I woke up today morning and my wife popped a question - which restaurant are we going for our Onam Sadhya lunch today? What? Do we even know what Onam is and is there a reason for us to have Onam Sadhya?
Rewind to a year ago: A new Kerala restaurant had opened right next to my office and last year on Onam, I had taken my wife there for lunch (she just happened to come to office that day and we decided to try this new place out, which had a big banner outside "Special Onam Sadhya Lunch (Pure Vegetarian) - Just Rs.249". We obviously liked the food. Now it looks like I had unwittingly set a precedent and a practice - we will go out for a Onam Sadhya lunch every year on Onam.
Over the last few years, I have seen a remarkable increase in the number of restaurants offering "Onam Sadhya" - essentially a special lunch to celebrate Onam, Kerala's biggest festival. I overhead a couple of folks at a Coffee Day yesterday planning where to go for the Onam Sadhya team lunch and discussing the pros and cons of the several options available. Zomato, Burrp, Mastmenu etc. all feature Onam Sadhya prominently on their home pages. Newspapers are loaded with Restaurant flyers offering a special "Onam Sadhya" lunch - not just on Onam day, but during the entire week "The Onam Week".
A few years ago, the Onam lunch was a small affair among Keralites in the cities. Cooking the large variety was a tough task - so the homely Kerala restaurants started offering a special take-away Onam lunch pack. As the crowd increased, they intorduced a special Onam lunch at their restaurants. Today, the Onam lunch is a big revenue generator for all Kerala restaurants (infact a lot of south Indian restaurants, multi-cusine restaurants and the 5 star hotel restaurants have also jumped on the bandwagon). You now have Onam Sadhya buffets too for those who want the food, but also the luxury and the convenience.
With restaurants looking at ways to increase sales and drive additional footfalls all the time, the "Onam Sadhya" phenomenon could be used as an example to leverage religious/regional festivals to drive footfalls - A Diwali lunch, A Holi dinner with Bhaang Thandai (the non-narcotic variety), A special Christmas spread, a Krishna Jayanthi lunch targeted at kids, maybe even a Valentine's Day Lover's Candle Light dinner etc. I expect restaurant businesses to up the ante in leveraging religious/regional festivals and other occasions to try and increase footfalls and offer customers another reason to dine with them.
PS 1: For those interested in learning more about Onam Sadhya, you can check the following link out: http://blog.sigsiv.com/2011/09/onam-sadya-sadhya.html
PS 2: Onam is the harvest festival of Kerala, similar to Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Lohri in North India, Sankranti in Bihar and lot of other places, Bhogali Bihu in Assam etc. The way Restaurants have managed to carve out a nice business model out of this regional festival is interesting - Lessons for others to pick up, I guess.