Masterchef judge and celebrity chef Matt Preston says brands can learn a lot from the way restaurants create a good experience because loyalty comes from the experience – not the product.
Preston was speaking at media agency Initiative’s client event, Shift, in Melbourne this week talking about how restaurants respond to culture to stay relevant.
“You can sell the product, but people will come back for the experience. That's why people on the floor (at restaurants) are so important,” he says.
Digital can't always replace the personal experience and having staff that have a genuine connection with customers and remember which wine they ordered last time, for example, is a completely different experience to having the same wine preference recorded on an iPad, he explains.
Preston started out by saying the best experiences he has in restaurants are when he's with friends and family in a relaxed environment. It's not just about the food – even for the acclaimed foodie.
“99.9% of the dining experience is an entertainment experience. It's the enjoyment of that time that you're spending with the people at the table. The food and the wine are a vehicle for conversation,” he says.
For brands, as with restaurants, the product is just one part of the experience.
“They might like one restaurant better than another but it's not because of the salt and pepper squid,” he says, it's because of the environment, the people, the owners and the experience.
Preston went on to talk about authenticity in marketing and his experience in Masterchef season two when the show tried to “sugar coat” the final outcome of who the winner was.
“Audiences smell something funny. In season two the editing tried to make it look like the chef hadn't lost and as you can imagine did it appallingly badly, and everyone watching knew there was something funny going on. There's a weird sixth sense that customers have now about what's authentic and what just says it's authentic.”
He added that brands trying to win customers over with brand extensions can be misguided. He first referred to wineries extending into restaurants, then went on to talk about more consumer brands
“Brand extensions are bullshit. I've never tasted a brand extension that tasted better than the original. I think marketers get overexcited and think a Kit Kat with Wasabi is a good idea. I don't want a Kit Kat that tastes like Wasabi, I want a Kit Kat that tastes like a Kit Kat.”
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