The long awaited 1st annual ‘GTBank food & drink fair 2016’ took place last weekend, precisely on the 1st and 2nd of May 2016. I was in attendance for both days. Day 1 was a mother and daughter affair for me and Day 2 was a friends parole.
Overall, with at least tens of millions of Naira spent on putting the fair together, I can report that the fair was ‘ok’.
In order to put my report into context, I will first define what a fair is. According to wiki, “a fair is a gathering of people for a variety of entertainment or commercial activities”. An example of food fairs held in Singapore can be seen in the picture below. Notice the words ‘come with an empty stomach’ ‘discover great deals, huge savings and unbelievable discounts’ ‘get to sample the world’s best cuisines…’:
There were over 70 exhibitors at the event, and apart from Tastee, Laredo and a handful of other exhibitors, many of the exhibitors were running fairly new startups.
So how did the exhibitors do? I will break my assessment down into a few categories. I will conclude by addressing GTBank and conferring some observations and recommendations. Below are my open letters to both the Exhibitors and GTBank.
I commend you for putting yourself out there and for pursuing your dreams and passions. However, walking through the various stalls, I noticed a few things worth bringing to your attention. This section excludes the 8 indoor restaurants present at the event. (For those reading, if you feel I missed anything, please feel free to write it in the comment section below).
1. Marketing materials
Below is a dialog between an exhibitor and I:
Me: do you do samplings here?
Laredo staff: No, we only have small-chops.
At the fair, the most popular things to sample were the juices and drinks. Unfortunately, sampling many of the juices and drinks did more harm than good for me. Not a single drink I sampled was cold and first impressions go, I was not impressed. The drinks were all room temperature. From the juices at Lagos cold pressed juice co, to simply green juices. I refuse to accept the same cool story , Most commonly used Nigerian excuse of refrigeration/electricity problem. Ice Blocks people! Ice blocks and lots of them, if GTBank that’s not even an official food and drinks exhibitor can ensure it gave cool/cold bottles of water to participants, please what is your excuse? To quote a conversation between a friend and a vendor:
Friend: I’m not really feeling the drink
Simply green personnel: it tastes better cold
Please tell me if my own is too much ooo. But last time I checked they said first impressions were everything thing… And I’m sure this saying applies the food and drink exhibitors too.
Still on this sampling rant, even the garri seller ‘Cassa garri’ wanted me to take their word for it that the packaged garri in their store was Ijebu garri.
Question: what stopped them from opening a bag of garri, buying groundnut, and providing niceee cold water, and telling participants to help themselves to a chilled cup of Ijebu garri on a hot Sunday and Monday afternoon?
Answer: Absolutely nothing!.
For 2 consecutive days, I went to the Culinary Academy booth at mid-day and they did not have fliers. There was no activity going on in the booth, but they made sure to stack their shells with photo frames and cooking books.
As a passionate food lover who intends to attend culinary school in the near future, I ask myself “if they can’t bring fliers/adequate fliers to the fair, I might enroll for their program and not be surprised when they tell me to bring my own rolling pin” *INEXCUSABLE.
On the flip side, however, the only other culinary school (Red dish Chronicles Lagos) at the fair had representatives outside their booth. Someone from Red dish actually walked up to me as I was walking by, handed me a flyer, told me they were a culinary school, told me what dishes they teach and that their program is flexible to accommodate any cuisines I want to learn.
Question: are you telling me availability of flyer at a fair can determine which culinary school someone attends?
Anwser: I guarantee you that some have made decisions on less trivial matters, however, YES.
c. Social media incorporation
I love Sugarcane_kitchens Instagram snapshot idea. This idea gave Sugarcane_kitchens the opportunity to show off participants who love their product.
This is an engaging social-media strategy. It is more likely than not that participants who took these kinds of pictures would post it on the social media pages. This is free publicity for the startup. #thepowerofonepicture, #powerofsocialmedia
2. Customer service
Some were polite, some smiled, but no one stood out to me. It makes no sense that Laredo has been doing small chops since 1996 and they haven’t gotten small-chops down to a science. Inconsistent food content, food production delay, telling customers to wait 10 minutes for an order that will take 30minutes is unacceptable. If someone decides to wait at your booth for their order to come, at least offer them a seat. Startups need to learn to Rule 8 and give customers what they want.
3. The Owner factor
For the love of Entrepreneurship, where were all the owners of the startups represented at the GTBank fair?. No one took ownership in any of the booths I went to, and I visited almost all the booths closeup. I must have read too much of Sam Walton’s autobiography/ taken his lessons too literally when he said CEO’s should be on the shop floor talking to customers, getting direct feedback from customers and networking.
Dear CEO, it is not enough to send your staff to represent you. For the CEO’s who graced us with their presence. Thank you.
Mum and I wanted to bring back some chops for my Dad; We didn’t want ice cream because it would melt before getting home, so we decided on cupcakes. We did not get an opportunity to sample any cakes, so we based our decision only on how the cupcake looked. We had earlier seen an exhibitor with a nicely decorated cupcake topped with fresh strawberries on it, so we went back there. They were called ‘Rum and Passion’. I didn’t know this was their name until the next day because their packaging didn’t have their name on it, and we didn’t get a receipt for our order. Somehow I ended up eating most of the cupcake when we go home (don’t ask) they were very nice, but how’s a sister to find you again if you give a box of cupcakes without your name in sight? Branding your package, especially if you sell a good product is good/free publicity to all my contacts. #Dontbeashamedofyourproducts.
This ‘Price’ issue was a sad point for me as all the the exhibitors I visited had a price surge. Let me re-state here like I mentioned earlier that the exhibitors weren’t charged for the booth space they occupied, so my thinking was that exhibitors would pass on the financial benefit of this to participants (I learnt this from Sam Walton). Usually with fairs, one of the attractions is that at least you give people price incentives. Generally they should get things cheaper at a fair than at your store. Many vendors just came to sell as opposed to customer acquisition. (Note that there is a difference) you can actually acquire a customer without them buying anything from you, and you can actually loose a customer by selling something to them. Since there were so many vendors, I will only mention the highs and the lows of a few I experienced:
– Laredo sold a pack of small chops they would usually sell to vendors @ N250, @ N500. Content of the pack? Mostly puff puff.
– A grill and barbecue exhibitor called ‘8tte’s finger lickin barbecues and cocktails’ Increased their price of chicken skewers from N500 a piece on the 1st of May to N1000 on the 2nd of May without increasing their portions. The same 3piece of ‘chicken with bone’ on the stick was sold on both days. I guess they could pull a stunt like this because they realised that participants liked that food. I confronted the staff and her response was in two parts. firsts he said “today’s is a different day” and then “It is actually N700, but I know people don’t have change”. So, instead of telling people 700 and making sure they stock up on N100 bills, or better yet, keep the price at N500, they preferred for customers to dash them N300. While i admit that their chicken skewers and turkey was nice, it was an absolute shame to see the value they placed on their customers.
– the prices of the cupcakes we bought at Rum and Passion were discounted. Mum decided that paying N700 for one cupcake wasn’t set in stone, so she decided to take it to the street. She began pricing it. The lady attending to us seemed like she did not have control or authority over the prices and was interrupted by someone who obviously had more authority. Was she the Owner? I don’t know, but she sold us to buy the cupcakes @ N500 a cup.
– Another high point for me was the 50% discount I saw on the flyer of ‘stack gourmet snadwiches‘ which I picked up from their booth. 50% off is a great deal, however I would have loved it better if she had given out some samples. A participant who tries the sandwiches at the stand and actually likes it has a much higher chance of making an order with the 7 day window the discount is valid for, than a customer who doesn’t know what the sandwiches tastes like.
Presentation wise, not a single exhibitor stuck out to me. I saw many missed opportunities. Appearance of the staff was just ok. No one put in an effort to stand out from the next booth. I am not sure the exhibitors realized they were in competition with the next booth. Not competition for sales, but competition to grab the attention of passer-by participants. An example of a few missed opportunity was by a company called ‘simply fruity’. They make fruit bouquets, fruit baskets, juices and smoothies amongst other things. They obviously knew the other exhibitors coming, and they knew that the juice and smoothie service was populated. They should have focused on their uniqueness “fruit bouquets and trees. They should have had a larger than life fruit bouquet or tree as their center piece. Tall (maybe a love shape;), with different colored fruits . If it’s beautiful enough, trust people will take photos and tell others about it. I won’t go on any further, I’m sure you get the picture. See lesson 20: the Laws of Attraction by Sam Walton.
In concluding my letter to the exhibitors, I have to say that I left the food fair more worried than when I entered. I wish everyday that the caliber of businesses we are churning out, especially in the food and drink industry would be an improvement on the previous generation. That we are not just concerned about selling a product to a customer, but selling an experience, albeit an unforgettable experience. But I am not impressed or convinced so far.
The beauty with this being the first fair, is that you can go back to the drawing board, see what worked & what didn’t, review appropriate feedback, and make it better next year. I wish you the very best.
Very truly yours,
I hope this letter finds you well. I commend you for putting the food and drinks fair together. Your heart and finances were definitely in the right place. Even though you were not a food and drink exhibitor, you somehow managed to be the only one who gave participants an unending supply of cold water and hand-fans in the midst of the Lagos heat. For this we are very grateful 😉 how you managed to prioritize keeping your drinks cold when many juice and drinks exhibitors didn’t is a question for the gods.
A little advise for next year though:
Your exhibitors are a direct reflection on you, so it would serve you well to bring an expert in to talk to the vendors, or at least circulate an article to them explaining what a fair is about and how to ensure they make the most out of it and present their companies well to participants.
It was common knowledge that thousands more booked a space for the masterclass sessions when GTBank clearly knew they only had space for 200 people. In hindsight it just seemed like a data collection activity because many of the 200 sits were actually sent to GTBank loyal customers who didn’t even need to register. Next year, automatically disconnect registration opportunities after the 200th sit has been booked.
Since the masterclass was very popular among thousands of participants, it would have cost GTBank nothing to set up 1 flat screen tv and a small speakers outside the class so that those who didn’t get into the class can at least watch and hear what’s going on.
Lastly, what’s up with allowing street guys to collect N500 from participants to park their cars? I do not want to see this happen next year, ok?
The beauty with this being the first fair, is that you can go back to the drawing board, see what worked & what didn’t, review appropriate feedback , and make it better next year. I wish you the very best.
Very truly yours,
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