Eat & Tweet - The Natural Way Of Living In Dubai

Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on May 25, 2012

The UAE has seen a considerable change in its economy, infrastructure, lifestyle, and food habits. As the country continues to develop and influenced by the West, we tend to forget that subconsciously, we also adopt certain habits that might be causing us harm. For instance, take the fact that when it comes to obesity ranking, according to the WHO, 67% of Emirati men and 72% of Emirati women are overweight.

It comes as no surprise that a number of healthier food alternatives are cropping up, “natural” food SMEs being one of many.  While talking about foods, an issue that crops up is that commonly consumed foods contain residues of pesticides and chemicals. Hence, there are options of Natural and Organic Foods. To distinguish the various types of food, the Food and Drug Administration suggests the following definitions.

The term Natural applies to foods that are minimally processed and are free of synthetic preservatives, artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors or any artificial additives. Organic foods are produced without any synthetic pesticides or chemical fertilizers and the livestock must not to subject to growth hormones or GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). The Natural food segment is overall nascent but particularly small in Dubai. Therefore, it becomes of prime importance to know how customer awareness is being created and how poor service/product affects customers’ perception.

The largest presence in Dubai of Natural Foods is because of two very interesting Natural food restaurants: Wild Peeta (Peeta comes from Pita, the Arabic name for bread) and N_K_D Pizza. Both of them happen to be in the fast-food market, but they make a very clear distinction between being “not fast-food, rather just serving food fast!” .Wild Peeta, founded and owned by two Emirati brothers (Mohamed and Peyman Parham Al Awadhi), sells all-natural, home-made, gourmet shawarmas and is classified as a micro SME according to the Department of Economic Development (DED) norms. An Italian version of the Peeta, N_K_D Pizza, which has four franchisees in Dubai (owned by Mr. Ian Ohan) of the native company in the US, sells all-natural, whole food pizzas with probiotic bacteria and is classified as a medium SME.

Given the resource constraints of these SMEs, the companies rely heavily on social media and word-of-mouth for marketing. In such a scenario, there is always a tussle between customer retention and customer acquisition. Hence these SME restaurants rely on social media for feedback. They have a very dedicated fan following on Twitter and Facebook, who keep track of latest changes and proactively give feedback to help the restaurants improve.

What truly stands out is that both the restaurants have Twitter Walls, where all that their fans post on Twitter is actually projected on the restaurant wall. It is good in a way that it increases transparency and instills confidence amongst customers. Anyone who comes to the restaurant can see the massive effect of the good tweets being caused on the cyber space. On the flip side, the negative comments/feedback are also open for all to see.

A customer survey was carried out to assess customer perception of the natural food SMEs in Dubai. Out of a set of 16 factors that customers consider while ordering at these restaurants, people rated “timely delivery” and “staff’s knowledge of the menu” the highest. It was observed that factors such as ambience, background music, seating layout largely remain unaddressed.

To assess customer perception of service quality in the natural food industry, SERVQUAL Model (developed by A. Parasuraman, Valarie A. Zeithaml, and Leonard L. Berry) was used which measures the overall service quality based on five factors – Tangibles, Reliability, Responsiveness, Assurance, and Empathy. On analysis, it was observed that, 42% of overall service quality depends on Assurance and Responsiveness, and 57% on Tangibles.

On being asked how respondents would like their complaints to be addressed in case of a poor service experience, 53% respondents said that they would like the option of cash back or would prefer a discount coupon on their next purchase. About 33% agreed they had  observed a drop in the service during the weekends then only 13% respondents said that the restaurant’s current method of handling complaints was satisfactory.

The owners agree that negative feedback from customers is imperative for their survival. Without this genuine feedback and the dedicated commitment of their customers, the restaurant’s service would encroach on the food quality. One clear example was mined during customer survey interview when one customer pointed out: “Wild Peeta food tastes great but nothing on the logo or the banner says natural/gourmet. Instead the restaurant can have a stand-post outside that promotes the all-natural theory.” People are craving for more transparency that will guide them towards the Natural style of eating.

With this strong emphasis on the holistic approach to excellence, negative feedback is sure to sustain the natural food industry while fostering its fast-paced growth.

This article has been authored by Sweta Mishra, student of GMBA(Contemporary Marketing Management ), SPJSGM, Dubai.

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