Malaka Spice, Pune: Lessons in marketing innovation!

My fiance, Shruti, is not really a foodie. But she is very fond of eating out. I, of course, am fond of both. A couple of weeks back I had taken her for dinner to an authentic restaurant for Bengali cuisine. One week later, she returned the favour by taking me to a very refreshing fine-dining restaurant called Malaka Spice. It is located in the Koregaon Park area of Pune and specializes in authentic south-east asian cuisine.

What really caught my attention even before I tasted the food was the level of detailing provided towards the customer experience. Being a marketing professional in a luxury marketing role, I tend to notice (and, in this case appreciate!) nuances in superior customer experience delivery. There are lots of things worth remembering and possibly worth learning from. There is a lot of thought that has gone into designing every little element of the place.

To start with the MENU opens with a personalized letter from the owners – chefs themselves. In fact it also contains a mobile number. I tried SMSing and not surprisingly, the message was promptly replied to by the entrepreneurs. The menu also contains details of the various ingredients that are a part of traditional authentic Malaysian, Vietnamese and Thai cooking and they also state that many of the spices are especially grown for Malaka Spice – the only name I remember out of that list is Lemongrass!

Now, I am usually bad with names and often rely on the ‘description’ to help me visualize what a particular dish would look/taste like. To ensure that customers know what they are ordering, every item on the menu bears 2 symbols –

  1. A symbol denoting whether the dish is ‘inspired’ or ‘original’
  2. A little icon at the extreme left corner denoting whether the particular dish goes well with red wine, white wine or beer

What really nailed it for us as a ‘WOW moment’ was a laminated card placed on the table. It contained a picture with a name – ‘Nizam.’ It told us about Nizam’s skills at being hospitable and about the fact that he is usually a little shy, but smiles a lot. Nizam was attending to the table. And of course, given the prior ‘introduction’, I can guess that he would be reasonably well-tipped.

Any restaurant review is, of course, incomplete without a review of the food itself. Some of the dishes were innovative and the rest seemed authentic. We ordered a dry chicken drumsticks (I do not remember the name) with Honey Chilli sauce for starters – which was good and had a unique taste to it, but it was nothing to write home about really. We also ordered a prawn dish – Singapore Chilli Prawns which way too hot (read: Chilli). Of course, I was forced to remember the ‘Singapore prawns’ I had in Singapore itself, which were relatively bland. I wonder if the ‘Singapore’ bit was added to the name just because all other south-east asian countries were named on other (perhaps more authentic) recipes!

But like everything else about the place, there was one item on their menu (which, thankfully we ordered!) called Roti Jhala – which was some sort of a Malaysian ‘roti’ – it looked like a perforated, netted Dosa and was easy on the stomach. It was also very light – in a manner that retained the taste of the curry/dish that orders.

VERDICT:

Overall Customer Experience: 4/5
Innovative Marketing: 5/5
Service: 3/5 (Maybe it was poor since it was a Sunday afternoon)
Food: 4/5

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