Australian Functional Ingredients – by Vic Cherikoff

Australian food for a competitive marketing edge

Politicians are talking down the economy and taking us into a recession whether it’s inevitable or not. It’s a case of the personal development cliche that if you think you can or you think you can’t; you’re right.

Restaurants are suffering more than most since they rely on business lunches, social dinners and discretionary income spends and each of these disappear as the economy gets more uncertain. Here’s an article on the situation in the UK which is deeper into the recession than we are in Australia but is heralding the short to medium term future for the Land Downunder.

So what would I do if I were running a restaurant?

Peter Druker is revered as the father of modern corporate management. He is often called the world’s most influential business guru transforming corporate strategic thinking. Peter states that there are only two productive activities in business:

1. innovation – what sets you apart from your competition and
2. sales and marketing

Everything else is support activity.

I would make sure that my restaurant offered a lot more than the same food as the place next door, down the road or in the next suburb.

Can prospective patrons read your menu and know how each dish will taste?

Is your chef only tweaking and fiddling with food anyone could cook at home?

Do your patrons rave about your food and do you manage them as your best source of repeat as well as new business?

If your answer to any of the above is yes then innovation is your first concern. Authentic Australian ingredients are the easiest and most cost effective means of differentiating your restaurant.

As patrons discover your innovative menu, they’ll rave about it to their friends. You now have word of mouth advertising working for you and this is even before you invite the food media in to experience your creative offering.

I have a proviso on this. So many chefs are scared, cautious or ignorant of the more impactful flavors and tend to use too little to matter. If a dish is described as interesting but the taste is underwhelming, then you rip yourself and your patrons off and it could be highly negative. The innovation of using the most interesting ingredients has to be delivered professionally and effectively with maximum impact.

Authentic Australian ingredients are really easy to use. Download our product glossary for a current listing.

We have complex sauces which are formulated as bases which chefs can use an infinite number of ways. Unique yet widely appealing infused oils, sophisticated seasonings and more menu ideas than chefs could ever use.

Word of mouth advertising is step one. Ever restaurant needs to be well presented on-line and this is another area of ignorance on the part of restaurateurs. Are you running a Twitter site? Does your chef have his own Facebook site and does your outlet management also maintain a restaurant page on Facebook? Is your dedicated website fully search engine optimized? Do you run email campaigns to ensure residents and businesses in your local area know about you and your events?

And speaking of websites, did you know that most web designers might be good at the visual creativity which makes your restaurant site appeal to your visitors but have absolutely no idea of creating or maintaining a site which is appealing to the search engine spiders?

My recommendation on this is to build a site using Site Build It which is a build-by-numbers system which delivers you a site which will really grow your trade through the serious traffic it attracts. You could even monetize your restaurant trade to go global by moving into products which can be sold on-line.

I can predict some comments such as “We can’t get into manufacturing, we serve ready to eat food” and this is easily addressed: Get an existing manufacturer making a quality product which is in line with your restaurant’s cuisine offering. Then negotiate part of an existing production run to be labeled with a well crafted private label under your brand. There are many other ideas too and you can even offer information as a product. Just email me.

Anyway, basic to the on-going success of your restaurant will be authentic Australian ingredients which are best when they are simply integrated into your existing cuisine theme. They make your food exciting, interesting, creative and innovative. I no longer promote the concept of going specifically authentic Australian as it narrows your scope and relies on a healthy tourist trade and the (late) business lunch. May it rest in peace.

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Vic Cherikoff