Restaurant chain Seoul Garden has pivoted its buffet concept to a la carte after 38 years in response to the uncertainty encountered by F&B operators when in the face of a community cluster. Garry Lam, Seoul Garden Group's chief development officer, told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE that the decision was a "carefully considered" one and the company is committed to it.
"For some time now, customers’ feedback has revealed a trend that we cannot ignore. We have many customers that used to be Seoul Garden customers and now seldom frequent our outlets because they shy away from buffets for various reasons," he explained.
This resonates with the growing clarion call for reducing and eventually eradicating food waste around the world. According to Lam, Seoul Garden also recognises that food waste, a common consequence of buffet dining does not resonate with the ethical, environmental and social concerns of a growing group of socially conscious diners. He explained that the change of dining concept also allows Lam to bring back some of these old friends where they are looking at better grill meat and more personal service. "We continue to offer value meals. Our personal grill sets, for example, have been carefully put together with our longstanding customers in mind," he added.
While diners will be introduced to a brand new menu and dining concept, one thing that will remain is the company's reputation as a dining experience and gathering place for friends and family over a good meal, Lam said. Sustainability strategies are part of the brand's DNA and transformation roadmap which states "The people we seek to serve, care about the things we seek to change”.
When asked about the marketing initiatives it will implement to promote the new brand positioning, Lam said it has embarked on a marketing programme employing its social assets and outreach efforts to inform the customers base it has amassed over the three decades. Working with The Rainmaker Marketing Group, Seoul Garden also saw merits in utilising digital platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok to complement its marketing programmes. Lam, however, did not comment on MARKETING-INTERACTIVE's query about the amount of marketing budget assigned to digital.
Like all F&B operators, Seoul Garden has also been challenged to meet the urgent need to offer diners with a safe dining environment under the safe management measures. "Changes to the rules have understandably needed to be frequent in response to a climate of uncertainty in face of clusters in the community. It has made long-ranging marketing plans a challenge to sustain," Lam explained".
To ensure that guests continue to enjoy dining at Seoul Garden, the Group has embarked on a comprehensive training programme for its staff, including its crew of persons with disabilities, to help them understand and embrace the new dining concept.
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