Signature Product as Brand’s Identity

CRK explained why having a signature product is a necessity for any F&B brands

You came to a random restaurant, looking at the wide selection of menus, when you order things, the waiters just write them down without giving any recommendations. When the food arrived, you don’t like it, and promised never to come back there, until a friend told you that you missed their signature product. This happen many times, ironically, due to the owner’s ego who believe that all of the products in the restaurant are good, all of them. However, according to Chef Rahmat Kusnedi (CRK), having a signature product is more than just avoiding the guest to choose the least favorite, it contributes to your brand’s identity.

When should we make signature product?

Before we even start building the business, we should already be thinking about it. The signature product can be as we planned, or it could be switched. For example, we desgined cheese cake to be the signature product, along the way, it’s possible if the customers prefer our chocolate cake.

What actually happened is, if we go to Sari Pan Pacific Hotel, people know its signature product: Black Forest, and then Mandarin Oriental with its American Chocolate Cake, or Borobudur with its Oxtail Soup.

The hotels you mentioned are the established ones, why do new hotels rarely introduce new signature products?
I guess making signature product is the will of the chefs or owners, perhaps sometimes they don’t have the time, haven’t think about it, or just don’t have the creative team.

Not only hotels, Dapur Cokelat is famous for its pralines, Union with Red Velvet, and then Harvest with Chocolate Truffle and Cheese Cake. Actually, almost all hotels serve cheese cake, but nobody promotes it optimally. Even regions can have their own signatures. If you go to Bandung, you’ll recall Kartika Sari’s Pisang Molen. Of course they sell dodol, wajik, etc, but whenever you hear Kartika Sari, it’s always Pisang Molen. Bali also has Pie Susu and Pia Legong.

Basically, every brand need its own characteristic, through signature product, it’s the identity of the brand. Often times, people forget the brand names, but they still remember the product.

The problem is, sometimes owners feel that all the products they have is certainly good, and they refuse to pick just one as signature.
The point is, even though you have loads of menus, you need to be one that’s really special. You have to ensure that the waiters can tell the details specifically. For example, if you’re a steak house, you’ll have tenderloin, sirloin, from USA, Australia, or Japan. But you have very delicious T-Bone with slow roast process and served with different kind of sauce.

In addition to giving identity to brands, signature products also have significant role to give narration and put up the atmosphere. When someone listened to the waiter’s recommendation, decided to go for it, and liked it, he will come back with his friends and recommends the same menu. Even though he might try another things. If you don’t have signatures, your business’ journey will have no focus, and tend to be flat, it’s different case if you boost it from the beginning.

Who choose whether a product will be a signature or not, the owner or customer?

Owner should suggest the idea, not the guest. If you see a menu, you’ll find symbols like thumbs-up or star, it’s the owners’ effort to lead the customer. You should also brief the waiter to give recommendations to the signatures. After finished, the waiter had to ask the guest’s response: do they like it? How should they improve it?

Sometimes the owners have no idea that building an image is not on them. Of course owners have to set the perception and select their signature products, but in the end, it is up to the customers to decide.

In terms of costing, should signature products have bigger or smaller margin?

There’s 2 ways to see it. The first one, the product needs to be really good and popular, in this case, no matter how expensive, people will look for it. However, in order to get there, usually people choose the second approach, taking smaller margin, or even sell it without any profits, but the product is a significant traffic magnet.

As example, you know, steak house in hotel is rarely profitable. The owner hopes when the customers come, they will try another outlets with bigger margin, but steak houses act as traffic magnet. Meat products can’t be frozen for too long to keep the quality, it needs to be a fast moving product.

This will be some sort of cross subsidization. The margin that should be attained from signature product is switched into the food cost, hopefully to get more traffic. The obvious example would be Nasi Kucing. It costs merely Rp 2.000, but you’ll only get small portion of rice, with very little anchovies. If you want upgrade, you can buy the chicken, egg, and others separately. In the end, you’ll spend around Ro 25.000, actually that’s about the same with other dishes.

What else do we need to know about signature product?
The packaging has to be interesting, especially for the takeaways. You have to know how to present, also give some kind of pride to customers. Kids nowadays are like having some certain of pride if they carry cake bags from Hotel Mulia, Union, or Harvest, because it’s a fact that not everyone can afford them. It’s the same with Balinese’s Pia Legong, people are proud carrying it, especially in large quantity, because it’s pretty difficult to get it.