“More important than being just better is being different.”– Niko Slavnić
FOR Solutions set down with Niko Slavnič about trends, culinary tourism and effective communication on the restaurateur-guest line.
The desire to satisfy hunger is just one of the reasons why we go to a restaurant. More important is the intriguing story, uniqueness, and unusual experience. How to create a concept in the Internet age that stands out among thousands of others? An MBA Professor, Serial Entrepreneur, Angel Investor, Keynote Speaker, founder of The Slovenia Restaurant Awards and the CEO of The Slovenia, and most of all, a creative soul always awaken to new challenges, tells how to find yourself in the digital culinary zone.
For Solutions set down with Niko Slavnić in Warsaw in November 2019. Read the top interview with Niko Slavnić below. The year before at the Made for Restaurants conference, the main guest was the best Slovenian chef Ana Roš.
FOR Solutions: What similarities and differences do you see in the trends in the foodservice industry seen in various parts of the world? What do you think?
Niko Slavnić: “Culinary trends are global. Some of them (slow food, fast-casual, street food, sharing menu, tasting menu, hydro-pairing, etc.) are conquering the market and are later replaced by further discoveries. I think that basically no breakthrough discoveries happen anymore, and the level of trends depends only on the level of development of the gastronomic culture in a given country. For example, what is now fashionable in Brooklyn will be fashionable in Warsaw in 2-3 years. This difference was once 5-8 years, but now it has narrowed. As far as the Warsaw market is concerned, it is very developmental – we see more and more diverse restaurants, more people have purchasing power and more often decide to eat outside, for example, because of the lack of time to cook. In addition, under the influence of social media, people want to be seen in public, and restaurants allow them to.“
FOR Solutions: Culinary tourism has been gaining popularity lately. People are ready to travel to the farthest corners of the world just to have dinner with a famous chef. What potential does it have in the future?
Niko Slavnić: “People value authentic local dining experiences now more than ever before. For some, a meal is a comfort they expect while traveling. Others, in turn, want adventure – they will pay for hunting or looking for ingredients themselves, and then prepare a meal using the traditional method, without modern amenities. Even 10-15 years ago, some readers came to Warsaw and looked for McDonald’s, or went to the bar section of the mall for a family meal. I’m glad that has changed. Places, where tourists eat while traveling, are as important to them as the monuments they visit. Restaurants are always in the top three most popular categories searched by our readers, regardless of the city. Gastronomy is often one of the main reasons why we choose the direction of travel.“
FOR Solutions: How can restaurateurs take advantage of this trend? What can they do to attract customers from abroad?
Niko Slavnić: “They should try to become the essence of one place. For some, this means regional dishes and authentic local decor. For others, an innovative approach to traditional cuisine, in line with modern aesthetic standards, remarketing what already works under the slogan of “local products” or “old recipes”. It is worth trying to appear in the minds of local foodies who are asked about the most interesting places. If they believe in your story, they will definitely attract other travelers. Restaurateurs should also take care of their presence and image on the Internet, motivate guests directly and indirectly to write positive reviews about the restaurant.“
FOR Solutions: How can restaurateurs use their communication channels to attract a “digital” customer from abroad?
Niko Slavnić: “There are really many ways. Restaurateurs should be aware that they need professionals both in the kitchen and in other areas, including online or digital communication. We have at our disposal our own media, such as a website, social media, chefs blogs and mailings. Paid, such as digital advertising, including remarketing, retargeting, promotion through influencers or native ads, are equally important. What counts is the involvement of well-known as well as regular guests, who will encourage their audience to visit. When building trust in our brand, the press, and partners in the “digital” sphere are very helpful, with whom it is worth having good, personal relations.”
FOR Solutions: What advice would you give restaurateurs who want to appear on the gastronomic map of the world?
Niko Slavnić: “I adhere to the principle that more important than being better is being different. Create a unique story, preferably directly related to the place and people. Such a story could only happen in your place. Don’t compromise – whatever you think of must form a coherent whole. Create a familiar place, but unique – if you charm your guest, he/she will definitely come back to you. Make the visit not just a meal, but an experience that others will want to experience.”