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Friday, December 18, 2009

Eat Chinese, by Chinese, at Chinese restaurant, in Bangladesh

Have you ever thought why many people prefer to look for ‘authentic’ Chinese food from restaurants such as Bamboo Shoot or Golden Rice or for ‘authentic’ Korean food from food joints like Arirang, Koreana etc. in Dhaka city? There had been so many Chinese restaurants in the city successfully catering to the Chinese food lovers for decades. However, many businessmen and families alike have lately grown a liking for the restaurants mentioned earlier not only to entertain foreign guests but also to arrange family gatherings, occasions etc. Other than perhaps the food being of superior quality and alcohol being served on the premises, it is argued that there is the element of true Chinese or Korean staff/owner/waiters being involved in the service process, which adds a great deal to the experience inside those restaurants.

I attended a Christmas party the other day at a French restaurant in London. Other than having names of food written in French in menu with explanations in smaller font in English, French music being played in the background, photographic pieces on French culture, history, the restaurant also had French speaking waiters and waitresses who conversed with guests and took orders in heavily French accentuated English. The accent was so ‘French’ that confusions occurred frequently whether they were speaking in English or making it sound like more ‘Frenchlish’. Nevertheless, the human touch of a frenchman/woman added a great deal to the experience of having French food at a French restaurant in London. In the same note, I realised that most Indian/Bangladeshi restaurants here are run and served by either Indians and/or Bangladeshis, West Indian restaurants served by Jamaicans, Dominicans etc., sushi restaurants run by Japanese and ofcourse the Kebab and Doner shops being run by mostly Turkish people. Certainly this is a no-brainer that Italians are the best cooks for pasta and pizza, Japanese for sushi and so on. Culinary country branding this is.

But interestingly in a country like Bangladesh which is full of food lovers where eating is an important part of day to day life and where there are perhaps equal if not more number of restaurants than shopping malls and mosques, there are only a handful of restaurants which showcase the ethnic human link to the food being served at the same time. Seeing ‘Chinese looking’ staff in a Chinese restaurant in the Bangladeshi capital certainly increases the credibility and authenticity and the ‘Chineseness’ of that restaurant in the middle of the Bangladeshi capital, atleast in the case of Bamboo Shoot and Golden Rice. It cannot however be argued that Chinese or Indian restaurants in Bangladesh which are being managed by Bangladeshis are not making any profit or are not popular or don’t serve good food. The argument is that when the food belongs to a certain foreign country, it makes the experience more complete if its also being cooked and served by someone who belongs to that country and who establishes interaction directly with the consumers when they are in the process of consuming that service—that’s the intangible value addition to the experience marketing. Its true that not all foreign food restaurants should have, or can afford to have foreign staff when there are so many unemployed Bangladeshis eagerly looking for employment. However it seems those which do (showcase foreign staff, chef, owner) seem to draw a certain class of consumers may be still from a niche segment of food lovers.

If you have Turkish friends in Bangladesh, ask two of them to set up and start running a Turkish Doner Kebab shop, where they themselves should be slicing and serving the kebabs. Its highly likely that it will break even in 6 months if it’s the ‘only’ Turkish restaurant in town as of date.

1 comment:

Jeeshan said...

Good post. Very good example of Martin Lindstrom's 5D Branding-the French Restaurant.

Innovation and Brand Education are two key things missing amongst many entrepreneurs. Too many me toos here in Bangladesh-some of them even copying names directly which is a shame- Zaara, Mango, Chillis and hundreds of other names.

One local restaurant which has been doing a decent job is Bhoot which has really worked on various aspects. But of course the food is chinese!