I have been questioned more than a couple of times recently about the Marketing’s compatibility with morality and ethics. The most common comment that most have about marketeers is, “I am not comfortable with the idea of creating needs and wants for corporate profit”. I personally don’t agree with that statement, and here’s a prime example of why.
Food For Thought (FFT) is a local restaurant with the motto, “Good Food For A Good Cause”. There are currently two outlets, one at 8 Queen Street, and another at the Botanic Gardens at 1 Cluny Road, Basement 1. I have known about FFT since the days when they still had a restaurant at Middle Road, and I was fortunate enough to visit its latest restaurant at Botanic Gardens last week. Let’s take a look, shall we?
After a quick survey of the place, it is clear that a lot of thought has gone into making the business environmentally friendly and low-cost at the same time.
The first impression that one gets when entering FFT is the industrial feel of the place. The decor is minimalistic concrete and steel beams, emphasizing the massive interior of this restaurant. The lighting and hanging lanterns helps to break the coldness of the concrete and furniture that seems to be made from salvaged PVC pipes and concrete slabs.
The restaurant is in the basement, requiring less air-conditioning to keep the place cool. In fact, the air-conditioning was down when I was there, yet the temperature was comfortable throughout my stay. Most walls are kept bare, minimizing paint, and the restaurant gives a great view of the greenery at Botany Centre in Botanic Gardens.
Unlike the outlet in Queen Street, this restaurant runs on a semi-self-service system. Patrons would have to order and pay at the cashier before the food is served from the open kitchen. This system brings down manpower requirements since you effectively only need someone to man the cashier and a few waiters to serve the food in contrast to the traditional system of waiters being in charge of zones.
There also seems to be an intentional effort in hiring elderly workers in the kitchen, although I cannot confirm this. If it is true, it is definitely laudable. If not, they certainly do not reject elderly employment, which is still a great thing in any service organization.
The first thing that struck me about the menu was how unpretentious it was. No photographs to entice you with delectable food, yet no expensive paper to convince you that they are more posh than they are. The menu was made of a thicker Conqueror white paper, easily replaceable and also very recyclable. Black and white means added cost savings, and also lesser wastage. But don’t get me wrong, it’s a very attractive and well-designed menu. Easy to understand despite customizable dishes, with descriptions tempting enough to make you want to order something quick.
The menu was also an excellent opportunity for FFT to share their causes. Water is free flow (self-service once again), but they urge you to donate $2 to African communities through Living Waters International. There is no service charge, but once again, if you find it in yourself, please donate to the Give Clean Water Fund. These charities have a clear link to what FFT is doing i.e. the F&B business from a branding point of view, and makes people think about the causes while they enjoy the food. Check out FFT’s website for the 5 Missions. Speaking of which…
When they said “Good Food”, they certainly were not lying. Portions were hearty and everything tasted good. I had a Duck Salad which was a tad dry but still refreshing while my friends had the all-day breakfast. You can hardly ever go wrong with toast, scrambled eggs and bacon. I will let the photos do the talking.
Design & Branding
The whole restaurant was tied together with a strong typeface that was good enough to decorate a plain wall and make it interesting, yet not overpowering it. The whole design of the restaurant was well executed to express the proposition of the FFT brand – Good Food For A Good Cause. This “cause” comes not only in the form of the charities that they give support, but also through the environmentally friendly way the restaurant was designed.
Every touch point was considered and consistent with the idea of environmental friendliness, and some were even used to promote other causes such as clean water. A quick survey of the FFT website shows a lot more causes that they support, most of which having strong links to the F&B sector. The managers have obviously given much thought into their business and decided that these would make the most impact.
Does marketing create needs and wants when they are absent? Or can it be a way to elevate the craven satisfaction of a need into something that benefits others at the same time? The story of Food For Thought tells us that there is a way for businesses to turn profits yet do social good at the same time. It is still early days for social enterprises, but I believe that the only way for us to make an impact in this world we live in is for Capitalism to redeem itself through the idealistic altruism of our generation.
“Profit-motivation” no longer fully explains the behaviour of businesses, and that is a great thing indeed.