Market Research Example – Imitation Is The Best Form of Flattery…

Just out of a meeting with a client who runs a fantastic Sri Lankan restaurant in Balham – it’s called Hop & Spice and serves the most divine curries ever to pass through my lips.  In fact, TimeOut magazine voted it 4th out of their top 50 restaurants, so I’m not the only one who loves it.

During our session, Bahi and I were discussing the relative merits of “stealing” ideas from your competitors.  We Brits tend to be a bit stiff about this.  I explained to him that in business we call it market research and it’s OK, as long as you put your own slant onto it.

We’ve done a few promotions during the summer to encourage more word of mouth and to build more trade.  One of the creative offers we came up with together was the Lucky Six dinner for mid-week meals, where after your dinner you’d get a dice with your bill.  If you rolled a six, your dinner was on the house.  It ran for a couple of months.

It added some fun to the quiet summer holiday periods and created a bit of a talking point that encouraged people to tell their friends about Hop & Spice.  It’s also only giving away 1 in 6 meals, so it’s not terribly expensive overall compared with a more usual promotion like a 2 for 1.

So back to our topic of market research.  About an hour after our coaching session today, Bahi sent me an email from a competitor (if you’re not signed up to your competitor’s emails, you’re missing a trick) with the following headline…”Lucky Dice at the [Bahi’s competitor] Restaurant”.  And guess how it works – yep, you got it right – roll a lucky 6 and dinner’s on the house!

So where do you think they got the idea from?  Where should we draw the line when taking inspiration for our business from other people?  In fact, is there even a line in business, or do you believe that anything’s fair in love, war and business?

And hopefully you’ve now got at least one more helpful idea about how to research your own market place…


  1. Andrew on October 13th, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    Hi Lee

    Great Idea…….. Think I’ll get the dice out!


  2. Lee on October 13th, 2009 at 5:31 pm


    What makes me laugh is that I “stole” the broad idea from somebody else, although changed it enough to make it my own. The original idea was to flip a coin for dinner – so you eat and then guess heads or tails when the waiter flips a coin for the bill.

    The reason I don’t like it so much is it’s giving half your food away – and so a big lump of the margin!

    And – I’m sure you’ll be sharp enough not to include drinks in what you give away too 😉



  3. Balham Restaurant on October 15th, 2009 at 10:21 am

    Hi Lee

    Yes, to say I was ‘peeved’ to see our idea plagiarised is to put it lightly. But then all’s fair in love & war!

    So what did we do? I subscribed to all my competitors’ newsletters and found that one had introduced BYO Monday. Great idea!

    Demand for Sri Lankan tapas is a bit low on a Sunday in Balham, so we’ve just introduced BYO Sunday. No point in re-inventing the wheel!

    Catch ya later

    Hop & Spice

  4. James on October 15th, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    A great idea and we are now all sat having lunch to see who can find a similar idea for Sunshine Events. Watch this space!

  5. Lee on October 15th, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    Hi James, welcome to the blog!

    I just had a look at your website and given your industry something that’s fun would be a great fit. Trouble is, I’m sure you don’t want to roll a giant dice at the end of an event and give away the event for free!

    Let me know when you come up with something 🙂


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