dine-in and takeaway

Merhaba from Istanbul,

It’s a mistake to suppose that modern market theory is all new and modern. The Harvard Business School have a vested interest in us all believing that they have a monopoly on business wisdom but the touts here in Istanbul have been adopting pro-active marketing techniques here for centuries; long before the word ‘marketing’ ever existed.

Almost every restaurant in Sultanahmet has a tout on the street, enticing prospective diners to enter. They reason that they would suffer without one, and the evidence seems to prove the point. Whilst these touts might not know how to recite the 4Ps of basic Marketing theory, they are practising it every day.

They know their market by applying some fundamental rules. They knew about cross-cultural sensitivities long before any business schools came into existence and told us how important it was. Emre says, “I know the people”. [P for Promotion]

The restaurant touts know they need a unique selling point and it’s quite uncanny how each one has conjured an enticing point of difference. [P for Product] One bloke claimed that his restaurant’s prices were lower than the competitors’ on account of the fact that the rival sold alcohol (implying that the liquor licence acted as an overhead). [P for Price] Another bloke vowed that his restaurant only sourced the ingredients daily – a sweep of the arm suggesting that all of those customers dining at the tables were enjoying this fresh produce, and that the other restaurants could not make the same claim. [P for Product] One old hand stated that his cafe was on land which had been donated to his grandfather, who had apparently been the Sultan’s surgeon during the last days of the Ottoman Empire. “These other restaurants all pay us rent.” (Avid readers will know that this inducement actually acted as a deterrent for moi.) Further up the alley, Erdem the tout says, with a big smile, “no delicious, no pay”. Then the clincher: “baklava is on me . . . promise”. [P for Promotion]

They all offered the obvious physical differences – rooftop terraces, free wifi, water pipe etc – but they all added their own unique nuanced enticement. [P for Promotion]

Most of these retail outlets also offered a takeaway service [P for Place] as well as delivery services [P for Place]. They all applied the universal psychology of placement in the front and window seats [P for Promotion] and they all added a freebie at the end to establish a reciprocal debt [P for Promotion], but they all knew just how much attention each customer desired (or would tolerate). They didn’t need a degree in hospitality to achieve it. They didn’t need to enrol in Marketing 101. These guys could well have written the course.

Güle güle from Istanbul


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