This is restaurateur Pavel Gammer with you again.
We have already pushed the issue of balance between world trends and national traditions. In my restaurants, I seek to use the best ideas that emerge in the European and American restaurants and to combine them with the national identity and secular traditions. In my native Tallinn, it is hard to act differently, as the atmosphere of the Old City welcomes the unity, and millions of tourists come here to feel the unique spirit of winding medieval streets and landmarks. The Estonian culture and Estonian mentality resemble the European ones, but Russia is a quite different story. The Russian market requires a completely another approach and another vision of the project, and lots of designs that are successful in the West remain unaccepted here.
The last remarkable example is the attempt to introduce try&buy, the food delivery service that is well-accepted in the United States. The core of this project includes free delivery of food to the office and loyalty cards with the discount of 15-20% for next orders. In the USA, the level of conversion (the number of the next orders with the use of the loyalty card) is more than 70%, and the number of restaurants that cooperate with the largest similar start-up increases every month. In Russia, entrepreneurs who decided to realize the same start-up in St. Petersburg faced a conversion of 7-10%, which was 3-4 times lower than the minimal profit level for the project pay-back. So, what is the problem? In my opinion, the creators did not take into account mentality – many customers even did not consider the first order with a distant aim in view.
A big Russian heart and European precision
Russians start to pay more attention to the level of restaurant services and raise their requirements for the interior design, furniture, and lighting. The restaurant owners also align with the best examples of European restaurants. However, some things remain unchanged. In Russia, it is almost impossible to stimulate the demand with small discounts (about 10-15%) the same way as in Europe and the USA. Here, the bundled services, gifts for the order, and 50%+ discounts on menu and beverages are much more effective. The most reliable way to advance the impression of the customer is a compliment from the restaurant; that’s why almost all Russian restaurateurs use it nowadays. At the same time, the practice of including tips in the bill is ineffective. Russians prefer to determine the tips and to give them to the waiter personally. Such behavior is closely related to a traditionally high percentage of payments by cash in cafes, bars, and restaurants.
In the context of the characteristics of the national cuisine and the eating ritual, Russia is a way more Eastern country than one could imagine. Russian people traditionally prefer big portions. They like to spend a lot of time in cafes and restaurants and frequently come in a company of several people. Furthermore, the Russian cuisine substantially differs from the European ones, and some dishes have no analogs. During my years in the restaurant industry, I realized that if you are a foreigner, you could open a successful restaurant in Russia only being raised in the Russian-speaking environment and understanding Russian culture and traditions as your own. Despite the globalization that remains a key characteristic feature of the largest cities, Russian people are still true to their traditions and tend to preserve their identity. It should be in a checklist of every restaurateur.
Respectfully yours, Pavel Gammer.