Club Loyal

Nearly three years ago,when Busaba in Colaba introduced the Aficionado Club—a loyalty programme for the restaurant—Anand Mittal instantly decided to join it even though the membership came at a premium price of Rs 6,125.

Written by Dipti Nagpaul D'souza | Published: July 19, 2010 5:02 am

Mumbai’s high-end restaurants are launching programmes to retain clientele and pamper regulars

Nearly three years ago,when Busaba in Colaba introduced the Aficionado Club—a loyalty programme for the restaurant—Anand Mittal instantly decided to join it even though the membership came at a premium price of Rs 6,125. “I’ve been frequenting it for years with my friends and family,and I have lovely memories of the place. Even if I don’t count the emotional connect,I end up recovering the membership charge since the discounts are good,” says the 39-year-old businessman and Cuffe Parade resident who has renewed his membership every year .

In a city where every fortnight witnesses the launch of a new restaurant and the latest joint tends to become the next hottest jaunt,some restaurants,like Busaba,Valhalla and Blue Frog,maintain loyalty programmes to counter the problem and retain clientele. Busaba,for example,offers a discount of 50 per cent if the member dines with one guest and 33 per cent if he comes along with two,and so on. They also send their members gifts on their birthdays and anniversaries. Gary Saldanah,general manager of Busaba,considers the Aficionado Club as his biggest achievement ever since he joined. “We have 35 members already. For a small and cosy restaurant like ours,that is a healthy number of repeat clients.”

Though recently-launched Punjab Grill by Jiggs Kalra is planning a loyalty programme,it does tie up with corporates to ensure steady business. Located at Palladium,Lower Parel,Punjab Grill has extended privileges to corporates with offices in the neighbourhood. It brings in constant business since people either dine with their teams or bring in clients and avail discounts between 15 to 20 per cent.

However,not every restaurant is looking at increasing their business. Royal China’s VIP members programme,says manager Jeff Hu,is their way of acknowledging their regulars. “The membership does not come at a price. It is by invitation only and extended only to those who have been regular enough for four to five years to have built a relationship with us,” he asserts. Blue Frog,one of the most popular destinations for both food and music,too follows the same policy.

Tricia Batliwalla,proprietor of Valhalla,seconds Hu. “We already have a steady inflow of guests and aren’t looking at achieving sales figures. Being a dual concept restaurant,we operate on guestlist basis and by entitling certain clients with membership,we ensure we never turn them away.” Valhalla’s membership also enables the customers to avail discounts with other high-end lifestyle brands like Toni & Guy and Ava Marine Yacht charter company. Clearly,these privileges are extended to people of a certain profile but these restaurants do not fear alienating others. “It may sound elitist but choosing to honour our regulars does not imply we fall short when servicing others,” Batliwalla clarifies. Following suit are Zenzi and Shiro. Both are currently working on such loyalty programmes.

However,a number of other high-end eateries,like Indigo and DelItalia,that have chosen to stay away from the concept in inspite of having a faithful customer base. “Loyalty is built with good food and prompt service,not by offering discounts,” says Riyaaz Amlani of Impresario Entertainment and Hospitality that owns DelItalia.

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