These are two experiences I get to hear about, from a couple who went restaurant hopping. A week ago, they dropped in at the Central Tiffin Room for Benne Masala Dosa. The place is packed and so they wait. One of the staff at the restaurant walks up to assure them a table would go free in 5 minutes. Soon enough they are seated. The service is lightning quick and the benne masala dosa turns out to be heavenly. They also tell me the coffee was to die for. They leave elated at the food and dining experience they’ve had. Despite the place being jam-packed, the couple want go back as soon as they can.
A few days later they drop in at Sunny’s. The man at the counter who seems to be the owner is on the phone talking. He barely acknowledges them. Once he is done with his call, the couple asks for a table for two. The one shown isn’t to their liking and so they ask for another. None available, comes the reply. The couple decides to take a stroll down Lavelle Road to check out other restaurants. When they tell the man at the counter of their intention, he isn’t too happy. His displeasure is clearly written on his face. The couple decides to leave.
When the incidents are narrated to me, I am taken aback. You see, the CTR business operates on a classic low cost model. CTR is supposed to drive value to the customer purely on functional lines. Meaning, for a low price you will get tasty clean food and quickly. CTR isn’t about a dining experience. It’s purely food. Contrast that with Sunny’s. For the high prices you pay, you are supposed to get super food and a super experience. Far from anything ‘super’, the couple in question got a cold shoulder from the man in charge. As a business, Sunny’s is supposed to be a differentiated model, and so the value drivers are a combination of great food, service, and an overall dining experience. But none of that comes to be for the couple. Imagine if the counter person at Sunny’s was clued into the brand’s business model. What would he have done? He may not have been able to get the couple a table right then, but he could have promised one later. He could even have offered to keep a table for them the next time they came around and so on. What he instead did was cross Sunny’s off the couple’s go-to restaurant list.
Isn’t it ironical that a low cost eatery got a couple to want to come back based on an overall experience, when the fine dining place should have been doing that?! Think about that. The lesson here? Never mind the business model, experiences that customers encounter have nothing to do with infrastructure or the atmospherics at a service provider’s. It’s the service people and their behavior that matters; to the extent that a ‘budgety CTR’ beats a ‘pricey Sunny’s’ at eliciting customer loyalty via the dining experience provided.