TL;DR – Instagram and cafe hoping culture has became a trend in the country. Sustainability and keeping it relevant is a challenge.
Brunch is the combination of the word ‘breakfast’ and ‘lunch’, which ideally imply a meal that is consumed in between breakfast and lunch hour. Although it is commonly for restaurant to offer breakfast meal, mainly consist of eggs and breads as brunch menu. This activity is almost a ritual to teenagers to young adults as a weekend activity with friends and family. Thanks to social media, especially Instagram, promotes the activity to its peak among the users. It is worth to mention that bloggers and food hunting based television shows have already done this before the rise of Instagram, however the “vain” of social media fame fits Instagram as a platform instead. They take pictures of coffee arts, aesthetically pleasing food plating to gain likes and followers.
Social media do play a huge role in business today. They don’t just post pictures with caption of the day but it paints the image of the establishment at the same time. A lot of local businesses depend on social media to promote their business as they know the market today are active user of social media. Grind22 (@grind22bangsar) and Wok It (@wokit.my) use Instagram to, not just promote their business, but also events, promotions and holiday greetings on their feed. Creating a closeness with their followers to spread word of mouth.
Although they have social media in hand, it isn’t always the case to attract the customer, they have to promote something that they can’t find in other cafes. Even though Grind22 and Wok It share the same space, they are both different in identities. Grind22 caters more to coffee and sweets. They are famous for their local inspired coffee such as Nona Latte and mango cheesecake. At times, Grind22 is open for a small event space at times whether it is for a talk, acoustic sessions or celebration for a special someone. Wok It is famous for their pick-and-mix stir-fried meal in a Chinese-style take out box, which now they have a second branch in SS15, Subang Jaya.
Social media influencers also help creating word of mouth for these establishments. Instagram users such as Ryan (@squarepad), Carol (@carol.eats) and EatDrink (@eatdrinkdotmy) are some of noteworthy food bloggers that appeals to their followers from aesthetic instagram feed.
However, not all good things bring benefit to all. Instagram and the café hopping culture raised the bar to cafés expectations from the café hunters. As a Malaysian, we used to have this perspective of “as long as it tastes good” which we’re pushing aside the presentation of the food. Today, the food that people expect is with aesthetic presentation and tastes good at the same time. Which kills the mediocre cafés as they’re not within the people’s expectations.
It is noted that a lot of cafes are trying to live up to people’s expectation nowadays to sustain their businesses. However a lot of them invested poorly in terms of decoration or food. The keyword is “or” as they always heavily invested in one thing than both. A café I visited in Bangi called Jigar Café didn’t manage to sustain their business. The food range is typical every day mediocre cafes and the interior lacking in decoration and lighting. It is as if they’re trying to push “We’re different” too hard, people avoids it. They did try to make an open stage as entertainment but most people, and I use that term loosely, only come to café for a chilled environment to relax and/or have small conversation with their friends.
Café owners should do their research and perhaps collaborate with food bloggers to find out what are the expectations from people to cafes nowadays. Dotty’s (@mydottys) collaborated with a food blogger Haaziq Zahar (@haaziq_mz) to curate the menu for the bakery. Their specialty; salted egg yolk cronuts, which is at the time was a craze in United States. In other words, trend-spotting plays a role in making business work. Which goes back to how Grind22 and Wok It brings out ‘specialty’ product that they can’t get it elsewhere. And when the feedback is great, it will create word of mouth through any medium, getting new customers in return and returning customers too.