Want To Turn Your Homegrown Restaurant Into A Global Brand? Here's What You Need To Know. The creation of any successful brand always includes painstakingly meticulous market research and consumer insights to understand how best a brand can meet customer needs, and then go above and beyond expectation to deliver something unforgettable.

By Lily Hoa Nguyen

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Vietnamese Foodies
Vietnamese Foodies owner and Executive Chef Lily Hoa Nguyen

There aren't many examples of homegrown restaurants that became global brands in recent years, partly because of the economic downturn as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it's also partly because it is incredibly hard to successfully launch any brand, and then become a key player in the targeted market segment at any point in time.

Dubai has witnessed many concepts that went global; however, the success ratio of new brand launches is still only around 3-5% depending on category, and within the F&B category in Dubai, the percentage goes up to 10-15%. So, what makes a new restaurant successful from the very first? I think it boils down to whether the concept is able to meet an unmet need of a specific group of customers, or successfully deliver a product or experience that is by far superior than any existing ones in the market.

For example, when I launched Vietnamese Foodies with its first branch in Dubai's Jumeirah Lakes Towers neighborhood in 2018, we became busy instanstaneously, and we almost always had a waiting list of 20-40 minutes during the weekend. And that is because we were able to offer Vietnamese food that is tasty and healthy, at a price point that is unbeatable by anyone.

The creation of any successful brand always includes painstakingly meticulous market research and consumer insights to understand how best a brand can meet customer needs, and then go above and beyond expectation to deliver something unforgettable. Brand developers will then be able to define the brand in the following aspects:

  1. Product/Service What does the brand offer that is unique from the other brands in the same market segment?
  2. Place Where is the product/service being offerred, and how accessible/attractive is the location is to its target customers?
  3. Proposition In which way is its product/service superior than that of other competing brands in the same market segment, and how is this superiority is being communicated? Also, how memorable/understandable/unique is the communication message?
  4. Price How is the product/service being priced compared to other similar products/services in the same market segment, and how is it more competitive in bringing more value to customers?
  5. Promotion How is the brand making its offer known to potential customers- on which channels, and with which form of customer communication or connection?

Vietnamese Foodies owner and Executive Chef Lily Hoa Nguyen. Image courtesy Vietnamese Foodies.

In our case, Vietnamese Foodies was positioned as the leading brand in the pan-Asian and Vietnamese casual dining restaurant segment. We strive to make sure that our food is always authentic, tasty, and healthy, at a price point that is 90% that of our biggest competitor in the market, with similarly prominent and prime locations in busy neighborhoods or malls. Plus, we invest 10% of our revenue in marketing channels such as public relations, elevator ads, or digital ads to build customer awareness of our brand, and what we offer.

After a homegrown brand is launched successfully and receives a good market response, for it to compete with the other global brands in the domain, it will need to be available at the same locations as them, and offering the same, if not better, product/service. This requires serious investment as well as grit and tenacity to pull through the first few very lean years, when most, if not all, profit goes into the re-investment and growth of the brand through the development of physical visibility and availability or distribution.

As this happens, internal processes and management capability will also need to be built and developed at the same time, to make sure that what the brand was known for originally is not lost along the way. For many food brands, this is their Archiles heel, when quality control was not properly applied because the company was busy growing, which then led to a stagnation of growth, because customers lost trust in the brand.

Now, success in one market often opens up an opportunity for success in another market with similar customer demographics- but it does not guarantee it. Again, a lot of effort needs to go into researching and securing customer insights of the target markets to understand whether any adjustment is needed in all of the aforementioned P's (product, proposition, price, place and promotion) in order to successfully meet and over-deliver what customers in that market expect from similar brands in the same market segment.

Intellectual property rights and protection also needs to be taken seriously. Any brand that has a vision to operate on a global scale should have their trademark registered in all relevant markets to avoid imitation or the blocking of their market entry by competitors through pre-registration of the same brand name.

Building a global brand out of a homegrown restaurant is not an easy task, and often, most brands fail in domestic markets within the first 12 months. That said, what we have learned at Vietnamese Foodies is to always build your concept with customer needs in mind, and then try to go above and beyond what is required in order to win and retain customers, employees, and supporters. If you are able to do that, growth and financial rewards will follow.

Related: Off The Beaten Path: Kinoya Founder Neha Mishra On How She Got To Where She Is Today (And Where She's Headed Next)

Lily Hoa Nguyen

Owner and Executive Chef, Vietnamese Foodies.

Lily Hoa Nguyen is the owner and Executive Chef of the Dubai-born restaurant, Vietnamese Foodies.

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