argument is gaining ground. More and more people are using mobile apps for transportation, rather than looking at ownership, through models such as Uber, Ola on the one hand or the shared drive models of Zip cars on the other.
We seek new experiences and want to eat a different cuisine. We rarely go to the same restaurants. We don’t seek the comfort of familiarity; rather, we seek the titillation of variety. Every time I see a new restaurant opening I wonder why the promoters are not waking up to this new reality and thinking newer models – rather than spending enormously on creating new theme oriented experiences – that once experienced, will rarely bring the same customer back. The capital intensive model to create orchestrated experiences will not last long enough to give returns. The restaurant will die before then.
Perhaps the solutions are to create a model like a cinema multiplex, where the kitchen is the same but new chefs come and go. Or quick-service formats where the design builds in new skins and layouts to create visually different experiences and a constantly changing menu.
Consumers are changing, and restaurants, to be profitable, must change too.
As published in Hindu Business Line, March4, 2016