Oct 20, 2008

Bon South - a premium menu

Email that I had sent to my Consumer behavior (CB) Professor and my projectmates at PGSEM on Sept 02 2008 below:

While coming to work today, I came across this restaurant "Bon South" in Koramangala which specializes in South Indian veg and non-veg cuisines. This initiated some CB related questions on brand associations and culture in my mind.

1) The exterior ambience of this place somewhat looked like a continental/Italian restaurant. Will someone looking for a South Indian cuisine identify with this exterior?

2) The brand name (Bon South) itself sounds non South Indian. How can consumers relate to it? I feel this is where the restaurant "Malgudi" has touched a chord. The external appearance, the doors resembling traditional Chettinad homes and ofcourse, the brand name has clear associations to South India.

3) Most importantly, the menu offered by Bon South (got this info after some Internet search) has a range of options from all four South Indian states at an exorbitant price (similar to their vegetarian counterpart "South Indies" in Indira Nagar). Typically South Indian cuisine is less expensive than North Indian cuisine. I'm not sure how charging 120 rupees for a plate of Dosa will work. I might be hitting the "people are like US" syndrome. Serving on fancy cutlery with delicate forks and spoons may not work for South Indian menu. Krishna Cafe charges around 100 rupees for a typical South Indian meal on a banana leaf. Though it is expensive, this place is always crowded because the offering strikes a chord with the consumers.

We can say that "Bon South" is trying to offer a different experience. Their success depends on the target segments (upper class and NRIs) as well as their core offerings (menu variety and quality).

But the brand associations, food habits and internal reference prices also play an important role. Isn't it? Something to ponder over.....

After a long Diwali shopping experience, my husband and I decided to have dinner at this new place "Bon South" in Koramangala. Although my initial perceptions of this place was not so great, there was an urge to validate my perceptions. We got our table as soon as we entered (8:30 PM is too early for a weekend dinner, I suppose). To our surprise, we were given wet towels to freshen up. This is the first time I see this kind of service in a restaurant and not inside an airplane. The menu had listings from the four South Indian states though I wish vegetarians were given more options.

While waiting for our starters, a neat bowl of fryums (vaththals) was placed with 3 different kinds of chutneys - coriander, coconut and tomato flavors. I have never tried fryums with chutneys before. It was a new experience which I could try out at home on one of the forthcoming cold evenings.

As expected, the pricing was on the premium end with the starters and mocktails priced 150+ rupees. We ordered a plate of vadas made of plantain flowers. It was good and tasted very much like the typical masala vadas. For the main course, I went for neer dosas and maammidikkai curry (raw mango and lentils curry) while hubby ordered his favorite aapams and some chicken curry. It was a satisfying meal and at the same time not so heavy on our appetites. The best part of the dinner was yet to come. We were in two minds whether to go for a dessert or not. I'm glad we chose the former. The elaneer payasam tasted divine with tiny bits of tender coconut floating in sweetish milk. It was a perfect way to wrap up a good meal.

The service was superior and of high quality. By the time the bill arrived, the waiter promptly took our valet parking receipt to bring our car back to the entrance. As a thank you gift, we were given a small sapling. A nice gesture, I should say. I'm not sure if this attention to little detail, a high quality service and pretty good food will compensate for the exorbitant price they are charging (Meal for two could easily exceed 1000 bucks). I would recommend this place if you don't mind splurging on a South Indian full course meal.

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