Doing F&B in Singapore? How to make your customers love you more than your competition
Red Bull may have went to space, but there are other much simpler ways to make your F&B brand stand out.
Singapore’s F&B scene is saturated. It’s competitive. It’s not for the faint of heart. More than 40% of F&B establishments die within 5 years of operation. Say any more and we’d just sound like a broken record, but you get the drift: The F&B industry in Singapore isn’t an easy one to survive in.
The key to your restaurant’s success? It’s not about finding a completely empty playing field, but how you march through the field, even if it’s filled with strong opponents:
1. Know your customers
Whether you’re a small business or big brand, you’re sitting on a wealth of research – perhaps even more than you realise – so it’s all about what you make of it to carve out a competitive edge. Analyse behavioural data through your point-of-sale system. Observing the kind of customers that walk through your door. Every little bit of information you can glean can point you towards the right direction.
Take the example of Irwins Salted Egg. There are countless salted egg snack brands in the Singapore market, but few are as successful as Irwins. Irvin Gunawan, the unintentional mastermind behind his namesake brand, would tell you that he hadn’t expected that his Salted Egg Yolk Fish Skin and Potato Chips would be such a hit. After all, it started only as a simple kitchen experiment when his previous seafood restaurant venture wasn’t doing too well.
But when he realised that his #dangerouslyaddictive snacks would be, well, dangerously addictive, he set out to know his customers – the first step to scaling the business. Establishing one of their key customer profiles as Asian tourists, they went on to open two other outlets in Changi Airport, in addition to their VivoCity, Orchard, and CBD outlets, all of which enjoy high tourist footfall. Today, they’ve even expanded to Hong Kong and the Philippines.
Stalking yourself on Google counts, too. (P.S. tips on making your website rank highly on Google here!) Put yourself in the shoes of your customers and try searching for your own restaurant using predicted keywords. Do customers find you by searching for, say, family-friendly restaurants, or Instagrammable cafe interiors? Or, perhaps you rank highly on the Google Search results when users search for affordable Western food, or even particular dishes.
Are you on this list? Your truffle fries might be what’s keeping some of your customers coming.
Once you have your restaurant keywords identified, you’re ready to start working on your strengths. Which brings us to our next point…
2. Make them love you
And we mean really, really l-o-v-e you. It’s better to have 300 customers who love you than have 3000 customers who just kind of like you. The latter group might go to your restaurant once, but what’s going to warrant a return visit if they’d almost surely have favourite dining spots that they prefer over yours?
The Sushi Bar’s Kaisen Chirashi Don: gratifyingly thick, lusciously silky slices of sashimi on a bed of Japanese rice. (image)
The Sushi Bar knows this, which is why they’ve built a strong, loyal customer base from the former pool of diners instead. They’ve done so by creating a signature menu item that shines – look around the busy restaurant and you’ll see a bowl of their iconic Kaisen Chirashi Don on practically every other table.
What’s even more amazing is that even with a whole legion of other Japanese restaurants in Singapore, diners not only specifically come for it, they come back for it.
Why? Well why not? There’s everything to love, and this is precisely their unique value proposition – you get plenty of value for money at less than $25, and the sashimi slices are one of the most thickly-cut around. And this signature dish practically anchors the entire menu, as many diners also order other dishes on the side to complete their meal.
3. Or, create your customer base yourself
For others, it’s about forging your own customer base, even if it’s from zilch. Google “German restaurants Singapore” and you’ll find no more than 10 of them. This cuisine simply hasn’t been very accessible nor familiar to Singaporeans, but that didn’t stop the folks behind Bavaria Haus from serving German favourites like Crispy Pork Knuckles or Beef Stew at their humble hawker stall.
A clever move, considering how intimately every Singaporean resonates with our hawker culture. By being where their customers are – or rather, the people they want as their customers – Bavaria Haus is instantly bringing themselves closer to the hearts (and stomachs) of the mass market.
Having identified the gap in the market and pounced on the opportunity, they’re clearly already taking up the gauntlet to the big boys like Brotzeit, with not one, not two, but three hawker outlets in Queenstown, Ang Mo Kio and Toa Payoh.
Daunting as it may seem, a competitive industry indicates that customer demand is high, and that there is space in the market for your brand. You’re doing the food well; now, it’s time to get seen and heard (and tasted!) in the F&B crowd.