We are fortunate to be living in times of unprecedented diversity and inclusiveness. If you own a restaurant, that means your doors are open to anyone with an appetite and a wallet, no matter their ethnic background. You’ve gone to great lengths to make your place appealing to consumers: a well thought out menu, attractive decor, great service, and paid advertising. But, there is still something missing – your offer for Halal consumers.
More than likely, consumers adhering to a halal diet are not giving your restaurant their seal of approval…and you aren’t alone. Nourish Food Marketing just released its 5th annual Halal Shopper Study. One of the key findings of the study is that the majority of Muslim shoppers feel the food industry is not meeting their needs.
Before I tell you why they aren’t dining with you, let me first tell you why you want them to.
The Muslim population is significant
Labelling Muslims as a “minority group” is a mistake. According to Statistics Canada data, there are an estimated 1.4 million Muslims in Canada, mostly concentrated in a few urban centres.
It’s a positive growth category
Whereas most market categories are seeing slow, annual growth of around 1 or 2%, the Halal market is rapidly expanding at a rate of 10-15% year over year. Some global projections have Muslims outnumbering the Chinese market by the year 2021. That’s a lot of people who could be sitting at your tables. Who wouldn’t want to tap into that?
The family that lives together eats together
Here’s a relevant and relateable statistic for a restaurant owner: 17% of halal households are multigenerational, meaning three or more generations living in the same home. The Canadian average is just 3%. That means when the family goes out to dinner, the whole family goes out. What generates more money for you, a table for 3, or a table for 6?
The numbers don’t lie; if you’re not reaching halal consumers, you’re missing out on a potentially large and consistent revenue stream. Now that you know what you’re missing out on, let’s examine some possible reasons why you’re missing out.
You aren’t serving halal food
This is the most basic reason of all. For those who aren’t certain, “halal” is an Arabic word that means “permissible.” Without getting too deep into all the implications, food that is halal is acceptable for a Muslim to eat. This means it has been prepared in a particular fashion and in accordance to cultural traditions. In a nutshell, pork, alcohol, and meat that was not properly blessed are not halal.
Halal certification organizations determine what is and what is not halal. Canadian Food Inspection Agency regulations state that without such certification, a product cannot be labelled or sold as halal.
Simply serving halal food may not be enough, however. Strictly speaking, halal food is no longer halal if it comes in contact with non-halal (known as “haram”) food. This means you’ll need a separate prep area and cooking surface to be halal.
As is the case with all religions, there are degrees of adherence within the Muslim faith. To capture the most devout, your restaurant will need to be fully halal. That means no potential for cross-contamination, no alcohol, and no pork products or by-products in anything. Such a restaurant can be halal certified.
For many halal consumers, however, it will be enough that you simply provide halal food conscientiously prepared, cooked, and served. It’s up to you how far you want to take things, and what segment of the market you’d like to target.
Your traditional “Ethnic” media advertising doesn’t reach them like it once did
If you’re a restaurateur in a big Canadian city, like Toronto or Montreal, you know your market is ethnically diverse. As a savvy business owner, perhaps you devote some of your advertising budget to traditional ethnic media like radio or newspapers to try and reach those communities. It turns out, this may not be the right approach.
The Nourish study revealed that halal consumers aren’t engaging with traditional media as much as you might think. Multicultural television and radio stations serve useful functions, but in this digital age, they don’t reach the consumer the way they once did. You might be better served spending your money elsewhere.
You need to increase your digital campaign
Just in case you needed another reason to expand your social media marketing, here it is: word-of-mouth is huge in the Muslim community. As a group, they are highly engaged on social media, and they trust what others in their community are saying. So, if someone they trust is Tweeting that a certain restaurant is serving great halal food, or sharing pictures of something delicious, people are likely to take notice, and there’s a chance they’ll check it out.
If you’re making the shift to halal, make sure to beef up your online presence and get those social media accounts up-to-date.
You need to give them what they really want, not what you think they want
To serve this demographic effectively, you need to understand them. Yes, they’re Muslim, but they’re also Canadians. Many of them were born here, and some may be second-generation or even third. That means they’ve grown up exposed to Canadian culture, as well as Muslim, and they want to eat the same things everyone else is eating.
What does that mean for you? Instead of trying to offer a slew of, say, Middle Eastern, or North African dishes, try something more “familiar”. Offering halal Italian or Greek food, fish and chips or a delicious halal poutine, for example, are great ways to include Muslims in the broader diversity of the Canadian food scene.
As a member of an inclusive society, servicing halal consumers is a very Canadian thing to do. More pragmatically, however, it’s also a smart business decision. They’re ready to put their money on the table. It’s up to you to convince them that that table should be yours.