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How long does it take to make eba again?

The other day a colleague and I went for lunch at one of the ‘posh’ restaurants in Lagos that catered largely to local palates. I have been to this particular restaurant a couple of times. The food is good, the ambience is nice and the service is OK. But I confess that I’m one who believes that for Nkwobi stay with Mama Ogedi, and for soul-lifting Amala, salvation is only to be found at a buka. I’m a relic, yea, but we were never intended to eat cow leg with a fork and knife. That’s why God gave us fingers. Ten of them.

Anyway, I digress.

So we were at this restaurant. I ordered a ‘simple’ goat-meat pepper soup. My colleague ordered some rice dish that had something to do with a fiesta. Fiesta. Fiesta is what happens at the Rio Carnival and not on a plate. Call the food what it is: rice-with-prawns-with-shrimps-with-chicken-with-peas-with-carrots-with-squid. Simple enough name.

Again I digress.

Well, it took about fourty minutes for our orders to arrive – without pomp and pageantry I might add. I was of course not too pleased about the long wait. But what do you know, my goat-meat pepper soup came with bread and butter! Fancy that!

Soon after the owner of the restaurant walked in, came to our table and asked us how the food was. Never the one to shut my mouth, I gave him a good feedback; the food was good but thought the service took longer than necessary. That if I was in a hurry, the long wait would have been a show stopper for me.

Big mistake.

The owner, matter of fact, told me that, well, if I was in hurry, then his restaurant was not the place for me. That in fact, his restaurant was not for everyone.

There, Jide. Another confirmation.

My wife had tried to tell me for years that I was proletarian and not bourgeois,  but I would have none of it. I’ll look at myself in the mirror, look at my 3D TV and Blu ray player, puff out my chest and proclaim to her ‘Sweetheart, you’re standing in the presence of eminence.’

But here I was in this swanky restaurant – where I have just been fleeced – and the owner reminds me of my station. What gave me away? Was it my clothes? Did I order the cheapest meal? Has my wife got to this fella?

The affable owner then went ahead to enlighten me on what I presume was the restaurant’s value proposition. His restaurant, he said, was not a ‘fast-food’ joint, like the competitor in the vicinity, where your food was rustled up in minutes. Good food, he said, requires good preparation, and that they aspire to give their customers the freshest and most delightful food in a superb ambience.

Which I totally get and buy. Matter of fact, I was pretty impressed that the business, unlike many around, had a value proposition, and wasn’t just trying to use chicness and price to differentiate. Hats off to that.

Problem is, it can seriously lose business if it failed to adequately explain why its menu took such length of time to make. In effect, it is helpful to the consumer if the restaurant explained why they do the things they do.

While I want good food, I don’t want to wait eternity for it. Somewhere in my head, and perhaps in many people’s heads too, is the notion that when you walk into a restaurant, food is just a couple of minutes away. Especially when it’s for lunch and you have to be about some other business afterwards.

But I’m happy to wait, if I knew the food is going to knock my socks off. You know, the stuff of Master Chef Australia and Michelin-rated restaurants.

The restaurant could turn what may otherwise be a disadvantage into an affinity-building platform. It could do this by tying the long wait of its menu to some (but relevant) emotional and higher ideal.

“We devote great attention and time to your food because nothing but the freshest and most delightful food is worthy of your tongue.”

If the restaurant was able to get it into my head the benefit of waiting the extra minutes to get food that will scintillate my palate and make me feel I’m at the right place, I suppose I would appreciate the extra time and won’t mind waiting.

Guinness Draught did exactly that with its “Good Things Come To Those Who Wait campaign

Dispensing a perfect pint of Guinness Draught from the tap takes about 119.5 seconds, because of the famous two-part, “surge and settle” nature of the Guinness pour. 2 minutes, it turns out, was a long time to wait for a beer in your favourite watering hole. Especially when a pint of lager took less than 30 seconds to dispense from the tap. The long wait of a ‘perfect’ Guinness pour was a pain for both the drinker and bartender.

So Guinness produced the iconic “Good Things Come To Those Who Wait” campaign that sought to turn around the negative consumer opinion of the length of time a perfect pour of Guinness required, and to encourage bartenders to take the time to pour it correctly.

The “Surfer” TV spot from the campaign has been adjudged one of the most memorable ads of the century and credited with a change in attitude of both drinkers and bartenders to the wait time of  a Guinness pour.

It is for similar reasons that Apple, through Jony Ive, takes us through the manufacturing genius and insane obsession with perfection in its products. It makes you understand and appreciate why an Apple product costs so much more than competition’s.

I am of course not asking my swanky restaurant to embark on a multi-million naira marketing campaign. A well-crafted brand promise and whys inserted in all menu booklets will be a good start. Plus some Public Relations efforts. Dirt cheap. Plus a deliberate attempt not to get your food to you in record time. 

The thing though is that all these suggestions still reside in the rational benefit space. It is conceivable for a competitor to come into the market with great food in faster time, say, through innovation or a better process. Such competitor will have our swanky restaurant for lunch as it would have attacked its very soft flank.

Ultimately, the only way for our restaurant to future-proof itself is to consistently communicate emotional and self-expressive benefits of the nature “When I eat at this restaurant, I feel X” and “When I eat at this restaurant, I am X.”

Have a thought or view? Love to hear about them.

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