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Hi, we are KOTTULABS!

Marketing is an important element for any business. On the most basic level it’s the function of letting people know you are there and what you have to offer them. At the most it’s what sets you apart from others and creates enough curiosity in the minds of the public that they come flocking to your door. Colombo has a rough population of somewhere between 3 and 4 million people – this is just in the city limits its self, not considering the outskirts or suburbs of Colombo. Colombo is also home to roughly around 2 million restaurants of varying styles and capacities. Therefore it’s safe to say that the ’market share’ for any one restaurant is quite small. Smaller still when the restaurant specialises in something that is available at every ‘night kade’ around every corner – such as Kottu.

Therefore marketing is imperative for the survival of KOTTULABS. Don who is in charge of all marketing activities says that he pre-plans the marketing activities as much as possible. KOTTULABS marketing is quite attractive, eye catching, consistent but also constant. Don says he has to be ‘in your face’ with marketing KOTTULABS as just having a nice-looking advertisement doesn’t do anything to get the customer to your door. “You have to be everywhere possible, and constantly so, to get into the minds of the customers and get them to give your product a try” says Don.

Don also says that just like for any brand/product the quality of the product, cleanliness of preparation, value for money of the product, all add to the image that ‘marketing’ tries to portray to the public. One cannot market a supposedly wonderful product and then deliver a substandard item. All the marketing in the world isn’t going to help you get out of the hole doing that will get you into.

Don says KOTTULABS is situated in a residential area in Nawala, Colombo – away from the busy restaurant scene in Colombo. Therefore, customers need to make an extra effort to get to KOTTULABS. This is a big challenge for KOTTULABS. Don says they tackle this by making sure the customer has a reason to make that special trip to visit KOTTULABS over and over again. Making sure that the dishes are of high quality and at the right price is one way to make sure the customer comes back. But constant in your face marketing is what keeps KL in the forefront of the customers mind and gets them to make that trip in the first place.

KOTTULABS was a revolutionary of sorts in the Colombo restaurant industry, as their product is a Kottu – something, as we know, is mainly sold at way side ‘night kades’. Yes Colombo has some very famous ‘night kades’ that are very popular with party goers on Friday and Saturday nights. Kottu is great for soaking up all that fiery liquid one consumes on a night out on the town. But famous or not it is still a night kade. So how did KOTTULABS differentiate themselves and revolutionize the KOTTU restaurant scene in Colombo? Simply by marketing themselves as a restaurant with a superior product and service, that allows you – the customer – to make your own KOTTU. There are now several other restaurants like KOTTULABS offering Kottu on their menu. There is constant competition in the restaurant business in Colombo says Don. But competition is a good thing, he says, ‘as it keeps us on our game’; constantly tweaking the product and service to better serve customers, and constantly looking at new partnerships and new ways to reach the client as well as offer them something new so they keep coming back. Customer feedback therefore is of paramount importance to Don and the marketing team as this allows them to see what needs improving, what is working and so on.

Communication between departments is understandably a must in any organization – specially between marketing and operations. If the customer facing role doesn’t know what marketing has promised, one is going to deal with a lot of angry faces, clenched fists and raised voices. But going one step further than just good internal communication Don says he also makes sure that his external stakeholders are also in sync with the latest promotion that KOTTULABS is running. This way the restaurant has all the raw ingredients it needs to create the product that has been promised to the public.

As we know KOTTULABS unique selling point, or what sets them apart from the crowd is that customers can make his or her own dish according to their tastes. KOTTULABS tag line “You’re the chefs, We’re the cooks” means that the team are working with around 108+ different possible Kottu dishes. It also means that at any given time the restaurant must be able to create any one of these 108+ dishes. Which, if you think about it is a great marketing tactic but a logistical nightmare. So how do they do it? Good communication and great relationships paly a huge role here.

Don says that coming from an education background all the ‘management and marketing theories’ that was second nature to him there has really helped him, and the team to keep the ball rolling and helped them keep the business fresh and exciting. Flexibility and the wiliness to adapt and change as and when the market changes is what keeps a business afloat says Don. “You can’t dig your heals in and say that you will only serve one specific product/dish if that item is not generating a return” says Don. He also says that since the restaurant opened three years ago, they have discarded several dishes and ideas that were not working for them and added new options and changed things so many times. He says this will continue to happen to make sure that KOTTULABS is satisfying customer needs with fresh and new products while also making a healthy profit.

With that in mind, Don says there are lots of irons in the fire where the future of KOTTULABS is concerned. Currently KOTTULABS is working on many other projects. Watch this space, he says.

Written by Shali Jayasuriya

Shali is a freelance writer and blogger. She has written articles for clients from various fields, as well as developing content for websites and social media as well as copy writing for press releases, collateral and internal marketing. She has extensive marketing experience and has worked in various industries including aviation and hospitality, education and e-commerce. Read her blog at

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