COVID-19 has, without a doubt, had a drastic impact on every field and walk of life.
The long-lasting effects of the pandemic have changed the way business is conducted and will have a strong impact on business models as well.
All business sectors have felt a massive effect, none more so than in Bali. Bali, which is known as a world tourist destination, teetered on the brink of collapse during the global crisis. As people connected with tourism lost jobs, businesses started losing profits due to declining sales.
In fact, many businesses weren’t able to survive, the few that did are still limping due to the pandemic. One of the deeply affected sectors has been food and catering.
The culinary industry generally has high prospects considering that food is one of the basic human needs. However, there were many challenges facing culinary businesses due to the pandemic, especially during the lockdown period. People started to hesitate to buy food outside, considering the level of hygiene of the food, plus the restrictions on going out of the house. In this situation, it was the street vendors who had the most trouble.
What is food innovation and why is it important?
Food innovation is the development and commoditisation of new food products, processes, and services. Right now, it’s happening fast. Food companies are looking for ways to make offerings not only attractive, but also accessible and unique, and sustainable. Especially during the pandemic, innovation has been a way for organisations and business people to make adjustments to the situation. Difficulties and circumstances can force business people to think productively and seek innovative ways to discuss new opportunities. One of the interesting culinary businesses to discuss is the Martabak seller.
Martabak is one of the must-try snacks for tourists. Served with various toppings such as peanuts, milk, cheese, chocolate, and bananas, this thick Indonesian pancake is very popular not only locally but also abroad because of its sweet taste and rich taste.
Don’t be fooled by the name every time, though. If you’re looking for a thick sweet pancake, some regions in Indonesia call it terang bulan. But if you prefer something savoury and crispy, you can order the egg martabak: spicy folded omelette pancakes with bits of vegetables.
Martabak sellers are scattered throughout Indonesia. With so many, the competition is getting tougher to survive and be different. Of course, innovation is needed to stand out more than others. One of the creative and innovative martabak sellers can be found in Ubud.
Located right across from Pura Dalem Puri Ubud, Mr. Kebab Martabak is always crowded with visitors, especially at night, because it doesn’t just sell ordinary martabak. Since the pandemic, this street food seller has innovated far ahead of its surrounding competitors. Not only is it trying to use online food delivery such as Gojek and Grab Food to expand its reach, this place also makes many innovations in terms of the taste and type of martabak being sold.
Baban, the owner of Mr. Kebab Martabak, shared his efforts to survive in the midst of a pandemic. He’ll admit that he’s not very good in the digital realm, but he began to look for tips one by one to maintain his business by adding variety to the menu as well as trying to register his shop for online food deliveries such as Gojek and Grab. By reducing direct interaction and physical touch during payments that were usually made before the pandemic, the business was slowly improving; customers who were afraid to shop for food became more comfortable with the online food delivery apps.
“We have to keep up with the times if we don’t want to be left behind. During a pandemic like now, digital is the saviour of every business. For those who are still hesitant to make direct contact, payments can now also be made with a digital wallet. everything always has a way, only we must work to learn,” explained Baban.
What steps can be taken to improve in the culinary industry?
In order to be able to move forward and innovate, we must have the courage to take steps and even have to change the existing system. Don’t be afraid to take your business against the popular trend. Who knows, maybe in the future your business will be the centre of attention of many people?
One example: changing the recipe. Most entrepreneurs are afraid to change what has been around for a long time so they are always left behind by those who dare to make changes. Not all innovation requires a change to the basics, but if it is necessary for greater success, why not?
That’s one of the steps taken by the owner of Mr. Kebab Martabak. What make him different from the martabak sellers around the Ubud area is that the menu offered here is eye-catching. He not only adds to the list of toppings to choose from, this martabak seller also innovates in terms of the colour and taste of the martabak itself.
Mr. Kebab Martabak offers a menu with original, red velvet, black forest, and pandan flavour pancakes with dozens of toppings. You can choose from basic toppings such as nuts, chocolate, cheese, and bananas to premium toppings such as toblerone, tiramisu, nutella, ovomaltine, and others.
“We thought about what would set our martabak apart from others. We were a little scared to try at first because not many in the Ubud area have done it, but again I thought if we never try we will never know, ” he said.
Interested in the concept offered, I went to this martabak seller in the afternoon. I ordered a pandan martabak with cheese-banana-tiramisu toppings. Even though it is unique compared to martabak menus, the price is still affordable. I paid around Rp 25.000 and you can pay an additional Rp3,000 to get special flavours such as pandan (green colour), Red Velvet (red colour), and black forest (black-brown colour).
I definitely learned why people love this martabak so much; the sweet, salty, soft taste when bitten, plus the crunchy edges that melt in the mouth, instantly increase endorphins for anyone who takes a mouthful.
That’s what I felt when I tried this martabak, the slight pandan taste gave a new sensation than eating the original martabak in general. It’s not that far from anywhere in Bali, so it’s worth trying at least once!
Since adding variety to the menu and joining online food delivery services, sales are increasing and stable. This stall is able to stay ahead of its surrounding competitors by carrying out these two innovations. With distance being removed as a barrier and many variations on offer, customers no longer hesitate to order anything at Mr. Kebab Martabak.
Innovation through simple and practical food menus is a product innovation strategy. Meanwhile, another product innovation made by business owners is digital dominance. With the presence of online food delivery in every food business, anyone who is not around can still place an order. Coupled with the existence of a digital wallet, the risk of transmission of viruses and bacteria can be reduced because customers and business owners or employees do not come into direct contact with each other.
There are so many innovations that can be done depending on the type of business being run. There will always be risks at every step, but rather than just sitting in one place and being left behind, isn’t it better to step up and adapt to the ups and downs?