Saturday, August 20, 2011

The mystery of Saravana Bhavan

Note to my friends living abroad: you are excused if you are a fan of Hotel Saravana Bhavan

Ever tried to find a seat during lunchtime at any of the HSB outlets in Chennai, ac or non ac? The whole experience of having an overpriced meal is unpleasant, that after the ordeal of finding a seat and beginning your meal, you find the next customer standing very near you trying to 'reserve' the seat you are occupying and waiting for you to finish.

On top of that most items are highly priced (for that kind of food) and one unit will never be filling. One can't have a filling meal without shelling out at least 150-200 per head. That doesn't deter scores of people thronging the place, such is the brand value. The only really tasty item to have from HSB is the real fruit ice cream.

Contrasting this with the new chain opened by the well known Shree Krishna Sweets, called Gokulams, they serve tastier food at around 60% of the price but their restaurants are mostly empty. For some reason they are not able transfer their brandname in sweets to their restaurant business.

How does one explain this kind of consumer behaviour? Maybe we must take a relook at the first principle of economics: humans make rational purchase decisions.


  1. nice one... I still can't figure it out... all of my friends from tamilnadu still swear by saravana bhavan... God knows why..

  2. one of the reasons why people seem to prefer saravana bhavan is the consistency of the taste, wherever you eat...(though the portion size has kept getting smaller and smaller over the years)but on a recent visit to one of the branches in the US, it was such a let down, not at all what one would typically expect out of hsb... almost every dish was fiery spicy,and far from the authentic chennai taste, which is the only expectation with which you go to hsb... ofcourse nobody goes to hsb for the ambience - its more like eating in a wedding hall in chennai, with all the crowd and pandemonium around :)
    and with the crowds they get, they just dont bother about bringing the food course by course, it just comes in some random order... !

  3. I have heard my other friends too talk about consistency - but consistency of being overpriced (by Indian standards) for an average taste?
    At many other restaurants (Muruguan idly, for that matter) the taste is much better, but ppl still swear by HSB.
    The portions are getting so small that one plate of any main course item now not even makes up for a starter!

  4. Murugan idly is yeast and gelatin idly.