Revamping to be sure that you still have a pizza the action
YOU CAN see the signs in the white paper draped across the storefront windows at shopping malls across the country. And nowhere has the recession’s deep bite hurt more than the restaurant industry.
Internationally, it is said to be a reality that more than 80 percent of eateries close their doors within two years – without the impetus of a downturn – so how do you adapt to changed circumstances if you’re a top-name dining destination?
Ian Halfon, co-owner of Balducci’s at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, says, “Inarguably, every business in the world has been affected in some way of another.”
He adds: “You just need to read Fortune magazine and Harvard Business Review and you will see that ‘white tablecloth’ restaurants all over the world have been affected by the downturn in the economy – most probably because the investment bankers and clients looking for these huge returns ate particularly well!”
Balducci’s has been affected, but comparatively mildly, because “we have reacted quickly and changed with the times”, adds Halfon.
“The result of this global recession is that we have learnt to operate far more leanly and efficiently and have re-strategised: hence the Balducci’s make-over. The market has changed in that both the local and international tourist markets have shrunk.
“We have further improved and modified our concept and have come out with an awesome new menu. This revolves around what people want – simple and easy food without detracting from quality and delectability.”
Balducci’s brand essence is that it is “understated European elegance” and its differentiating factor “is that we are the only South African Italian chic restaurant – we have taken ever-popular, versatile and easy Italian cooking, using the best and freshest ingredients, and given it an African feel, eg ostrich Bolognaise.”
But the restaurant has also come up with a marketing twist to suit the straitened times: gourmet hamburgers.
Halfon says openly: “I suppose if it was not for constraints on consumer spending, admittedly we most probably would never have researched and developed this amazing burger with our vision (travelling to America four times in a year, for example) to produce the best yummy and consistent burger with perfect accompaniments.”
Meat used is top-notch Karan beef, he says.
Marketing the evolved concept is done through PR and advertising in select publications, but Halfon believes the best sales pitch comes via word-of-mouth.
“It is most probably the best and most cost-effective you will ever receive. But then, put your money where your mouth is.
“If you produce a good product and you are passionate, customers will just keep on coming. But be what you claim to be.”
But, above all, if you’re in the eating business, you need to “evolve and roll with the times”, he says, if you don’t want to become another fiscal casualty.
ROLL WITH THE TIMES: Balducci’s in Cape Town had to revamp its menu to give people what they want and can afford.