Chef Mikko Tikkeri sits at one of the communal tables—his restaurant’s “feeding stations”—and stares at the line of empty holes.[pullquote]What Tikkeri failed to do… was to look ahead at what events might influence his customers…and to offer them something special during that time.”—Ingmar Bäver, professor of Business Studies, UWT Winston School of Business [/pullquote]
“There should be bowls in there. There should be a line of Animals with their faces in those bowls,” he says in almost a defeated tone.
Although Tikkeri never directly names his enemy during our hour-long interview, there is no escaping the Elephant in the room: Enforced Domestication Awareness Month (EDAM).
The annual event has taken a big bite out of Tikkeri’s business and perhaps an even bigger bite out of his heart.
“Where is the loyalty?” he asks, only half-rhetorically.
He knew he was taking a risk with the cutting edge concept and design of his new eatery and he admitted that the Feeding Station might alienate some customers or remind them of their time in enforced domestication. But the restaurant did well after its November opening—so well, in fact, that Tikkeri says he was blindsided by the sudden drop in diners.
“I don’t know where they’ve gone. My friends in the business tell me they [the customers] will be back, but it isn’t easy. I feel as if I’ve been accused of some wrongdoing…as if eating here is traumatic,” he says.
Indeed, there are Animals who see it that way but, according to business experts, they are not the problem.
“They’re not the ones who were eating there in the first place, so their absence won’t be felt this month,” says Ingmar Bäver, professor of Business Studies at the University of West Terrier’s Winston School of Business.
“What Tikkeri failed to do—and this is a common mistake—was to look ahead at what events might influence customer behaviour. He needs to plan for those and to offer diners something special during that time, something that will make them overcome their reluctance or even their curiosity about other places,” the business professor and part-time marketing consultant says.
For his part, Tikkeri hopes he’ll have the chance to get it right and that his customers will be understanding.
“I know about food, but I’m still learning about business and customer relations. I apologize for any discomfort felt this month by any of my customers,” he says.