E-Commerce for Services Management – A Case Study

Food Plaza, the new organic multi-cuisine hotel cum restaurant was finally inaugurated in December 2012. This restaurant is based out of Rohtak, Haryana, which is an extension of the National Capital Region of India. It opened its doors with a promise of delicious food cooked and served with the authentic localized style and aroma of the distant exotic locations. But what are equally delicious are its ambitious plans to drive the existing business using social technologies. This restaurant wants to be much more than a place to dine, for the strategic focus of the senior management was very different. The focus on differentiation using technology was on the minds of the management. So how could the latest technology be used to create a differentiating factor for the restaurant in the minds of the customer? Marketing services successfully is always a big challenge.

This problem was resolved by going the “e-business” way. It was not an easy decision to move away from what everyone was doing. Even harder was implementing such an executive level decision. But Food Plaza decided to provide a vast social networking experience and not just food to its visitors. Inside the restaurant, located at the corner of Sheela Bypass and Delhi Road, a 100-square-feet LCD monitor constantly streams Twitter mentions with hashtags, restaurant specific news and blog updates, and eFood-Plaza check-ins. eFood-Plaza is a Web and mobile application developed by Food Plaza that allows registered users to connect with friends and update their location information. Points are awarded for “checking in” at the restaurant and then updating the Facebook status or Tweeting. Customers see tweets and status updates and reply to them or add their own messages with their cell phones or other mobile devices. A free WiFi zone has also been added which even facilitates streaming video entertainment for every visitor. Every status update, photo posts or tweet made after checking into eFood-Plaza, which gets over 10 likes or 5 retweets become eligible for brownie points, redeemable at Food Plaza. This makes young visitors go crazy about updating their status messages after checking into e-Food Plaza, with the objective of encashing on the additional value from such promotional campaigns.

This restaurant has multiple options for placing an order. You can place your order to a restaurant waiter directly, or by using a smartphone while you are located close by, or you can place the order online yourself for free delivery. Food Plaza was also designed and placed optimally for Location Based Services. Food Plaza also has its own Facebook page, which it uses for social marketing and for running marketing campaigns. Tagging yourself on its Facebook wall makes you eligible to win promotional coupons up to Rs.500/-. Food Plaza offers Rs. 500/- worth of food to whoever is the first in every week to post a picture of him or her in front of the restaurant’s “tag wall”, a wall in the front of the restaurant inviting people to write status updates using a Magic Marker and get over 50 Facebook likes. Food Plaza also uses social networks for promoting its “Chak De Rohtak” campaign for improving the conditions of women empowerment and children education. These campaigns have also added to the engagement with its customer segment, even beyond their presence in the restaurant.

But what makes Food Plaza really stand out is its use of crowd-sourcing for both marketing and menu development. This restaurant has developed an App for customers with smart-phones, which allow them to invent their own dishes and to give their recipes innovative names. Every time someone orders an item invented by another customer, the inventor receives a voucher with an in-store credit. With Food Plaza’s list of ingredients, millions of combinations are possible. Some customers will no doubt use their extensive social networks to promote the burgers they invented. Those with thousands of followers on social networks could conceivably earn “free dishes” for the rest of their lives if they constantly promote Food Plaza. All of these measures create very low-cost incentives for large numbers of customers to actively promote the restaurant. They also generate word-of-mouth “buzz” with minimal expenditure. All it takes is establishing a presence on social networks and rolling out promotions. One would feel that such a strategy would actually go beyond the regularly posited “theories of services marketing

Competing with the other restaurants based out of Rohtak won’t be easy for Food Plaza. But by using social networking technology to forge ties with customers and giving those customers a stake in the success of dishes, Food Plaza hopes to have the recipe for not only multiple successful recipes but also a successful business model. With huge success the Food Plaza wanted to have faster reach in different parts of India. It has done an acquisition of a well known multi-cuisine restaurant ‘Brown Chilli’ having presence in all metro cities in India. The Brown Chilli is having fully IT enabled integrated system to perform all aspects of operation and analysis requirement but lacking the innovativeness of Food Plaza.

Disclaimer: This is a case study which has been created fictitiously. The purpose of this case study is to create a scenario for academic discussions in classroom teaching. This case bears no intentional resemblance with any real life institution or person operating any similar business, even if there is close resemblance in terms of name or business processes or both, to any existing organization.

References: Laudon, K. C., & Laudon, J. P. (2004). Management information systems: managing the digital firm. New Jersey, 8.

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About Arpan Kar

Dr. Arpan Kar (PhD) is a faculty of the globally renowned Indian Institute of Management. He has rich experience in research, training and consulting in e-business, e-commerce, digital marketing, technology marketing and technology enabled supply chain management. He was earlier associated with IBM Research and Cognizant Business Consulting besides handling advisory projects for multiple Fortune 500 MNCs. He is the Editor of Business Fundas and also writes for Technorati.