We at The KIN Consortium have researched a variety of sources and we found a report that was recently published in 2011 that was entitled, “NCB Saudi Economic Perspectives.”
The restaurant industry took a dramatic hit in 2009, and recovered somewhat in 2010.
According to the SAMA (Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency) and NCB forecasts, the restaurant industry should have fully recovered by the end of 2011.
Keep in mind that restaurants are one of the key sources of entertainment in the Kingdom.
We are blessed in the Kingdom because the markets are full of fruits, vegetables, and spices from all over the world.
It’s an absolute delight for both restaurant chefs and restaurant patrons.
If you select the right restaurants, you can literally experience the cuisine and ambiance of almost every culture on the planet.
There are literally elegant restaurants and fast food chains from almost every part of the world.
The only question is the long-term survival of each restaurant in a market that has a customer base with whimsical taste buds — also in a market that is saturated with a variety of competing theme restaurants.
Our base assumption is that the restaurant is a theater of sorts.
Just as in the theater, there is a transition of an idea from the mind of the author of the book, to the screenwriter, to the director, to the actors, to the audience, and finally to the word-of-mouth advertising that occurs when the audience describes the show to family and friends.
It is that transition of thought from one person to another that is the most amazing dynamic in the theater business, because it is the process of relaying the story that brings people back to the theater.
Now imagine the restaurant industry is identical to the theater business.
The restaurant owner is literally juggling a number of variables much like a film producer as he is constantly looking for investors and watching the consistency of the restaurant image at the same time.
Then there is the screenwriter, which would be played by the author of the menu or the restaurant chef.
The transition of an idea or a thought from the mind of the chef to the taste of a particular dish in the mouth’s and minds of the patrons is the epitome of art.
The combination of spices and recipes is a painstaking process that demands accuracy of measurement and timing.
Furthermore, one of the most important aspects of the cooking process is the consistency of quality, quantity and the presentation of each dish — which is how one builds a brand name or signature dish.
A film director or a restaurant general manager is burdened with the responsibility of the overall show.
That includes the other aspects of the presentation; for example, everything from the logo, the menu, the decorations, the costume and presentation of the staff, the actual food presentation, the website, the smartphone application, attention to detail in terms of cleanliness and lighting, and of course the availability of Wifi.
The various restaurant proprietors must consider that the patrons are paying for the overall restaurant experience.
The patrons dining experience is literally chasing the perfect ambiance, and its not strictly measuring the success of an event by the authenticity of the cuisine.
Finally, the actors in the theater would be comparable to the staff at the restaurant.
Training the staff in terms of how they greet the guests to how they prepare and serve the food is one of the most important phases of the show.
The staff must have delegated responsibilities that they perform with impeccable accuracy.
It’s absolutely crucial that they do not step out of character in the presence of the patrons.
That means they cannot eat, smoke, or joke in a casual manner in front of the guests.
Simply imagine you were at the theater watching Shakespeare and one of the actors on the stage decides to take a personal call on his smartphone.
The crowd would be both confused and perplexed at the inconsistency of the scene.
The restaurant is merely a stage and the patrons are there to eat and enjoy the ambiance.
Keep in mind that the restaurant experience is a fleeting moment in time, and rarely do the guests get to take something from the restaurant to remember the experience.
In the old days, people used to collect souvenirs like matchbooks with the logo on the packet, but in July of 2011 you find people taking pictures with their smart phones and uploading it to a variety of social networking sites.
It’s instantaneous advertising on social networking sites.
Some of the more astute restaurant owners are trying to use this state-of-the-art technology through the use of Android applications on smartphones.
They are offering the VIP customers a discount if they have the application on their phones.
These more elite restaurants design their Android buttons to include a menu, Google maps, the phone number of the restaurant, and even theme music.
Of course, the suitability of the technology will depends on the aura or ambiance of the particular restaurant.
Now that we have painted some broad brushstrokes regarding various facets of a successful restaurant, let’s take a moment to discuss the value of a good location.
The key is to position a restaurant in a setting that is suitable to its overall image.
Some may argue that the fundamentals of convenience of location and parking are crucial to the success of a restaurant, we would beg to differ on that point.
The convenience of a location in terms of proximity to an office complex or a shopping mall is important if the restaurant is designed for mass-scale food production.
However, if it’s a theme restaurant, then its exotic by definition and it should be separated from the crowd.
Consider the difference between elegant dining at a five-star hotel and casual dining at fast food chains at the eatery in the shopping mall.
The hotel restaurant has its own controlled theater, while the shopping mall eatery is more generic.
Try to compare your own stories about dining at the two different locations and you will find yourself describing the restaurant in vivid detail, while the eatery was a fleeting memory.
The importance of the issue of location should be considered as a relative factor since it depends on the overall show.
— Khalid I. Natto, [email protected], is chairman & CEO of The KIN Consortium