A case for differentiation

The ‘For Sale Pub’ in Budapest has a unique atmosphere.

We’ve just enjoyed a visit to Budapest, a busy and vibrant capital with a significant tourism industry. We stayed on Váci Utca a pedestrianized street lined with tourist shops and cafes all competing for tourist spend. Each time we walked back to the hotel we were accosted by staff from the restaurants inviting us to take a seat for food or a drink, we got to the stage where we would take a longer walk back to the hotel to avoid being pestered!

The silly thing was that all the restaurants had the same offer of traditional Hungarian fare. They all offered a choice of pavement dining or uninspired decor inside. Most had TV screens showing the Olympics, many had music and most had blankets for the chilly evenings. There was just nothing to differentiate between the vast majority of them. Most were pretty unappealing to us on passing. On the first night we chose the one that said it was recommended in Gault Millau and the food was good although the choice for dessert was too limited for us to indulge.

Less than five minutes’ walk from the Váci Utca and off the tourist track we stumbled across a pub/restaurant that was really different. The décor was a bit eccentric with straw and peanut shells on the floor and every surface covered in tickets, jottings, t-shirts and other items donated by previous guests. This place was full pretty well all day and rather than staff outside begging passers-by to drink and dine there was a number for table reservations. Every table was supplied with an enormous bowl of peanuts in their shells so guests would work up a thirst whilst adding to the shells underfoot. The food was good and the menu clearly stated that portion sizes were bigger than average and those with smaller appetites might want to order a three quarter portion. The owners of the ‘For Sale Pub’ (eccentric name too) clearly understood the importance of the unique selling proposition.

I’m not sure that there would ever be enough business to keep all the restaurants on the Váci Utca happy but giving customers a real choice would help. Restaurants can differentiate their businesses in many ways, including:

  • menu,
  • quality,
  • service,
  • price,
  • atmosphere,
  • décor,
  • entertainment,
  • appearance of the staff
  • customer ratings and more.

Can potential customers see clearly what is different about your business and why they should choose to do business with you? How easy is it for them to check feedback from your former customers? Are you listed in the right places for people to find you? The restaurant we went to on the first night has a Trip Advisor rating as well their Gault Millau recommendation; none of their competitors seem to have made the effort. We booked our hotels largely on the recommendations of previous customers as shared on www.booking.com where we are guided as much by the words as the overall scores. How do your customers make their choices?

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