OPINION: Duncan Fraser-Smith
It’s been a very tough summer out there in the Middle East restaurant landscape. I know, because there isn’t a day that goes by where consultants are calling asking if there is any more work at the moment, restaurateurs are calling asking if we are all going through this together, owners are looking at their returns, calling each other and asking if we are all going through this together, the list goes on. The inevitable answer is yes, it’s been a hard road to get to where we are today and yet that doesn’t mean we can sit back and give thanks for the fact that with the high season months creeping around the corner, we are all saved, the bunting can go up and we all can take long term vacations in the Mediterranean next year. No, my friends, I say this is just the beginning.
First and foremost, let me say that ‘with my operator hat on’, there was business out there over summer. In fact, there were a lot of very decent people willing to part with their hard-earned currency to spend it in our establishments. They were the loyal who continuously gave time after time to support a ladies night, brunch, or 2-for-1 offer, in fact, any initiative we as operators put into the market, over this shoe melting season, to attract business.
Let’s not forget them. Yes, our numbers may have dwindled, and percentages bottomed out, but they still came expecting the levels of service and quality of food that they have any time of year. My point here being that they are our true brand ambassadors. They are the ones who keep the lights and gas on when times are tough. They are the ones who continually talk about us to friends and family and so let’s be a little proactive as we move forward into ‘the season’. Let’s remind them, before it goes too far, as to just how important to us they really are and that we are eternally grateful for their patronage.
How each and every business unit chooses to do that I will leave up to you, but remember it is a simple as surfing through your reservations book from June to August and seeing whose name pops up more than once. If they came more than once, then congratulations you have a summer regular! Invite them back for their birthday and thank them for believing in you, your chef, your team and your business that you have put your heart and soul into. Perhaps next year they will dine three times during the summer instead.
Finally, as we do move into the winter months and the terraces are opening up, brunches kick back off and we feel the surge of energy that is the lifeblood of this industry for which we all share so much passion and drive, remember, new faces, new guests, are going to experience your business for the very first time. Wow them.
Duncan Fraser-Smith is the director — global food & beverage for The First Group who is developing, creating and executing more than 30 new concepts to site within the company’s hotel portfolio. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.