Kebab Shop Loyalty Lesson

by Mary-Anne Webb

When loyalty marketing schemes rely on gamification techniques to keep customers coming back to their stores or services, how does a small kebab shop manage to attract a loyal following by
turning all marketing wisdom on its head?

Picture this scene (it’s a true story)…

There’s a kebab shop operating from what appears to be a hole in the wall with a small restaurant attached. It has cornered a market after dark when no one else is open. The queue for kebabs is spilling out of the door and the line doesn’t move very fast. In fact, the line moves painfully slow. Yes I was there.

Do the patrons in the line care? Hell no. The line itself is a social scene. Friends and strangers mingle and chat. Many were regulars. When new people arrive, and it’s clear they only want a can of Coke, they have their orders prioritised by those ahead of them. The rule is there are no rules and everyone seems to like it like that.

Once inside, there was still a queue and the kitchen chaos was revealed. Hence the queue. The place operated with total disorganisation behind the counter. This was made clearer still when we discovered the order taker had taken orders from people that were no longer there. Clearly non-plussed, his solution was to ask the next in line to order the chicken kebabs instead. They didn’t necessarily want chicken kebabs. So what did these customers do? They said yes! They gladly obliged. It could have had something to do with the hour otherwise it was accepted in the spirit that the owners had kept their place open for them to cook them a hot meal.

Although there’s no doubt it’s a car crash of a way to run a business. What the place lacked in organisation it made up for in vibe, admittedly slightly seedy. The fact that this suspect kebab joint managed to have loads of customer goodwill and return weekly customers while breaking every bit of known marketing wisdom. Now that’s loyalty. What did they do to deserve that? They created a place where people could gather without getting in their way. They let people hang out inside their skinny shop, not fussed to move them along. They didn’t command or direct, except what you could order.

The morale of this story….

Create a place people want to be and then get out of their way. Don’t make it about you. Make it about them.

Loyalty isn’t about gamification, it’s about connection. The experience you create allows people to connect with people and meets a basic requirement to belong.


Mary-Anne Webb biography:

Mary-Anne Webb is founder of Inspirit Marketing and a coach who applies marketing concepts to support multi talented mid-career, mid-life professionals to express themselves and their ideas.

She is known for helping clients move from what’s missing, to what’s possible so they take action and achieve meaningful results across their projects, people or themselves.

Learn more at


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