The development of the organised F&B market in India has taken time, due to which brands are still focussing on getting the fundamentals (the menu, the service etc.) in order. Despite this, the rapid growth in the market has resulted in a shift towards customer engagement at the dining space through different means. As a result, F&B brands now operate in two main spaces:
Brands which were established as F&B players have introduced entertainment-driven elements. For example, cafés offering live music or games.
- Brands which were primarily entertainment-oriented, with F&B elements as add-ons. For example, sports bars and bookstore cafés.
By adding entertainment options, F&B brands give customers another reason to spend more time at the dinner table, thus improving the average spend per visit. While some forms of entertainment are offered free of cost (for instance, live music), games such as snooker require some additional payment. Further, with increasing competition and the fast growth of the market, F&B brands need to create an opportunity to differentiate them from other brands. Traditionally, restaurants were rated in terms of theme and ambience; now they vie with each other in offering varied entertainment.
One benefit of such extras is the buzz it can create among customers, who then become an alternative marketing tool by spreading the word about the F&B brand. This “talk value” is vital for brands as their customers are also passive advertisers. Brands which host musical events, for instance, may also capture indirect media attention through such customers. However, the onus is on the brands to ensure higher consumer interaction and engage younger consumers, who are far more likely to seek such venues as “hang-outs” and visit them frequently.
Brands also have to make a studied choice in terms of these bonus offerings which are limited in number and have different levels of appeal among customers. Music is generally the strongest crowd-puller, and positively impacts a restaurant’s business, image and customer experience. It can be offered variously through live performances, as songs played on request and karaoke. Blue Frog, The V Spot Café+Bar and Hard Rock Café are some examples of successful players offering music.
Another entertainment choice is comedy, which gives customers a much-needed “laughter break” in a stressful world. This has been successfully adopted in the West, but is still novel to India, with The Comedy Store, The Bombay Elektrik Project, and Kyra being the pioneers here. Also attracting a good number of customers are sports offerings, with themed outlets cashing in on the craze for football (soccer), cricket, and Formula 1 racing. Players in this space include The Manchester United Café Bar, Delhi Daredevils Sports Bar, and Golfworx.
One relatively new option which is still being explored is art and literature. Its connection with the F&B space is not well understood, and thus the existence of only a few such players in India such as Mocha Arthouse and Indian Art Café, which encourage art and art appreciation. There are also places which provide books to customers to read such as the Café Turtle.
Going forward, the need of the hour is to find unique concepts to engage the consumers in ways that ensure a long-term relationship between them and the brand. The primary goal in this space is to create excitement for the consumer and give them more than what they asked for in terms of beyond-the-palate entertainment options so as to encourage repeat visits.