Restaurants get industry insight

The recent Cayman Islands Tourism Exchange featured a series of marketing workshops for the first time this year. Delegates and businesses on Grand Cayman were given the opportunity to engage with experts from Expedia, condo/apartment rentals, marketers and the restaurant sector.  

Chris Tripoli of the A La Carte Foodservice Consulting Group was the speaker for a seminar called Restaurant Reality From Recession to Recovery: How to help your restaurant survive a tough economy. He spoke at length about many aspects of the industry, in particular how large chains and fast food outlets in the United States had used various strategies to sink or swim during the economic downturn. 

Taking the example of chains in the US, he said those that had fared the best had gone back to the basics of taste and value.
Coffee, breakfasts, healthy alternatives, regional and craft beers were all doing well, and as ever top quality service was always demanded by the customer. People want to have fun again, he said, so there is a new movement toward going out to multi-purpose venues for games, bowling, movies and dining. Tripoli dubbed this ‘Eat-ertainment’. 

One way in which establishments could experience growth without expansion, or adding dollars without units, is to broaden the day part by adding breakfasts, late night food or weekend brunches. Other aspects include catering and delivery or pre-paid/pick-up food, private parties and speciality cocktails of seasonal ingredients. 

There are three distinct characteristics which define a restaurant concept’s ability to win and they are being in sync with buying habits of the consumer; growing the market segment; successful implementation of the three Ms – that is, menu, management and marketing. 

Tripoli went into these in some depth and noted that the menu was at the heart of any restaurant; all systems, service and promotions should work around this. It should be based around what the customer wants and watching these trends would be very helpful. Packaging items together such as price fixe lunches or dinners, business lunches and so on could help sales. Tripoli even went into the psychology of menu design and which areas of a menu that customers always looked at and in which order. 

Having a yearly plan broken down into weekly management meetings would assist and selecting, training and retaining key people was absolutely key, he said, because people plus product equals profit. Training and an environment of growth encouragement was important. Good marketing was an ongoing process of planning, implementation, reviewing and adjusting, he concluded. 


Insights welcomed  

Cayman’s hoteliers that attended the seminar welcomed the insights. Steven Hayes is the restaurant representative on the board of directors for the Cayman Islands Tourism Association. He told the Journal that it was logistically of benefit for the restaurant segment as a whole. 

“Someone of his level could teach different ways of marketing, how to look at menus and attracting more people. [He also talked about how] some of the trends in the United States can come to Cayman. If you are downtown a large chunk come off the cruise ships out of the US and a large chunk of stayover come out of the United States. So you can see some of the trends. 

“The big difference that I personally believe is that some of those trends relate to day-to-day business whereas [Cayman restaurants often are geared toward] holidays and vacations. So some trends may not necessarily transfer to us. People on vacation tend to indulge themselves more,” he said. 

Martin Richter of Grand Old House said the seminar had a lot of information although some of the concepts were difficult to apply to the Caribbean. 

“It’s always good to have somebody here to remind you where you are standing, what you are supposed to do and it’s always good to go to these seminars to refresh what you are doing. He was very entertaining and knowledgeable but particularly on the fast food organisations. 

“In Cayman we are fighters and will battle on to the end of the day; we are not as organised as we might be in order to cut costs and there were interesting aspects in how to attack certain aspects of the industry – where to go and where not to go. It is always refreshing to hear things from somebody else,” said Richter, who is himself a consultant. 

The Cayman Islands Tourism Exchange ran from Monday, 2 May to Friday, 6 May. The first three days were taken up with a marketing summit and then two days of seminars before wholesalers and industry partners from the United States and worldwide came to the Island for an update on the product. The Cayman Islands Tourism Association, which organises and runs the exchange, said that the week had been a great success and in future years the seminar element, introduced this year, would be retained and possibly expanded. 


Chris Tripoli was an engaging and informative speaker. – Photo: Joe Shooman