I have been observing a very sincere attempt at creating a McDonald's of south Indian food - Upsouth, from the folks who started the blockbuster restaurant "South Indies" in Bangalore. With a background in the industry (their family owns the Arya Bhavan chain in Tamil Nadu) and deep pockets (the owner is a successful tech entrepreneur) and a visionary young CEO, they have all the right ingredients to carve out a success story. Their execution from the layout, ambience, hygienic feel of the restaurant, menu design, branding is top-notch. The 2 locations I have frequented (JP Nagar - now closed and Koramangala) are also excellent for a business of this nature. The pricing too is exceptional value for money.
Despite all of the above, I feel very sad whenever I visit their retail outlet in Koramangala as I did when I used to visit their outlet in J.P.Nagar. The reason is that they just don't seem to get enough customers. I do hope I am wrong and that they are doing well, but my analysis says that they are bleeding and badly at that.
On the contrary, a first floor and second floor slightly dingy restaurant opposite Upsouth in Koramangala - Sree Krishna Kafe, seems to be overcrowded on most days. They have been around for a while and that helps a bit, but their customers don't seem to be flowing into Upsouth. Upsouth had the same issue in their JP Nagar unit, where a Darshini/Sagar opposite them seemed to be overcrowded all the time.
Based on this I did a quick survey of several folks on the Koramangala road visiting either Upsouth or Sree Krishna Cafe. After quickly chatting with about 20 people, here are some of the raw comments:
1) Upsouth looks expensive. I don't want to spend money on idlis and dosas.
2) The Sree Krishna Cafe owner sits at the restaurant and ensures quality. Upsouth seems to be run by some uninterested managers.
3) I want to eat my dosas in a leaf and stainless steel plates, not fancy plastic plates.
4) Once I tried Upsouth, I am hooked onto it. Better food, better ambience and a cleaner place.
5) I like Upsouth - clean and hygienic
6) Not sure why the restaurant is always empty. The food is quite good and very cheap.I want to be served, not pick up stuff. The fancy beeper stuff is useless.
7) I have been coming to Sree Krishna Kafe for 6 years now - their consistency and taste has been fantastic. I haven't gone into Upsouth - now that you are asking, maybe I will go there once.
8) They should do burgers not dosas.
9) They are in my office food court. Just because they have a restaurant here does not make them serve better food than in my food court. It is the same s*** served here, probably at a higher price.
10) Upsouth looks like a rich guy's restaurant. I am more comfortable at Sree Krishna Kafe - more homely.
11) I am completely confused by their menu - combos which have stuff I don't like/need. Too confusing.
12) The Upsouth coffee is good. Better than Sree Krishna's.
Understanding this consumer behaviour pattern puzzles me. Upsouth has done everything right by the book - great ground floor highly visible location, clean contemporary interiors, good food at value for money prices and yet, they seem to be lagging behind the Sukh Sagars and the Sree Krishna Cafes by a long distance. Calls for a detailed analysis on the consumer mindset I guess?