Thursday, 6 August 2009

The art of the sell

I've noticed recently (I've been biking a lot more) that London and NYC share quite a few street names, like Lexington and Mercer for instance. However walking along Brick Lane last night to choose the right Bengali restaurant reminded me of strolling down Mulberry Street in Little Italy. It went beyond names and moved into the realm of experience.

Restaurant cajolers and hawkers competed with one another, whispering to you as if sharing dirty secrets as they slowly approached with a menu like a weapon in hand.

"50% off entire menu for you."
"Special discount for you."
"Would you like to try - best food?"

The tourist-infected streets of Little Italy don't go as far as to offer discounts, but they try to tempt you with a variety of Italian cliches, from checkered red and white table cloths to Mambo Italiano blaring on speakers, and verbal lists of classic Italian meals:

"Chicken parmigana, baked ziti, linguine in white wine sauce - Miss, the finest meals served here..."

So all this got me thinking: what makes me cringe about people peddling menus?

Because I feel like someone is trying to sell me something.

So how could they make my mouth water? By making me want to buy, to go in, to taste. They probably have two seconds to get my attention - what would work? Maybe free bite-sized samples of their best dishes or street specialties such as chaat? According to The Psychology of Persuasion, this could also work given the human desire to reciprocate...

How about a less aggressive approach - wafting scents a la Marks and Spencer bread? Faint Bollywood music? A couple of Bengalis eating at the restaurant? How do they entice you to enter and eat at their joint when there are countless restaurants with no real point of differentiation? I'm sure there has got to be a cost-effective way to lure customers...

Any ideas? Or does the direct salesman approach work for you?

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