I have a problem with the tech-age. My younger years, which now seem a distant are still not as distorted as the reality that I surround myself with today. Life, here and now, is all about choices, and options, and more choices. Today is all about multiplicity of cuisines, and wines, varied menus and decadent decors, every possible gastronomic and sensual permutation must be accounted for within the binds of any single menu. Back then, even one five star was a building too many.
But there was a pleasure to be had in that paucity. People took their time choosing between their options and stuck by it. Word of mouth did more damage then as, the choices being restricted, were easier memorised. And then, people defended their favourite eatery like an heirloom, as if an insult to its food was an outright abuse hurled at family. Sincerity. Patronage. Loyalty! That’s what it was.
When someone was invited to be a member of a loyalty card programme, it was a recognised and gratitude-generating privilege. People carried the card with pride and inasmuch as they enjoyed the rewards and perks, the possibility of even holding one such was an esteemed sign of respect from the prestigious establishments, who lauded ones’ repeat business and did their utmost to ensure it never went away.
Today, loyalty cards are cheaply hawked like tawdry street-side goodies. At best, you will get regular discounts on your dining, all topped up with a chocolate cake and a bottle of some oxidised out-of-date Indian wine on your birthday. At worst… oh don’t even ask what at worst!
If tele-callers are to believed, the hottest thing on the market should be real estate, a sequential phone number, and loyalty cards, for that is how I spend my working hours answering the phone.
But back to the point, hotels and restaurants are missing the point. In a world where a new place opens every time you breathe and attention spans last shorter than overnight relationships, the exercise of trying to lure with petty discounts is purely cosmetic; superficial and not addressing the real issue. Instead, spend on the chef’s training and get the food right, work on the ambience and the comfort factor. All is not lost; many a restaurant today doesn’t boast ambience or service, and they sure don’t have fancy towelettes in the cloakrooms. But they are packed to capacity feeding people their favourite food, people who come back regularly and are fiercely proud of the outlet, for food that remains as it was when the fame kicked off.
I am not saying that all loyalty programmes are a scam or misguided; all I am trying to highlight is that many of them come on board for all the wrong reasons. Taj Inner Circle, Olive Family, Yum Yum Tree, cards such as these do make sense as they all have good food to begin with.
And yet, people forget that, in the end, a dinner outing is really about the food and drink. There is still no loyalty like an unsolicited one; make sure you invest in the right kind.