The contemporary consumer is a complicated beast. These days, it’s not enough to provide good food/drink and a comfortable place to enjoy it. Customers want more – and it seems they all want the same thing: something ‘different’.
Setting yourself apart from competitors is what every decent restaurateur knows they should be doing to survive. Identifying exactly what that point of difference is has become increasingly challenging as the bar and restaurant scene overflows with establishments seeking to break the mould. But it’s worth doing.
Take the coffee shop industry. Large, ubiquitous coffee chains have reported a drop in growth in recent years, which many analysts put down to an apparent shift in consumer tastes. Customers are now hankering after something other than the mass-produced, perfectly formed offering presented by the pervasive coffee giants. They are tired of being met by the same big names on every high street they visit. And as a result, the independents are growing.
Today’s customer wants to sip artisan coffee from (what they perceive to be) an independent, one-off café, in a quirky, unexpected location. Perhaps the coffee tastes better if you’ve got lost a few times trying to find it.
But I think consumer reasoning might run a little deeper than that.
With the never-ending cycle of headlines about tax-evading conglomerates and Victorian-esque mistreatment of workers, people are becoming choosier about where they spend their hard-earned cash. They care about the back story (i.e. it should inspire and uplift, not incite rage) and get pleasure from knowing they are contributing to its success.
No doubt there will come a day when we will tire of all this quirkiness; the bohemian bar and the barefoot restaurant with the quinoa-only menu, will become old-hat. But if you keep listening to your customers and feeding that hunger for something different – without losing sight of who you are as a business – you will still be here when others have been laid to rest alongside the Tesco strawberries and cream sandwich (yes, really) and other fleeting oddities.
At Faber, we are inspired by independent businesses every single day. With this in mind, we will be profiling some of our favourite independent bars, cafés, restaurants and retailers in our new ‘Meet the Independents’ blog series, beginning with 40 St Paul’s in Birmingham – so watch this space.