Loyal Customers, Quality Service And Food Vital In Beating Economic Downturn.
Thursday, 13th November 2008
The past month has been harsh and difficult for everyone in the world, and the food & beverage industry was not spared as the economy's effects were felt island-wide: restaurant staff have been released, restaurant-goers are spending less and in some severe cases, outlets from restaurant groups have closed down.

The Restaurant Association of Singapore (RAS) has come forward offering several tips for restaurateurs to survive: "As it becomes more competitive for the F&B industry, it is important for restaurant owners to differentiate themselves so as to create a pool of loyal customers. One way is to provide excellent service and this can be achieved through staff training.

RAS helps its members by providing training courses and facilitating any government assistance, which will help restaurant owners to defray certain operating costs," said the Association.

The RAS also added that while information regarding the number of restaurants having closed down is unavailable at present, "the industry as a whole is still hungry for staff". The Association went on to add that while restaurants across the board have been hit by the economic crisis, high-end restaurants have suffered the heaviest blow, as a direct result of people spending less.

However, a reliable industry source working in a high-end restaurant stated that loyal customers, who frequent the restaurant despite these bad times, have been instrumental in cushioning the shock of a bad economy on the restaurant.

On the other hand, some high-end restaurants, such as Graze, have steps already implemented in order to ride out these tough times. "We have added more economical products to our line in terms of wines and a dinner set menu. In addition, we also have introduced "Home-style" sharing meals for groups and the traditional Christmas buffet," said Kevin Hee, general manager of Graze.

Graze's new direction of quality food and service at affordable prices is in fact identical to what was mentioned in a US study on consumer spending behaviour at restaurants. The study, ‘The Consumer Pricing Strategy Report' was conducted by foodservice consultants Technomic. It reported, among other findings, that consumers didn't mind spending more on dishes with ‘higher quality'. It also concluded that the notion of consumers avoiding dining out was false.

With companies capping expenditures, clients and diners holding corporate accounts are now looking for value-added services at cost effective prices. As such, the steps implemented by Graze may have significant pay offs.

"I think the question of: ‘How much can we spend?' has now been superseded by ‘how much do we not need to spend?' I believe everyone has been touched and influenced by the current turbulent economic climate. Multinational Corporations and Small-Medium Businesses are all economising, so we have to assist them by maintaining high food and service standards while at the same time offering more effective ways of dining," added Mr Hee.

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