Why Don’t Jordanian Food Brands Become Global?

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During my current visit to the city of Amman, Jordan, I had the privilege to taste the local food and experience food brands had I had not encountered previously.

Being a Restauranteur and a Food & Beverage expert I could not help but to analyse the industry – both customer service and the business side of things.

I have visited a few strong local brands that provide an amazing product but I cannot help to wonder why they have not expanded further than Jordan. Have they tried but failed? Do other countries make it difficult to open within their borders? Or do Jordanians prefer to stay within the area they know? It is my belief that some of the products served could be a hit in the Middle East and, perhaps, even globally.

I have visited the top three restaurants in Amman as recommended to me by the locals. I find similarities between their operations but for the sake of this article I am going to focus on Al-Kalha as an example. It is a restaurant well known for Jordanian food such as falafel, hummus and other local daily dishes.

I visited the the branch in Abdoun and here is my experience, from start to finish:

– Parked the car out the front
– Walked through a dull, plastic outdoor furniture area to the entrance and was greeted by average looking, dusty signage
– As I walked through the door I noticed two employees, presentation was poor and no uniforms in sight to distinguish them from the customers
– A good 10 seconds passed and still no greeting was made. Eye contact was made but they continued to carry on with their own conversation
– No menu was visible and I was not sure where to proceed with my order
– After locating the counter I was presented with three types of bread wrapped in cling wrap and handwritten signs with the cost of each
– I started to place my order assuming that I was being listened to. I had to repeat the order three times before paying the cashier. All of this was completed in silence and still I had not been greeted. I was left wondering what the next step was – where do I wait for my order?
– I needed to confirm my order again numerous times with many different employees. I was still unsure if my request for “no pickles” had been passed on as it was not stated on my ticket even though a modern POS system was being used. Each employee simply passed me onto the next as if my request was not their concern. I did the running around even though each person was less than a metre away from each other
– I finally received my order, however, it was incorrect. I was given three instead of four sandwiches
– After rectification I walked out with no goodbye or apology.

My first thought after leaving the restaurant was that it must be a chaotic scene at peak times.

I have since found that this restaurant is not only big locally but is also present in other neighbouring countries. At this time, it also became clear to me why this product, although great in taste and value, will never be successful globally.

Obviously there are a lot of issues that need to be rectified and many of these would be obvious to the everyday customer. However, in order for the brand to expand even further, a few major issues need to be addressed to see an immediate change.

My experience would direct me in the following ways:

1. Signage and First Impressions

The restaurant logo and signage need to be upgraded to represent a modern, professional establishment that offers traditional food. The design would need to incorporate a representative colour scheme.

The outdoor area was located directly in front of the main entrance and is the first interactive area that the customer experiences. A refurbishment of the area is essential to entice people off the street and to represent the brand. Ideally this area would be unified throughout the stores.

2. Customer Service

This was non-existent and is a huge requirement for any successful company. From the initial greeting, through the order taking process, and the final farewell the customer must always be made to feel at ease. No confusion must be felt by the customer.

Internal signage and clear directions from employees would make the experience a pleasurable one and help to guarantee a return visit.

As mentioned above, there was a lack of attention and care from the employees during my visit. It could take me hours to outline how to improve this area of the business but I will only touch on the ordering process. Having a solid written, unified system in place would ensure that each customer would have the same professional experience that would be repeated each visit. Each employee would know their requirements/duties and expectations and this would result in having consistency throughout all stores.

3. Presentation of Employees

A simple uniform for all employees would immediately lift the presentation of the staff. It would also help to distinguish them from the customers and be a guide to those who need assistance in the right direction.

The professionalism of the company would be heightened with this simple addition. Of course, the uniform would need to blend in with the theme of the signage and colours.

4. Restaurant Employee Ranking

In any successful global chain business, the employee ladder is clearly outlined for both the customer and staff. These are displayed via signage, name tags and different uniforms for different roles.

This prevents any confusion amongst current employees, incoming employees and customers.

5. Systems and Standards

Clearly, the product is only as good as the person making it. When systems and standards are introduced it ensures that the customer is receiving the same standard of product each time. It also eliminates the need for personal skills to be essential upon employment as training can be provided. It also provides strength to the brand and its standards.

6. Social Media

Upon looking up the company I was extremely surprised to find that the company has no presence in social media – from a basic website to other popular social platforms.

Social media is now essential for any successful brand as it is the main communication between customers themselves and the business and its customers.
It many cases, social media has replaced radio, television and other leading medias. This trend will continue from strength to strength.

I cannot stress enough the importance of this media channel in building any brand.

Even though Al-Kalha was the focus of the above I have noticed the same trends and mistakes made at various Jordanian restaurants. The potential to improve the brands and expand on a global scale is present.

To take these brands to the next level, simple steps can be taken with firm and professional guidance.

By guest writer Anas Al HarfiInstagram