Arizona Grill was one of the early brands to jump on the bandwagon jumpstarted by Copper Kettle. Pre-CK era, Chinese restaurants ruled the roost. Then came CK and the café-esque culture with bizarre names and menus chalked on blackboards came into vogue.
While many restaurants and cafes that emulated this style crashed and burned, Arizona Grill is going steady after almost a decade of existence. Arizona Grill was a me-too brand that started out fixated with CK, so much so that it even copied some of the menu items, including the famed Caked Alaska. Even the taste wasn’t that far off from Copper Kettle. Then CK expanded its business with additional outlets and Arizona Grill has followed suit.
However, unlike iPod which was a me-too brand as well that blew away its competition, Arizona Grill is content to be just one of the competitors. Whatever its imitation policies, the fact that it has managed to thrive in an industry (the upscale restaurant category) where restaurants go down in a matter of months for almost a decade is a tremendous achievement.
now it seems that it maybe basking too much in its glory to start overlooking lapses in quality. The quantity and taste, however, continues to be right up there with the very best.
In our recent visit to their Shaheed-e-Millat outlet, we tested their hamburger, pepper steak, chicken stroganoff, and grilled jumbo prawns. The jumbo prawns were simply divine, but the quantity wasn’t that much. At six pieces costing Rs.700, that’s way too much. Also a case can be made of setting different prices according to the area in which the outlet is located, a strategy called price discrimination. The downside to it is the lack of consistency in the brand essence. Still selling stuff which was priced according to the costing requirements of the expensive Zamzama in other less costly areas is not wise either.
They could distribute the cost over both the outlets according to the rent of the location.
back to the offering, the other three items were quite good, but it was the quantity that set them apart. Apart from CK, there aren’t many upscale restaurants that are generous in the portion size.
There was, however, one major setback on this visit that drastically reduced the brand equity of Arizona Grill at least in our eyes. And that setback was that I had a bad case of food poisoning after consuming their delicacies. Now there are many doctors who will tell you that food poisoning doesn’t necessarily mean the food was bad or stale. The same stuff can be consumed by a group of people and yet only one person amongst them would become the victim of food poisoning. They say a number of factors including the body’s own immune system conspire to bring about a case of food poisoning. That may be the rationale behind it. But consumers neither think nor act rationally. Usually this is something loved by the marketers and business owners because they can easily appeal to the irrational side of the consumer.
In this case, however, it has proven to be a double-edged sword. How? Well, after spending a day in bed vomiting Arizona Grill’s delicacies particularly the American hamburger, I spent the next week or so stopping every acquaintance of mine and telling him about the incident and urging people to avoid Arizona Grill’s Shaheed-e-Millat joint. To me or to any other consumer for that matter, medical logic doesn’t count in such a situation. The only thing that matters is what we had last night, which must be the culprit. Period.
However, my outburst wasn’t solely based on the food poisoning. When I visited their washroom, their kitchen which is adjacent to the washroom had its door ajar, and I got to have a peek inside. It was the tiniest of peeks, but enough to give the impression that their kitchen is not the most hygienic place on earth.
Then a friend of mine told me that that outlet of Arizona Grill is notorious for serving sub-standard stuff.
So what can Arizona Grill do to dispel the impression that any outlet of it is serving below-the-par stuff? For starters, it can make a small home video showing its kitchens and how food is hygienically prepared in them. Put this video on youtube and rest assured the masses are going to find it eventually to start a chain reaction of goodwill.
Then it can offer the chance to any customer to come and inspect its kitchen any time he wants.
Finally, the Arizona Grill people ought to dig into the internet for any bad word-of-mouth being generated about the brand and try to tackle it gracefully. That should take care of pretty much everything.
There will always be some customers who would get infuriated for no reason whatsoever and the management cannot do anything about it. But the majority of them will be satisfied with a little bit of attention and extra care and that’s what great customer service is all about. I remember an incident from back when Arizona Grill had just opened its doors almost a decade ago and we had gone there for a test drive of its menu. When dessert time came, the waiter got our order mixed up with someone else’s. When we pointed out the mistake, the dessert we had actually ordered was brought, no questions asked, while the wrong item wasn’t taken away but served to us free of charge. That’s the sort of impeccable customer service needed to exceed customer expectations.
Arizona Grill has some great offerings, and although it doesn’t need to carry out any full-fledged marketing campaign, having already established itself as a major player in the upscale restaurant industry, it does need to promote its hygienic standards, and if it doesn’t have them, get them in order before doing the promotion.