Dining with Pokémon and Hello Kitty
Can character-themed cafes thrive in our over-saturated cafe scene?
Character-themed cafes are all the rage now.
The latest opening of the Pokémon café saw a five-hour queue on its opening day, while other similar cafes such as Hello Kitty and Pompompurin still welcome large crowds during peak hours.
It is surprising these cafes have only decided to set foot in Singapore this year, a cosmopolitan city that is also known for being a food paradise.
I will be honest – I was sceptical when I first saw the news of these cafes’ opening. Singapore’s café scene is already over-saturated, with tons of new cafes sprouting even at the most ulu corner in Singapore every month.
Will foodies and café-hoppers alike really be bought over so easily?
Such doubts were clearly unfounded. Months prior to the Pokémon café’s grand opening at Bugis, news of its opening were widely circulated on Facebook, with many delighted Pokémon fans pledging their attendance.
So, what makes these character-themed cafes so irresistible?
Perhaps the most obvious answer will be the character-inspired interiors and food menus these cafes market themselves on. For die-hard fans, these experiences are like a dream come true and cannot be found elsewhere.
Other than the chance to be surrounded by your favourite characters, these themed cafes also sell exclusive merchandises such as T-shirts, keychains, and plush toys that you can bring home – another huge selling point for die-hard fans.
22-year-old student Jason Chua, a self-proclaimed Pokémon fan, told me his main reason for braving the crowd at the Pokémon cafe: “I had to queue for two hours. But what really attracted me was the original Pokéball mug that I can bring home.”
However, when asked about his experience there, he shared: “We had to wait for a long time before the food came – and they were cold. I don’t think I’ll head back anytime soon.”
Besides slow service and food quality that did not live up to the patrons’ expectations, it seems like these cafes may be lacking in ambience as well.
Perhaps some of these character-themed cafes are unable to handle large crowds, as similar complaints about food quality and preparation time continue to appear online.
Character-themed cafes may be able to sell on cute interior designs and character-inspired foods for now, but fundamentally, they are still F&B businesses that rely on returning customers to thrive.
If food quality and service standards continue to be unsatisfactory, they might see a loss in returning customers in the long run, turning these character-themed cafés into another fad.
A piece of advice for even the most devoted fans? With pricey food and long wait times, it is better for you to wait for the crowd to die down before heading down.
If you are a nocturnal animal, why not give the 24-hour Hello Kitty Café a try at the wee hours of the day? You may even get to have the whole café to yourself!