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Ep.30 Urban Tandoor with Sujith D’Almeida & Nat Brereton

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4 Oct, 2023

Episode 30

Urban Tandoor – Using TikTok to drive visitors and an international community with Owner Sujith D’Almeida and TikTok Queen Nat Brereton

I’m beside myself with excitement bringing you my 30th episode with the restaurant team absolutely smashing it on TikTok – Urban Tandoor.

In today’s episode, I chatted with Sujith D’Almeida Owner of Urban Tandoor, Bristol and TikTok queen Natalie Brereton from the agency Nonsensical.

There’s 23 million monthly TikTok users in the UK and 44% of them are over 25 years of age. Nat said, “anyone can sit at home and create TikToks around a niche or use it for fun. There’s just no sign of it slowing down”.

With over 130,000 followers on TikTok and over 45,000. on Instagram (at the time of recording), I wanted to find out more.

“Somebody comes from Canada, and says I want to speak to that guy, that waiter, because I have come here to see him from Canada. Somebody comes from the US and say I want to click a picture with that waiter. So it’s become a tourist destination. So TikTok has now transformed us as a destination. So people come to Bristol to visit Urban Tandoor to click pictures with TikTok stars.”

We chat about:

> The rise of Urban Tandoor and Sujith’s journey to owning three restaurants

> The impact of social media on the business of Urban Tandoor from footfall to staff engagement.

> Nat’s expert insight into the increasing importance of TikTok and why some brands are doing better than others.

> Nat’s top tips for making TikTok work for your business

Full Transcription
Kelly Ballard
I’m really excited today to be sat here with Sujith D’Almeida in his Clifton restaurant, Urban Tandoor.

Sujith D’Almeida
Thank you for having me. Thank you.

Kelly Ballard 04:47
You’re welcome. I’ve got a few quick questions I want to ask you before we dive into our chat, so tell me what was the last where was the last place that you ate out?

Sujith D’Almeida
San Carlos is a good place, always fresh food. They do good fish and I like fish.

Kelly Ballard
So San Carlos was the last place, Bristol, yeah, Italian. Traditional isn’t it? Beautiful?

Where’s your favourite pub or bar in the West?

Sujith D’Almeida
I think Milk Thistle is one of the better ones (Bristol). They’ve got a good atmosphere and it’s a hidden place. They haven’t put a board outside, people come anyway. That’s a good thing. I feel like if there’s no advertising, marketing, and people come ask for it straight away, that is a good sign. It’s very cool.

Kelly Ballard
There’s nothing like knocking on the door and going up to your table.

When was the last place you went for a day or night out in the west?

Sujith D’Almeida
I think Cornwall is the best place in UK, yeah. It was a nice photogenic place. I like to click pictures. So Cornwall is a good one.

Kelly Ballard
Brilliant. And you said Penzance? Fantastic. When were you there?

Sujith D’Almeida

This was a month back.

Kelly Ballard
Okay. Well, hopefully you had some sun, we haven’t had the best summer

Sujith D’Almeida
There was just 48 hours this year. Ha ha

Kelly Ballard
So tell me about your business.

Sujith D’Almeida
So Urban Tandoor as a brand has got three restaurants. So two restaurants next to each other on Small street, and one on the White Ladies road. So when we started, it was a tough going as you would expect with any businesses, but slow and steady. There was movement, people started knowing about us. The main game changer was the food. It was less oil, no colours, fresh cooking. And then we still celebrate guest occasion in a different way. So we made everybody feel special, and slow and steady, the word spread around the market and people started coming.

Kelly Ballard
Today we’re in your Clifton branch and it is painted on the outside. I want to say street art, beautiful, isn’t it. Have you done that recently?

Sujith D’Almeida
This one has been refurbished recently. And being in Bristol, it’s all about colours, and that’s similar to what we have in India. So, the atmosphere, the Decor is very cosy, very inviting and people once they come in, they don’t want to leave.

Kelly Ballard
I can imagine. And it’s beautiful in here. I really like it, gorgeous lighting. Very, very quiet. It’s really intimate. It’s really nice. And tell me about the food. You said it’s kind of natural flavours and the like. But where is it from?

Sujith D’Almeida
We cover all the states of India, as our chefs are from all over India. And we keep changing the menu. Sometimes we focus on the south of India, like Kerala, and Bangalore. And it goes to Bombay, Chennai. So we are lucky to have the chefs from the maximum states of India, that helps us to keep changing the menu. Some places you go the food is quite heavy, there’s oil floating on top, we tried to make sure it’s very, I mean, no artificial colours, less oil, and fresh cooking. So you know that straightaway. So it’s quite healthy.

Kelly Ballard
And you know, lots of people comment on your food and how good it is. And that’s great. You mentioned that it’s about kind of the welcome that you give people and from what I’ve read that’s what you want to be known for – the way that you welcome people. And that seems to have gone into how you manage your social media.

Sujith D’Almeida
We started on a low profile, we celebrated guests occasions, we created messages on our aprons, we got messages on our T-shirts, all motivating and funny messages. Yeah, we want this to be a place of happiness for people to enjoy, for families to come together. And we have won 14 national awards. But the biggest award for me is when we had nearly 10 terminally ill patients who had Urban Tandoor as their last wish, on the wish list. This is something which we are proud of.

Kelly Ballard
Oh my god, this beats all the awards. Wow.

Tell me before we talk about your crazy, stratospheric rise into TikTok Halls of Fame, tell me about how you set up the business and where did you come from? Where did you learn your trade.

Sujith D’Almeida
So I come from Bombay. And I used to work on a cruise liner, I visited many places but UK is something which I was most attracted to. And then I was selected for the Grand Hotel as a manager. And I started my career in the Grand. I worked there for 10 years, and then I said, coming from India, I need to give something back to the society. So I saw let me give Bristol, a good Indian restaurant with a good vibe. And everybody prepares the food, all Indian restaurants prepare the food and I thought let’s tweak it a bit and change it into a new dimension where it’s not just about the food you enjoy and like you go to a church or place of worship when you feel happy. So you wanted the restaurant to be a replica of that. You just enjoy your life regardless of your success or failure. We had people celebrating the divorces as well in our place. So it all happens in here. Yeah.

Kelly Ballard
I love that. That’s amazing. So you started with Small street.

Sujith D’Almeida
We started with a Small street. The lease was done on the 13th of the year 2013. And the number of the restaurant is 13. We had 13 tables. And it was considered an unlucky number and an unlucky restaurants. But things have changed. And now it’s the new lucky, 13 is the new lucky for us.

Kelly Ballard
I love it. And then when did you say you’ve got two places down there? So next to each other? And they’re both different businesses.

Sujith D’Almeida
I mean, same businesses, I have different kitchens, Urban Tandoor. The first one was a small 40 cover restaurant. And then as we grew in popularity, we needed something. So the opportunity came the next door. And then we took that place as well. And then the Clifton one.

Kelly Ballard
When does Clifton come on board

Sujith D’Almeida
Clifton happened in 2018. The Urban Tandoor Clifton

Kelly Ballard
So I want to talk to you about marketing because you are doing so well in your marketing. But you started off giving away tandoori chicken on cocktail sticks to passers by is that right?

Sujith D’Almeida
Initially, when we started, it was tough. You got to pay your bills, you got to pay a lot of charges and doesn’t happen overnight. So restaurant was empty for the first month or so. So I thought we need to go out and get the people in. So I would take the chicken tikka on the cocktail sticks all around Bristol City Centre and get people in one by one. Slow and steady as we started getting popular. We were fully booked. And that was a different story. We had to turn away guests and then we were kind of booked for weeks and months in advance. That was a good sign.

Kelly Ballard
Wow. And then you started winning the awards and awards became a thing for you.

Sujith D’Almeida
Yeah, gradually, we started winning the awards. And yes, awards became a thing. And then slow and steady. We reached great heights.

Kelly Ballard
You have! I’m going to talk to you about some of those now. So let’s talk social media because this is where you’re absolutely nailing it.
So I’ve done a bit of research and you joined Instagram and 2019 apparently, looking at your Instagram account, your first post was your cover of your menu. It had 17 likes. But your recent posts as of this morning, which by the time this podcast goes out will be different but it has 12,000 likes 383 comments.

Then then you joined Tik Tok in 2021, you had 900 views and two comments on your first post. One of your most recent posts has 185,000 likes, and so on and so on. Your most popular video has had 4.4 million views. I mean, it’s crazy. You’ve just done so well, from posting about your food, to bringing in the personality. I spoke to Natalie earlier and Natalie’s gonna share some of her thoughts on the podcast. But I’d really like to hear your thoughts on how you went from posting food and your menu to trialing what works. Social media, has it always been important to you? How did you start thinking about that when you were first on social media?

Sujith D’Almeida
When it first started, social media had nearly 10 or 15 followers out of which all my family members, mother, grandmother cousins, yeah. My main aim, as I said, was always to spread happiness. And when 2020 happening, it was all doom and gloom, depression, people suffering with mental sicknesses and stuff. So I said, we need to kickstart and we need to do something different to spread happiness and joy in the community and the society. And we came up with the plans of Facebook, tick tock dancing, you know, and getting Urban Tandoor to people’s homes. You can’t go to everybody’s home, but TikTok, we’ve gone to over 100,000 or 4.5 million people’s homes just overnight with one or two good ads of ours, and it’s just clicked.

So that was a way and a medium to make people happy. And in a church or a place of worship, where you get the testimonies. We get testimonies on Instagram where people say my wife was suffering from depression, she watches your videos, husband was suffering from depression, they watched your video so there are many people who are suffering from these cases and have benefited from the video so these things motivate me more and more.

I’ve got an email saying that uh, lady wants to celebrate her husband’s birthday. But he’s gone through a lot during COVID, looking after his sick father, and he’s passed away, and now he’s into depression, but the thing that motivates him is our videos. So they want to celebrate his birthday. And they want some videos to be played when they sing that song. So these are the type of public requests we get.

Kelly Ballard 15:20
It’s crazy. It’s amazing how that’s kind of translated from being out there to being here, then. So you’ve changed in terms of what you were doing? What haven’t you? And obviously, you now use an agency, you use Nonsensical Natalie’s agency. How did that help you?

Sujith D’Almeida
With Nonsensical, what’s happened is, they understood us, we understood them. So everything that we do it clicks, you know, sometimes we think, okay, this could be a failure, this could work well, this could be, it’s all working, So we don’t need to change anything because whatever we do is working.

Now we’ve got a set of followers who keep supporting us, and the numbers keep growing. So the agency has helped us to go to the new dimension now. So when the ideas come up, we all sit together, come up with the ideas. Now the staff might not even know what we are up to not even know the songs, but when they sing with the South Indian action, it all works and sometimes it’s so bad turns out to be good.

Kelly Ballard
Ha ha, and those are the best ones. It’s so funny, it’s so brilliant. I’ve worked in lots of organisations before where everyone is so busy, and they sign up to be a waiter. And that’s their skill, or they sign up to be something else. And they’re not interested in social media, it’s very hard to motivate people to do what you’ve got your staff doing. How did you get them doing that?

Sujith D’Almeida

It’s quite automatic, because the staff that we have blend into the brand, the brand has got a different style of operating, the staff now know how we operate. And it helps the staff. When the guests come into the restaurant, they are already familiar with the faces. They’ve seen them on the video, so they feel like they already know everybody, and the introduction is very easy. It’s very easy for upselling. And some people, some of us, not some, ALL of our staff have now become celebrities, people recognise them in Tesco. They come and they want to click pictures. So it’s all happening.

Kelly Ballard
So funny. I love it. It’s crazy. And I can imagine what was it like at the start though, trying to get people to see what you were trying to do? Was it difficult?

Sujith D’Almeida
I think it was difficult to anybody who’s trying social media, it doesn’t click overnight. It takes time for people to digest to understand your niche, your style. And once you come up with a good style, it will happen. It’s not about one or two posts, it’s about consistently hitting the target. And then at one stage, you will feel the difference.

Kelly Ballard
So just thinking about the business plan and knowing that you’re on to a winner, and kind of like how that translates into business. So you were already quite busy anyway with what you were doing. And then social media has obviously had a different effect. How have you seen that in your business?

Sujith D’Almeida
I think it is now reflecting because initially people used to come through TripAdvisor, Google, but now it’s a new medium. Somebody comes from Canada, and says I want to speak to that guy, that waiter, because I have come here to see him from Canada. Somebody comes from the US and say I want to click a picture with that waiter. So it’s become a tourist destination. So TikTok has now transformed us as a destination. So people come to Bristol to visit Urban Tandoor to click pictures with TikTok stars.

Kelly Ballard
Isn’t that funny, like the Hardrock Cafe, before it became this like international brand that you could find everywhere, it was the place that you wanted to go, and Urban Tandoor’s become that!

Sujith D’Almeida
Slow and steady. You will never believe a curry house would have more than 100,000 followers on TikTok, nearly touching 45 to 50,000 on Instagram, Facebook is growing. And yeah, it has become a destination, even the tour guide when they show around Bristol, they show people the Urban Tandoor, like this is the place you need to visit if you’re in Bristol.

Kelly Ballard
I love it. It’s amazing. Well done. It’s so good.

What are your tips for other businesses wanting to use TikTok from an owners perspective in terms of dedicating the time and effort? Because very often marketing can be like somebody does it over there? Yeah, you know, or like giving people the reins to do this. You’re quite involved in it. I imagine. Tell me a little bit about that.

Sujith D’Almeida
I think you are the best person to speak about the brand – you know the brand, and what people need to think about the brand, you’re the best person because that’s your vision, and the rest is a provision.

So you need to step up your game and be with the staff and make sure they’re motivated. And that transforms the business. You know every like is business for you, so you’ve got to be involved in it.

You can’t just put pressure on the marketing manager and say what can you do? You said you’re gonna do 10 posts, but nothing is working, you have to give ideas as well. And you need to, I mean, somebody can come with the idea, we try to transform it, the Indian twist. And that’s how it all working.

So all the songs with the wordings that are being used, you got to be on time you got to get the staff you got staff have to be motivated, all the staff need to be involved, and they feel like a team. And that’s how you strengthen. And that’s how you, I mean, you got, you just can’t sit and order somebody that this, this has got to be done, and it’s not working. You got to step up yourself, you got to make yourself available and then you got to transfer the message.

Kelly Ballard
Because you know, the heart and soul of business, don’t you and it’s about kind of getting that across.

Sujith D’Almeida
Yeah, to get the personality across.

And you do that really, really well.

Your walk needs to match your talk as well. So when you show you’re funny, people can come in and it shows like it’s dark and gloomy and nobody, we make sure there is atmosphere in the restaurant as well. So what they see on the videos, they get to see the replica of that in the restaurant.

Kelly Ballard
Talking about things that you do in your restaurant as well. What other experiences that guests you encourage guests should do to create their own videos. Is that right?

Sujith D’Almeida
It naturally happens, when the guest walks into Urban Tandoor, we celebrate everybody’s occasion? We do announcement on the mic. Whatever they celebrate with their name, you know, be it divorce, or somebody’s leaving, you say, John is leaving Bristol, John, thanks for leaving. And that gets a giggle. We say Sarah celebrating 15 years with John. They’re together for 15 year we make fun. People like it. We don’t need to tell anybody it naturally happens. On a good day we see about 15 to 20 videos a month shared on the stories. We don’t tell anybody til the end of the day, when they see the celebrations we play songs like come on Eileen, Sweet Caroline. All these songs. They create a buzz. People talk about it now it’s just out in the open the next morning you see that there are 25 videos.

Kelly Ballard
What are your thoughts on it? Isn’t just like crazy, as this is how you live now, isn’t it?

Sujith D’Almeida
Life is short. Keep it sweet.

Kelly Ballard
I love it. I love it.

Kelly Ballard
I think you’ve answered all the questions I need. But I just want to say thank you again for coming on the show and massive congratulations on achieving what you’ve done.

Sujith D’Almeida
Because thanks for having me. It’s a great pleasure. Thank you.

Kelly Ballard 22:50
I hope you enjoyed that chat with Sujith, what a great bloke, I mean, massive risks he’s taken but obviously calculated, wants a bit of fun, and I just love all that he thinks about and talks about and the joy he brings to people really, really is just second to none, amazing. Anyway, the next part of this episode is with Nat who I met in my car in Bristol. I hope you enjoyed this one.

Today. I’m with Nat Brereton sat in my car bizarrely, because we are going to talk about all things Urban Tandoor and TikTok

Nat Brereton
We are indeed yes, we’re in the car it’s slightly drizzly so I’m glad we are undercover.

Kelly Ballard
Well, we were meant to be meeting Sujith but as with all hospitality businesses, there’s been a bit of a challenge this weekend and we were meeting on a Monday, so in order to grab some of Nat’s time I just thought let’s do it now. And yes, we’re in a car park so apologies for the things that you can hear outside but it’s rather hot in here so I had to put the window down.

Nat Brereton
Needs must, we’ll do anything for the content, needs must.

Kelly Ballard
Brilliant Nat, so tell me you work for Nonsensical and you work on all things TikTok. But tell me a little bit more about that. What do you do and who are Nonsensical?

Nat Brereton
Absolutely so Nonsensical are a TikTok agency and my role in the businesses Head of TikTok and yes, that is an actual role!

Kelly Ballard 24:21
A TikTok agency. Yes. They don’t do other social media or do then mainly focus on TikTok?

Nat Brereton
A long time ago when Nonsensical first started it was a different business. About four years ago, five years ago called Updates Media and we did do all types of social, so your Facebook, your Instagram, but what we found was more and more businesses were coming to us asking about TikTok and how they could do TikTok and we just naturally found that we were good at it.
And it was just heading that way that’s short-form video, which can be repurposed across social media channels. So about three years ago, we rebranded as Nonsensical, and we now solely work on organic and paid TikTok campaigns for a whole range of clients.

Kelly Ballard 25:02
So you work with Urban Tandoor,butdo you have other hospitality businesses that you work with?

Nat Brereton
Yeah, honestly, we’ve got a whole spectrum of different kinds of businesses, we’ve got bars, we’ve got shopping centres, we’ve got insurance companies, we’ve got food delivery companies, you name it, we’ve got it, we’ve got attractions, and we’ve also got our own communities. So Best of Bristol is one of them. And Birmingham Updates is another. We’ve also got Endless Pride. So we have our own sort of internal communities that we can monetize. But we also then have clients that will either have a organic or paid strategy that we will help them with.

Kelly Ballard
Well, before we go on to talk about Urban Tandoor, I’d like to talk to you about yourself and your channels. Because you are an influencer in your own right, aren’t you? I remember seeing you on Instagram, many years ago, talking burgers, but your personality online is unbelievable. So tell me a little bit about how you got to where you are today.

Nat Brereton
Oh, thank you. Yeah, it all started for me when I moved to Bristol, which was roughly about 10 years ago now. And I was a legal secretary at the time, very different to any sort of content creation or TikTok. And I just started to explore Bristol’s independent food scene because it is vast and varied and, and wonderful. I sort of documented it all on a blog and on Instagram, and I just moved with the times and taught myself a lot about social media, what cuts through and just was unapologetically myself with the burger stuff, I just ate a lot of burgers and shared about it.

So I coined a bit of a burger Queen title, but most importantly, it was just about promoting independent businesses in a digital way. Everyone has moved on to social, you know, it’s changed a lot since I started, I downloaded Instagram, you know, nearly 10 years ago. It’s that instant interaction, people can see what they’re going to get. And social has a lot of power behind it. And I think a lot of that comes with building a trusted community of people that know that you mean what you say, you aren’t going to mislead them, and that you’re really passionate about what you’re talking about. And I’ve just been incredibly lucky that people have responded so well and I’ve had a lot of trust from people and I really value that and respect that. So just from self teaching myself I’ve worked in an influencer company I’ve worked in publishing in magazines and selling advertising and I’ve just found myself in this career quit the legal secretary job and just went for it took a bit of a calculated risk, I guess, which happened to pay off which led me to this job at Nonsensical which I’m thoroughly enjoying.

Kelly Ballard
Amazing, I think at the end of the day, with social media just progressing constantly. There’s no one to learn off apart from yourself.

Nat Brereton
Exactly, there are so many so many people that ask me, how can we get into this? Or, how can we do this, and they might not necessarily have the budgets to spend on an agency. And I always just tell them to stop posting, start creating, you’re gonna get it wrong, it’s not always going to be perfect. Even with myself, I find that sometimes, but the more you do it, the more you just become so au fait with it, and you just find your rhythm and your style. And yes it’s just about taking the plunge and giving it a go really.

Kelly Ballard
Brilliant, brilliant advice. Scary. But brilliant.

Nat Brereton
It’s just just so powerful, you can’t ignore social anymore.

Kelly Ballard
It’s true but it has to be a proper strategy. And yeah, we’ll go on to that because I really want to get your thoughts and advice on that. Before we go there.

I’ve got just a few quick fire questions. Oh, okay. Cool. So when was sorry, where was the last place that you ate out?

Nat Brereton
Okay, so the last place that I ate out was for my boyfriend’s birthday, we went to a place called Cotto, which is part of the Bianchi’s group. So the guys that recently had Pasta Loco, Bianchis, Pasta Ripiena, it’s on Stevens Street in the centre, lovely spot. Really, really reasonable fresh pasta dishes, great cocktails. It’s kind of like a wine bar and a restaurant all in one, they’ve got some nice alfresco seating as well. And yes we had some great pasta dishes they were £10 for a plate of pasta, you can’t go wrong, really? Some nice cocktails and just really really friendly staff. So yeah, that was Cotto. It was it was absolutely wonderful.

Kelly Ballard
Very nice. Where’s your favourite pub or bar in the West?

Nat Brereton
Oh, blimey, lots to choose from, but I think at the Bank Tavern, in the centre of Bristol. It’s a proper back street, little blues. They’re notoriously difficult to get into Sunday. But it’s just a real community, pub and place that I love. It’s it’s kind of tucked away but it’s right in the centre. Great people, great staff and just always a good time when I go. I love popping in there for for a pint after work or taking visitors there that are coming to come into Bristol.

Kelly Ballard
Great, really, because it’s such a hidden place. Yeah. And it’s in such an odd place. But if you know about it, and it’s obviously doing great things. It’s been there for years. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And where was the last place that you went for a day or night out in the west?

Nat Brereton
Funnily enough, this is gonna sound pre planned, but my step mum and dad were visiting last weekend and we went to Urban Tandoor. Every body who comes to visit me in Bristol, my friends or family, they all want to go and experience what Urban Tandoor is all about. So it was for my step mum’s birthday we went there. And yeah, I don’t even know how often I average eat in there now once a month, but it’s pretty, it’s pretty good. I know the entire menu inside out. But yeah, so that sounds bad. But no. Last weekend, we went out. We were having a great time.

Kelly Ballard
Oh, fantastic. So when did you first start working with Urban Tandoor?

Nat Brereton
So we’ve been working with them now going on about two and a half, three years, I would say. We used to work with them a lot on their Instagram and their other channels. And we and we still do, but we really wanted to crack TikTok, so this was not even when TikTok was all that new. But it was at a time when businesses were dipping, their toes in and really experimenting and trying to figure out what the app was all about, really.

Kelly Ballard 30:50
So was it your influence that enabled them to go on? Or did they want to go on?

Nat Brereton
They definitely wanted to go on. Sujith is very savvy in social media. He knows the power of what these platforms can hold, and at the time TikTok was the biggest downloaded app. Obviously, it had happened over lockdown as well. But he knew he wanted to be on it, wanted a presence on it. And it was up to us to work with him to figure out what that presence was and what we were going to be known for on TikTok at the time.

Kelly Ballard
Well, it’s interesting that you say that in terms of how things change because I’ve been looking back at the start of when Urban Tandoor went onto Instagram and when they went on Tik Tok. They went on to Instagram in 2019, and the first post was a cover of a menu. Yep. The menu had 17 likes. However, the most recent posts have 12,000 likes and 383 comments. I mean, it’s phenomenal. And God knows how many followers they’ve got now. I don’t know. 40,000 plus?

Nat Brereton
I think it’s about 40k. Yeah, just over at the moment, insane, crazy.

Kelly Ballard
Then 2021 was when they joined TikTok. The first post had 900 views and two comments. But one of the most recent posts had over 185,000 likes 119,000 shares, 3,700 comments, and the most, the most popular, oh my gosh, there’s somebody reversing in front of us.

Kelly Ballard
I couldn’t concentrate on the figures then…but the most popular was 4.4 million views, which was, oh, god knows how many shares and 45,000 saves. So I mean, it’s knocking it out of the park really isn’t it!.

Nat Brereton
Yeah, insane numbers, we posted another recent video that’s on 1.9 million at the moment. And we recently hit the 100k mark in terms of followers. So, I don’t know if that makes them the most followed Indian restaurant in the world. But I mean, it might be in the UK, who knows, but it’s just insane.

Kelly Ballard
You must say no proud of that, you know, to have helped that.

Nat Brereton
Yeah, it’s, you know, it’s a joy to work with them. If you can call it a job. I don’t even know if you could call it that. But it’s very much down to their collaboration and their trust, the only reason we’re allowed to be so creative and push the boundaries so much is because that Sujith in the team, trust us. But it has been a journey, you know, that hasn’t come about just on a whim that has been, you know, a lot of testing a lot of looking at what we’re doing right and what we’re doing wrong and what the community are reacting to, and really finding our style, you know, there’s been lots of times without any hits. And it’s kind of that journey of TikTok. And what you go on as a business or as an individual tip to get to that.

Kelly Ballard
Wat seems to be most successful are these parodies, which is essentially taking a music video or song or a film scene and recreating it when your original lyrics. Yeah, and the most recent one that you’ve got that I’ve seen as we talk is that ‘You’re the man that I want’, which is a take-off, of ‘You’re the one that I want’ with Danny and Sandy from Grease, which is hilarious. And they stand outside doing this outside the Watershed down in town on the Harbourside. And I’m just like, how are you getting these blokes to do this? And in all of the places that I’ve worked, trying to get people to actually get involved in the marketing of, you know, in any form of marketing. So I’ve got a few questions. Yes, yes, absolutely. So, what got you into that approach?

Nat Brereton
So as I said, we’ve tested a lot of things on urban tandoor. In the beginning days, it was a lot about showing the food and the venues. And those videos were just not cutting through and we weren’t sure why.
When we started putting people and faces on TikTok, that’s when it really started getting a bit of traction. And I think where we made mistakes, were trying to sell the food and sell the venue. TikTok is not an app to sell your products. It is an app for humans to make emotional connections or be entertained. So when we started to take this sort of lead on getting the staff involved in an entertaining guise I mean, we could only have dreamed at that stage that we’d be where we are now with the views that we’re getting.

And for us as an agency, we’re always thinking about how can we level up for our clients? What can we be doing? That’s one outside the box. So it definitely is a case of testing. But then looking at it retrospectively, and being really brutal and saying, this isn’t working, let’s just scrap it. It’s not cutting through, but this is working.

So what is it about what they’re doing or what they’re saying that’s really, really cutting through. And I think a lot of the love that comes for the urban Tandoor team is, they are as innocent and endearing as they seem, they rock up, they’re ready to do the work that half the time, they don’t know what we’re gonna ask them to do. And I think that just really shines through in the content. So once we realised that that was what was doing really well, we decided to play around with parodies. We started just with a couple of film things. First, we did a bit of a Love Actually take on Notting Hill. And then we went into the songs, so Naan Bread Number Five, and things like that. And they just started to get such a good reception that we thought we’d this is something that we have to keep running with.

Kelly Ballard
So who comes up with the script?

Nat Brereton
I cannot take the credit. This is a very good team effort. So I’ve got a shout out to Taylor who is on our team at Nonsensical. He is a songwriting genius. So what I’m telling ya, we will just we will discuss as a team, the kinds of songs that we want to do, because it’s important, even the song choice really comes down to play because we’ve had some songs that have done better than others, which is, again, a learning that we take, but he will go away and write these amazing parodies incorporating Urban Tandoor or bhaji or poppadoms. And we also have a girl called Chloe, who I’ve got to give kudos to as a team, we will put together briefs of how we’re gonna film it. And they will go down and shoot this content with the Urban Tandoor team and just get them all signing all dancing literally!

Kelly Ballard
So that’s my next question. How do you get the team up for this? Because at the end of the day, these are guys that working in the restaurant aren’t there yet. So it looks like it takes a long time. How do you how do you firstly get them up for doing that? Because they were employed as to work in in the restaurant?

Nat Brereton
Yeah, so everyone’s in the videos are all waiters or waitresses that you will see when you go there for a curry on a Saturday night. I wish there was an answer that said they really didn’t want to do it and we won them around but honestly, from the get go, I think they enjoy it as much as we do. It’s a fun experience.

It’s shooting something that’s so out there and so wacky, and we order costumes or we get face paints and they come in you know, Sujith pays them to come outside of their normal working time. It is a commitment to do that from a marketing perspective. But they are just fully bought into how funny it is.

I think once they realised the numbers that it was doing on TikTok and when they would have punters that would come in and ask to have selfies with them or say that they have come all this way to see you, they realise the sort of that connection of joy that’s from someone seeing it on TikTok to them. I really want to go there and coming through the door and actually seeing them as well. So it’s never been a hard sell to get them involved.

But I think once they realise the power of it, and it is just a good laugh. Honestly, when we want them to do those shoots. It’s a big ridiculous, you know, laugh so yeah, we have a lot of fun doing it.

Kelly Ballard
Good. So do you have a props budget now? Those wigs are not high-end.

Nat Brereton
We have a lot to thank Amazon for. I think that plays into what makes people laugh. You know, love that, love the videos. And honestly, it will be a case of I will have a look at what costumes we need, what props we need. Sometimes the sillier the better, honestly, and sometimes the more not polished it looks, it just looks more real for TikTok, I will send Sujith the list of what I want to buy. And he will say yeah, sure, go for it.

So that’s how we that’s how we planned it really. It’s just, what’s going to work, what do we need, but what can we also maybe use from their perspective, like the chef whites? Do we incorporate those into the videos, Urban Tandoor get a lot of comments about their aprons because they’ve got motivational messages on, so we’ve tried to incorporate all of that and just have that bit of bit of fun with it.

If we went too high-end and made it look too polished with amazing costumes. It wouldn’t have that charm that Urban Tandoor has, so it’s all part and parcel of it.

Kelly Ballard
Because then they would sing and then it would be

Yeah.

Nat Brereton
I mean, if they sing one song in tune, I think we’d be out of business, honestly. That’s part of why people love it.

Kelly Ballard
It’s so good. So how long does it take each week to get involved in what they do?

Nat Brereton
So we do a number of things with Urban Tandoor, we will have bigger productions that are kind of months in advance and we will go in for a monthly shoot. On the longer shooting days that might take one or two days. We also tend to pop in once or twice a week for an hour or so. And this is where we might be filming just TikToks that are much shorter, so it’s yet to be posted but we’ve recently done a Come Dine with Me parody that will be going out sometime soon. Smaller things like that that we can film in an hour or so, any really reactive things for TikTok.

So if there’s something happening in popular culture like Love Island or Big Brother for example, we will go in on a week by week basis to get that super reactive stuff.

The parodies take a lot more planning and pre thought. So we do those on a monthly basis ahead of time, and go in and film those. So again, it is a commitment on their time and Sujith’s time where we’re coming in once or twice a week, and then over a monthly period for a couple of days to get this all filmed. So it’s, yeah, it’s not just a case of rocking up, we do a lot of the pre-scripting, getting the costumes, deciding how we’re going to film something, you know, what area of the restaurant, will there be in for this line? Or are we having them down by the harbourside, we get all of that together so that when we go there, we can just tell the staff, we need you to do this, or we need you to do that.

Kelly Ballard
Have they stopped pretty much doing all the rest of their marketing because they only need to do this.

Nat Brereton
They continue to do all of their marketing. So they still post on Facebook, they still, we still, post on Instagram, still post on TikTok, don’t get me wrong, a lot.

Kelly Ballard
I mean more traditional. Email, things like that.

Nat Brereton
They don’t do email, they do dabble in some paid on Facebook. We tend to find on Instagram and Tiktok the videos do quite well organically. So we don’t really need to have that spend there. And a great thing about TikTok is and this is, you know, advice I give to other businesses a lot you can repurpose that content, you know, Instagram is really really pushing reels because it’s so how well it was doing on TikTok. Facebook is also pushing their own version of reels. So a lot of what we make on TikTok can be repurposed for those for those channels. I think it pays to have a purpose everywhere. There’s different demographics of your audience on each channel. But we do find that the videos just really help to go along with whatever else that that we’ve got going on the channels for him

Kelly Ballard
It’s amazing, really, because I just think about the traditional way of marketing a business. This has just transformed it really, isn’t it? So if you’ve got budget, let’s say I don’t know, what a budget of £2,000 a month, for a smaller kind of hospitality business, probably a decent amount of marketing budget, you have to push all of that into the agency fees and the creation of the props and the like. And, you know, that’s okay. Yeah, isn’t it? Yeah. Whereas some people might think, Oh, God, that’s such a lot to pay. But I’m sure that if it was my business, I’d be thinking no way look at what has been achieved, simply by creating the right content.

Nat Brereton
The right type of content. And I think as well, like the onus is on us as an agency to also recognise where those other opportunities might be, so if we thought it would be beneficial for Sujith to be so doing something over here on Facebook, or over here on Instagram. Just because we’re TikTok agency, we would still advise him on best practice because he trusts us.

And it’s, you know, it’s up to us to make sure that he is doing all of those things and keeping all of those wheels spinning but what we just find this with the TikTik it’s just got so massive, that that is naturally creating footfall for them as a business opportunities.
It’s been picked up by various and shared, you know, all over all over the place. But, you know, it wouldn’t be right on us if we weren’t telling him there’s other bits and bobs to do. But that is where when you are working with an agency or a freelancer or someone that’s doing it, you know, they should be guiding you and coming to you with that expertise. Well, yes, you are doing this, but maybe do a little bit of this. And I think that just really comes with getting trust with who you’re working with as well. It’s got to work both ways.

We put a lot of trust in Sujith in his team, and he puts a hell of a lot of trust in us. And we really respect this. That’s what marries for a good working relationship, doesn’t it? Really?

Kelly Ballard
Definitely, and I think because of the quality and the kind of reach that you’re getting and the interest, weren’t you on, didn’t Zoe Ball pick it up on Radio 2?

Nat Brereton
Yes, it was Zoe Ball played ‘500 miles’ she said it was sent him to her by somebody. So I never chatted with her neither did Sujith, but she picked it up and played on the radio, which is just when you know when you’re as obsessed with social as I am. And I really care about the work that I do, you know, but with Urban Tandoor, particularly with all my clients, and when something like that happens, especially for them, you think this is just an independent restaurant in Bristol. It’s just amazing.

You just, you know, you go into it with, we make that content for Urban Tandoor because we want it to spread joy, and we want it to entertain. We want people to tag their friends and say this is amazing. When it gets picked up by the likes of Zoe Ball, it’s just a bonus. But it’s so good for the team and the restaurants presents, and it’s natural PR without having to go out and ask for it really,

Kelly Ballard
isn’t it? I love social media and that you can be your own controller of it. You no longer need to rely on an editor of a newspaper or a journalists coming in to kind of yeah, please come, and pitch, let me come up with a story – the better meal, the new meal, the new menu.

Nat Brereton
And absolutely we find that a lot of journalists will just pick up stories from we recently shared a video on TikTok where a woman had come in for a divorce party and she was happy to be filmed and say that she loved the curry more than she ever loved their ex husband! That got picked up you know by local publications and it’s really fun and like you say it can just help steer the narrative of these are the things, it’s not so much a hard sell. It’s just right back to that human relatability and entertainment and interaction really.

Kelly Ballard
Excellent. So I’ve seen you speak before an event called Rules of Engagement and you gave some really interesting facts and examples of organisation that are doing really interesting things. You gave the example at the time of Ryanair, and was it Lotus? Lotus Cars? That’s right. Yeah. So can you give our listeners a bit of a rundown of some of the stats around TikTok like what’s happening? What’s happened? What should people be on it?

Nat Brereton
Absolutely. So a lot of people, you know, find TikTok synonymous with lockdown. That’s when a lot of people downloaded it when they were at home. But the app is just a beast that shows no sign of slowing down. So just, you know, one we here a lot, it’s just an app for kids doing silly dances. And it’s just an app for this.

But just to give you some stats, there’s more than 1 billion monthly active users of TikTok. That is just a huge amount of people. And the average person spends 94 minutes on the app per day. In my case it’s much, much more. But just as an average 44% of users are over 25 years of age and reason I think that’s a really important stat is because when people say it’s just for the Gen Z, and it’s just for kids dancing, it’s really, really not. There are so many communities and niches on Tik Tok, that have older demographics, older communities, everyone, everyone is using the app.

I can’t stress that enough – of all ages. And there’s 23 million monthly Tik Tok users in the UK. So it’s just an absolute beast. And like I said, TikTok is that short form video king, which you’re seeing Instagram tried to replicate. Its seen the power of TikTok and suddenly pushing reels, like I said before, same with Facebook, short form video is where it’s at.

And TikTok has just massively coined that and made features just accessible to absolutely everybody. So anyone can sit at home and create TikToks around a niche or use it for fun. There’s just no sign of slowing down.

Kelly Ballard
Can I ask you about, you mentioned Ryanair, and Lotus. And what struck me about those accounts was it was almost like it had been taken over by someone completely different to who was doing their normal marketing. Can you just talk about that a little?

Nat Brereton
Absolutely, and I would, I would agree. And I think that’s probably almost been part of their strategy.

With those accounts, especially with Lotus Cars. If you think of Lotus Cars, or you look at their website, or their Instagram or any other of their marketing platforms, it’s very corporate, as you would expect, very salesy very professional. It feels like on their TikTok account, and I mean, this is actually the story, they just gave the one of their apprentices the key to their to their TikTok, now they’ve got millions of followers, it’s completely unhinged, if you if you didn’t, you know, you would have no idea it was even linked to, you know, Lotus Cars, it’s so different.
Similar with Ryan Air, I mean, their tone of voice across brand is very much they do tend to rip it out of their customer base, and they are very sarcastic. But the thing about TikTok is it is so different than your other platforms.

It’s a human first experience, human first, ads second, so it is not a place, unless you’re doing a paid play or a paid campaign to go on and expect to find ROI in terms of lots of sales. It is more if you’re thinking organically a long term play of engagement, building a community who are going to become advocates and might use your product later down the line, it is a longer game. But absolutely, it’s a different completely different kettle of fish than other other platforms. So with Lotus, I wouldn’t be surprised if their strategy was to just go ahead and run with it. And the corporate bods are probably having nothing to do with it just from my perception as an outsider looking in.

Kelly Ballard
Are there some other a couple of tips that you can give people in terms of what they could do? And how they can get the powers that be to agree to the unhinged approach.

Nat Brereton
Yeah, and you know, we speak with a lot of clients and a lot of marketing teams that I understand the struggle of their higher ups and getting their sign off. And like I said, it is all a part of that journey.
It’s all about testing and learning and seeing what works. I will speak to a lot of clients that really want to push the boat out and embrace TikTok for all there is, but they still have parameters around what their brand is about and how they need to speak and you know there is going too far to a point, and there is not going far enough.

So it’s really about us discovering what that fine line is. You know people within a business they know the limitations of a brand and they know what they can do but just bring it back to that human element.

What do humans find funny or what is a fun insight that you can give into your business that people might not, not know? So for Urban Tandoor and all the waiters and waitresses that that work there, they’ve never been at the forefront of any marketing until this point. But that was that piece that made people just really relate. So as a business have to think about, because it doesn’t always have to be humour either. It could be something really educational, really inspiring that you offer that because you’ve got so much knowledge about it. Let’s say you’re making pizzas or you’re making ramen, what is something that’s super specialist about that that might be really interesting that people just don’t know that you can bring to the to the forefront and TikTok by using people within your business that know what they’re talking about. It’s really about finding those tidbits.

And there’ll be things that don’t work along the way, gosh, we still get videos in a business that we think this is going to do great, and it gets 200 views. Honestly, you’ve got to have patience with TikTok. It won’t happen overnight.

On some occasions, you might get a video that absolutely blows up. But if you’re thinking about it from a strategic point of view, think about what value you can add and whether you do want to be funny. Do you want to be entertaining? Do you want to be inspiring, or do you want to be educational?

Kelly Ballard
Great. I was just thinking back to a time when I worked with Bristol Zoo. And we did a bit of a PR stunt which we called it at the time, which was when we had this guy dressed as a gorilla.

Nat Brereton
I remember it well, I saw.

Kelly Ballard
And so we wanted to get the gorilla into Bristol because it was the closure of the Clifton site. So what we wanted to do was get him walking around various different sites. This guy was in this suit, it was £144,000 pounds worth of suit. People saw it and they thought it was a real thing.

Yes, I remember getting on the bus right

That’s right, and we had him jumping out the van and he came out the van and he was amazing. But he couldn’t stay in the in the suit for too long because he couldn’t breathe. So it was very difficult for him to interact with people and do all of these things. So we had a session with him, the SS Great Britain. Then he came up he was on College Green and he went into the Cathedral at College Green. He was going to get on the bus First bus it was and it was the piece on first bus we recorded it and one of the one of the boys from the team was on TikTok. Bristol zoo had a TikTok with I don’t remember exactly how many 1000s of followers, but it wasn’t that many. And but this guy put it on his TikTok first, and I think it got 4 million views within three days.

Nat Brereton
I can remember seeing it great stunt by the way. It was crazy.

Kelly Ballard
Yeah, I was so I was so pleased. Yeah. I mean, it was lucky. It was the lining up of a few things with a previous contact that they had, but it was great. But it was just, the zoo itself, the account didn’t do it. Yeah, it was the person who worked in the zoo that enabled that to go further. Dunno, got any thoughts around why that was?

Nat Brereton
Yeah, absolutely. It’s all about that UGC, what we call user generated content. Because if the zoo had put that on their account, it might have done really, really well. But it’s coming from a brand people can see oh, it’s, of course, they’re gonna post that it’s coming from them. If it comes from someone that it feels like they just spotted it in the street, it feels so much more authentic and organic. And that is a big play.

You know, a lot of a lot of brands will think Well, I know what we can do. We can get someone to do a review. And then we’ll just post it on our own channels. And if you’re working with creators or influencers, it’s always going to do better from their own accounts because they’ve built their communities, their trusts, and they’re following you know, it doesn’t look as authentic, it looks a bit almost contrived. If you then post it on your own channel because of brands bigging up itself.

That’s not really anything new or that’s not really breaking the mould. So it makes sense to wide that when that person posts it natively, and it looks like he’s just walked along the street and caught this gorilla getting on the bus, it’s done really, really well. Bristol zoo can still have a part in that getting the top comment you know, getting into that video and writing a top witty comment and also resharing, are all things that they could do to harness that but it’s on TikTok it’s just about being so authentic and native, and it feels a lot more as though someone is an onlooker posting that, versus the zoo themselves posting it

Kelly Ballard
It’s interesting though, because on the flip side of that you’ve got Lotus yeah and Ryanair who are posting as brands, I guess they’re pushing. They’re it’s they’re pushing the boundaries of what’s acceptable so far. Yes, that it’s almost shocking.

Nat Brereton
Absolutely, and there is a place for that on TikTok as well. You know, there is a place to be polarising and controversial and, you know, Ryanair, a lot of it is to shock because they will rate comments from customers and they will take a tweet or a complaint from somebody and turn it into something.

When someone said they didn’t have a window seat and there was a tiny window for example, you know, they call it out there. They are very disruptive in the space and you might agree with them or you might not but that is what creates a conversation and lots of engagement and lots of views for them is that they’re pretty savage on TikTok. That’s the route that they’ve decided to go down and I think on TikTok it is about finding your style. So if that is what you want to be, that’s what you get known for. You have to you have to stick to that, it’s all about choosing the lane. You know, when you think about Urban Tandoor, it’s there to purely entertain, we want it to be accessible and inclusive to absolutely everybody. We, we don’t rely too much on the shock factor is more about spreading joy, and just giving people a good laugh when they watch the content. But yeah, there’s room to be controversial. It depends how as a brand how you want to how you want to approach it really.

Kelly Ballard
Okay, I guess that’s all part of the process I’m sure you go through with your clients, going back to that kind of brand. Who you are, yeah. What’s the real characteristics of who you are?

Nat Brereton
Yeah, absolutely. We spend a lot of time when we work with new clients, really unpicking what that means. We’ll have deep-dive Discovery sessions where we really want to get underneath of what the brand is, what the objectives are, what are we trying to say? And then in turn, well, where does this sit on TikTok? What kind of style does this mean? And what can we put together?
You scroll on a Ryanair video before even seeing this, right, you know, that it’s them. And that’s what we want for our clients. What is that thing and within the remit of how your brand speaks and who your brand is, and what’s acceptable and what’s not.

So, we do a lot of work in the onboarding stage where we really try and pick that apart completely. Think about who it is we’re trying to target. What are they? What’s relatable to them? How do we speak to them? Like we know them? So there’s a lot of lot of work that goes into that. And it goes hand in hand with the clients because they know their brands inside out.

Kelly Ballard
Amazing. Thank you. I think we’ve covered everything today. Okay. You’ve been amazing. Okay, I think you’ve given me so much. Okay, great. Anything else? But I just wanted to say a huge thank you. Yeah, time. I really appreciate you meeting me in this car park.

Nat Brereton
We’ll never forget, sitting in the car ! I’ve enjoyed it, I could talk about it all day. Just give it a go is my one piece of advice to people out there who are sitting on the fence. Just give it a try.

Kelly Ballard
And congratulations. You know what, I feel proud being part of it – a Bristol business yeah, kind of just knocked out of the park, as I said before, just so so good. There’s hundreds, 1000s of businesses not only in Bristol, but around the country, and you know, Urban Tandoor’s just putting its place on the map. It is crazy. Yeah. It’s amazing experience.

Nat Brereton
If you’ve got any requests for the next parody, let me know.

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Ep.37 Working with Influencers in 2024 MARKETING INSIGHT

Ep.37 Working with Influencers in 2024 MARKETING INSIGHT

About Episode 37Influencers - who to work with, why and how in the visitor economy. Conversation with travel writer and content creator Claire Robinson from Weekend CandyWorking with the right influencers can help you make sales - but with the growing number of...

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