Thursday, July 24, 2014

Online Dining

I have enjoyed my pizzas better at the restaurant that at home, all along. It is more to do with the fun of dining – you plan a trip to the pizzeria, a walk or a short drive usually, or even at a Mall after finishing retail therapy. I fondly remember the bottomless Coke and unlimited Pizzas at Pizza Corner in Chennai in the late 90s during my most cherished college days with my gang of friends. Have ever since been a fan of pizzas and the love has only been growing. Frankly, I like pizzas from different places, be it Dominos or Pizza Hut, California Pizza Kitchen or standalone indie restaurants. One of my most favourite of course has been from “Italia”, the fine dine restaurant at The Park, Bangalore. For me, Pizza is an all time snack. I am usually game for a pizza at any time of the day (or evening) although I avoid a heavy dinner of pizzas. In fact, the love of pizza is more because of the yummy accompaniments, the cheese garlic bread and an array of toppings, especially the gherkins and olives. Am not a big fan of coloured flavoured colas and would rather prefer a strong coffee if not a lemon ice tea to drown the heavy food.

What I like best is food to be served hot and fresh from the kitchen. Haven’t been a big fan of home delivery or takeaways since I feel that the freshness is somehow lost, especially the international fare such as pastas, pizzas etc. although Indian food is still doable – we have an option to reheat the curries and biryanis at home once again which can’t be done with pizzas and pastas. Have avoided ordering pizzas at home for a long time now since I have had not-so-great experiences in the past, but that was probably because I used to live in Bangalore where the ambient temperature outside is not conducive to serve hot food by road.

018117e5b142181430958a33cbbb742d2dc4e28587

This Football season, I decided to order pizzas at home. No, I don’t follow the game but why not enjoy the delicious offers provided by F&B Retailers! So, first it was Dominos followed by Pizza Hut. On the first occasion, the pizza arrived pretty late, almost 45 minutes since I ordered. I was very disappointed with all the promises made by the company on various media, but gave a benefit of doubt to the delivery boy – he must have had a lot of orders to fulfil and mine was probably the last one. So, I didn’t make an issue about it and just left it there. Yes, I would give them a try once again in future and I hope they live up to expectations.

On the next occasion, the pizzas were served hot and were in a consumable condition even after 20-30 minutes of being delivered at home. What was surprising was it was a Sunday and was the day of the “Final” match between the two teams. And yet, the pizzas were sent on time, well ahead of the promised time. They have a future customer for sure!

In both occasions, I used the mobile applications of both these companies. The UI for Dominos is a bit confusing while the one for Pizza Hut seemed much better. In fact, I had to switch over to the website while ordering for Dominos since that seemed to be a better option. The UI is perhaps not designed by retail experts and with consumer feedback, it lacks the sensibilities that customers look for, especially people of the older age and for women, both of these segments may not be very mobile savvy. Also, one of my friends quipped on his Facebook post recently how the delivery boys call a number of times to take directions. The Pizza companies can take a cue from Uber, the taxi service guys who have a GPS enabled map on their cell phones that help the drivers reach their destination without even calling once.

0108452950e1be711d50e5b9470ddc6a85d39ff124

Mobile App Zomato also integrates Home Delivery along with providing reviews about restaurants and they are growing rapidly not just in India, but also internationally. Overall, I guess online dining, or rather online ordering is a great way to reach out to customers. It is also non-intrusive in a way. There is no need to call a number and go through the menu being repeated often – the menu is just there on the mobile app or on the website and helps users to choose what they want quickly and easily. Once customers are used to it, they would rather prefer this option instead of calling on the phone, whenever they desire to order food home. So, go ahead and try ordering on your phone next time. And yes, do take a minute to share your feedback. Happy Dining…

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Rewarding Customers

2304

I happen to visit Phoenix Market City Mall in Velachery, a suburb of Chennai earlier this week. I usually don’t travel all that far, it’s a good 45 minute drive from my home. But I was there on an invitation for an event, so had to undertake the long drive during peak traffic. At the time of picking up the parking ticket, I was handed over a leaflet (pic below) by an unassuming guy. And he was distributing it to all the vehicles who were coming in. It was a weekday evening and there wasn’t much crowd at the time of entry, although it took me a good 3-4 minutes and a winding route in the basement to find a parking slot for my car.

The leaflet offers parking reimbursement for upto 2 hours to those who visit the restaurant and consume for atleast Rs. 300/- at their restaurant or at the Food Court which confused me initially. Later, upon reading the fine print, I realised that the voucher was common for three malls and perhaps the Retailer operated various formats in each of them and hence a common leaflet. I found this to be an interesting way to bring customers into the restaurant / foodcourt as it applies.

2305

Interestingly, this concept was first experimented a decade back at Bangalore Central Mall, the first seamless Mall in India which is a part of The Future Group and has Food Bazaar and over 100 apparel and accessories brands within its precincts. I was among the start-up team and had suggested this idea to reward customers to reimburse the parking token against purchases since the mall was located on MG Road and just a few yards away from Brigade Road, which is the historic hub for shopping in the city. The concept is a huge super hit and is still in practice. Bangalore Central is probably the only retail space in the country which offers reimbursement on parking charges which incidentally drives a lot of incremental footfalls. In fact, many who visit the Mall for window shopping or to the Café Coffee Day end up buying something or the other and use the parking coupon for reimbursement and are a happy lot.

However, this is a very expensive proposition for the Retailer, especially the F&B operator in this case. The parking fee for 2 hours is around Rs. 100/- and this gets debited from the bill – which on an average would be around Rs. 450-500/-. Assuming that the Gross Margin is around 55%, there is nothing much that the Retailer gains by offering this promotion, except to ensure that his stocks get utilized fully. Ofcourse, it attracts new footfalls and a number of first-timers to visit the store and experience the outlet.

In fact, this would work mostly for F&B operators only, who have more than 1,000 bills a day. It may even work for cafes although they wouldn’t have more than 200-250 bills a day. On the whole, these are unique ways by which the Retailers gets access to customers directly into its premises. The Mall, in many cases do not charge for the distribution of these pamphlets since they see it as an indirect way to send customers to the Food courts and Restaurants. On the whole, it’s a win-win for customers, the Retailer and the Mall. Great way to reward customers.