In search of excellence

Dusty Road restaurant

A working week away in Victoria Falls was full of surprises. I must be a crazy person because I just love being with a bunch of people, going through change management processes for a sales and marketing departmental restructure.

Fulfilment for me is when people come out of their shells and participate without barriers. The management were open and ready to be involved and this is what made such a difference. That was my first tick box, I am doing what I love.

The next discovery was the Dusty Road restaurant, a township experience. This was a first time for me, and I confess that I had thought it would be like so many of the shebeen traditional restaurants in Zambia and  could Dusty Road be authentic. How I ate my own words!

Sarah Lilfield has created an enchanting, colourful masterpiece in every way. The Dusty Road brand showcases decorative flour bags as wall paper scattered with  groupings of colourful buckets, tin cups and teapot chandeliers. A wooden stove fire where the food is cooked with flavour induced by the marula wood. The local bush teas and herbs and display of a huge selection of berries, half of which I never knew about are introduced. The set menu was delectable with so many tastes that made the meal memorable.

Every aspect of the experience was thought through and it felt like being transported to a different world. Of course, I had to buy Sarah’s cookery book which was a labour of love during the pandemic. It is evident that the Dusty Road team are part of the experience, and the food and concept does take central stage. Exceptional excellence is my rating. A joy and I would love to take a special interest business group there to debate the merits of branding.

Explorer’s Village is a 96-room hotel in the pulse of Victoria Falls city, behind Elephant’s Walk Mall. It is chock-a-block with tour series and tourists of all ages. Aimed at a budget, three-star market, the service and food is four-star. That interested me.

I wondered why the pricing is so affordable. That is the business model. Breakfast is US$10 per person and is fresh and tasty. The cappuccino was served on an oblong  wooden tray with a glass of water and a shot of Amarula. That is their signature style for cappuccinos. I loved that. Pity I don’t have to do dairy — however, there is a new vegan range coming out.

The architect has certainly made use of all the space available and there are seating areas for those arriving, departing, dining and relaxing. The oxtail, beans, vegetables and sadza were delicious.

My take is that Shearwater Village demonstrates that a reasonable room price doesn’t mean that the style, décor and service will be basic. The bedrooms cater for one or two-night stays and are perfectly adequate. The guests are spending money on activities in Victoria Falls and the region and so for them the fit is perfect price-wise. 

 I had to take back a preconceived belief about the Elephant encounter packaged as:

“Through the Eyes of an Elephant”. I was doubtful that the experience would be up to scratch after spending the last two years in Chobe, Botswana. The environment and elephants are a passion of mine, and I was interested to see how the tourists and visitors would respond to the interaction. Another well-constructed experience that ticked all the boxes.

There I was, falling in love with Doma the 48-year-old bull elephant, majestic and formidable. Located in Jafuta, 20 minutes from Victoria Falls, the guides created the scene by asking everyone to close their eyes and be an elephant. The talk gave out facts and figures about elephants and their habitat. Feeding the elephants and having photos taken was fun. Tea and coffee and muffins on the viewing deck, as we bade farewell to the elephants and carers, was an embracing experience.

Dining at the Terrace of The Victoria Falls Hotel always grounds me in the history of the almost 120-year-old iconic hotel. The stillness and the aura that embodies the hotel always gives me goosebumps. There I was wrapped in a blanket with a heater nearby thinking how the grace and glamour of bygone eras still give the hotel its aura. The guest experience is a deliberate yet entrenched experience that many try to emulate, but the “Grand Old Lady” is what she is — set apart.

After a busy working week — I promise that I really was working — I thought that a massage at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge Spa would be the perfect reward. Now, when the team there does something, you know that it is going to be exceptional.

However I was delighted how they created the ambiance with smart branding from the entrance to the lodge and then a meandering pathway into the bush with two more inviting signs that created anticipation. The welcome, the views and the little touches like a foot scrub before the treatment, on the deck of the room. The colour coding and décor and experience was captivating. This is more than a spa, it is a wellness zone.

The morale of the stories is that there are clear steps to creating a brand experience. Make sure that the vision for the concept is written and designed to follow the customer and the team’s footsteps.

Victoria Falls is on top of their game.

Decide on how you want the customer to feel. How do you feel as you walk the process? The surprise element and the value for time and money must be considered. This week, go back to your drawing board and rework processes to match the customer’s path. The big question is what do you want to achieve and how does the product set you apart from competition? Passion and imagination are your co–creators.

White is a born and bred Zimbabwean. A career spanning banking, hospitality and courier/logistics. She wrote a column in The Post newspaper in Zambia for five years and published a book, Conversations with Carol as well as hosting a TV programme featuring entrepreneurs and small businesses. Passionate about team transformation, customer experience mapping, sales and marketing and leadership which combines increases in profitability and performance, she connects the dots. — [email protected].

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