The social distancing between the online and real worlds

By Hans Ebert

It’s really about listening and understanding the wants and needs of the customer. And let’s remember that the Customer Is Always Right. It was something drummed into those of us when in advertising. After all, it was the customer who kept all our clients in business…and which paid our salaries and provided a certain lifestyle.

These days in Hong Kong, the government has thrown their support behind the hospitality trade- financial support and everything possible to ensure that it makes a comeback. That it succeeds. And keeps succeeding.

This is after months of consumers living online and ordering food online and receiving door to door service, thanks mainly to Deliveroo and Food Panda. Either that or enjoying cooking at home and, rightfully so, sharing this work online with others.

Having said this, slowly, but surely, more and more of us are going out into the real world, especially for dinners.

What’s different, apart from wearing masks and ensuring social distancing is being obeyed, is the demand for quality.

At least, this is true for one customer segment- those who know good from average and are willing to pay for this difference.

Popular with them are those boutique kitchens. They’ve always been popular, but more and more are opening. Those who wish to be first to experience these new startups can make or break them. There’s nothing better- or more lethal- than word of mouth advertising. Literally.

Of course there will always be those who are prone to being cost effective. They will use their discount coupons and value cards and study the costs of every item on a menu before deciding whether they should go or they should stay.

There are then Hong Kong’s Buffet Busters who attack every hotel’s value-for-money buffet on weekends with a gusto that’s pretty much exclusive to this city.

After all, money’s too tight to mention and everyone wants to be very sure that they’re not being short-changed.

The days of celebrity chefs and those unknowns suddenly appearing in Hong Kong from especially Europe and marketing themselves as culinary giants are over. No one cares. Plus, those once gullible enough to buy into and pay for the dreams and schemes of these silver tongued devils have either disappeared or have enough money squirrelled away to jump from business to business and hope they get lucky. Cool.

As for the silver tongued devils who got fat off the land, they’re long gone or else hiding out in Phuket having scaled down their once way over-the-top Fashion TV lifestyles. These had their time. But about now…

This is a time- very possibly the first time- that the government- and the Hong Kong Tourism Board- are taking a very much hands-on approach in steering businesses towards the hospitality trade that will, yes, attract local consumers, but also, hopefully,have everything lined up in a row when it’s time to again entice tourists.

Tourists from where, however? Interesting question. And with what? The rubbish dump that has robbed Lan Kwai Fong of its one-time trendiness? The tacky bars down Jaffe Road in Wanchai that once attracted Joe and his Bananas? Hotel lounge music fare? Ocean Park? Disneyland?

That’s the past pretending that it still has a pulse. This died around a decade ago, but no one bothered to notice.

One thing is for certain: Whatever it is that Hong Kong needs to rise like a Phoenix from the ashes, it can’t be more of the same- the same that’s probably available everywhere else- and perhaps even of a better quality.

Here, let’s not lose sight that tourism is also something that has not only lost ground, but how travel is no longer the magnet it once was.

The reason: At least for the time being, the various restrictions placed on travel plus a certain sense of uneasiness by many to take a break.

Who would have thought that looking forward to taking a holiday overseas would be so fraught with stress? But this is where we’re at.

Everything learned has been deleted. Sadly, this includes partnerships, relationships and marriages. New thinking has come into play in what is known as ‘the new normal’.

It’s an apt description of life during and- when it happens- after COVID-19.

Consumers might not know what they want, but they will be demanding more of everything that will appeal to them- and at costs that they’re willing to pay. No one’s going to pay for “average”. What’s not average? Something that’s probably not even been created. Yet.

Whatever it is, this will have to be about enhancing the customer experience- through the quality of everything- the food, the service, the drinks, the ambiance, the music and whatever else is needed along with the “quality” of customers that a venue attracts.

Many of us have become phobic. We wash our hands more often. Going out can no longer be a crapshoot. We need to plan and be more sure than ever about the company we keep. That wherever we decide to frequent will be with the “right” company. It’s not about snobbery. It’s about being risk averse.

The fact that every big name public relations agency has tap danced around the idea of bidding for the tender to help create a campaign to “revive Hong Kong” shows just what a difficult mission this must be. Not impossible, but difficult.

Knowing where to start is half the battle. And where to find New Thinking that can actually produce the goods. None of this is going to happen overnight. Much of this might never happen…except in the constantly evolving online world where there’s a move towards not letting strays in.

#Hongkong #lockdown #thenewHongkong #hospitalitytrade #restaurants #hotels #consumers #newnormal #tourism #travel

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