In recent years, Kuwait’s food and beverage scene has been exploding with new niche products and services. We have witnessed the rise of various local markets and parking lot gatherings aimed to attract those who love to try new creations. As a result of this trend, a wave of independent restaurants have been popping up left and right, but have proven to be of little profitability to their owners.
Whenever I come across such cases, the defense is often the same in every case. The owner(s) claim that they have, supposedly, gone beyond the need for a business plan and have actually tested the market with their product. Naturally, we then question the method used - did you test the market by attending a local food show/gathering? If so, that may be more of a problem than a solution. Let us have a look at this potentially counter-productive activity.
Niche Market – Kuwait’s food scene, contrary to popular belief, is not as advanced in innovation or creativity as one may think. The quantity of restaurants or pop-ups is not a considerable indication of a developed food scene. We are on the right track but we are not there yet. In reality, we have no Michelin-starred restaurants or chefs in Kuwait, nor do any of them plan to operate here anytime soon. As part of this still developing market, we cannot yet place a label on the crowds attending the current food events (i.e. we cannot say the crowd at this event or in this plaza will likely have a pre-defined set of characteristics). We can, however, safely claim that people who try your products or service at these events are ‘Early Adopters’ from a marketing perspective. That is it. The primary (and possibly only) conclusion you should draw from these events is whether you have a good product/service or not, which in turn may lead to an overall perspective on the success or failure of your product.
Stimulated Settings – When placed in the correct setting, anything can sell out fast. But in most cases, we have very limited information on why this happened. Therefore, I cannot stress enough that just because you sold out at a food show or event, you should not rush ahead and fund a full-fledged restaurant. It could be as simple as you being the only food vendor there, or that you had a special promotion, or you only made a certain number of products, or....you get it. Selling in a stimulated environment (of which I highly doubt you investigated the true factors of your success) is not an absolute indicator. In most cases, it is not an indicator of future sales at all.
In conclusion, though it counts as market research in one way or another, the results of participating in a food show/event are not to be mistaken as absolute indications of success and/or failure. There are plenty of more factors to consider and those factors are unique to every business. This does NOT mean that you shouldn't take part in these events, it simply means that you should be careful what conclusions you draw from them.