Promoting Indonesian Food through Leveraging Visiting Tourists

Speaking of a long term strategy of Indonesian Food internationalization, Onboarding is a very crucial stage, it's when someone who's already curious about Indonesian food tried the food for the first time.

While broadly it means building Indonesian food restaurants all over the world, the more cost-effective solution (and a quick win), would be to leverage the stream of tourists visiting Indonesian cities! 

They're already eager for new experience, curious to try local food, and what's best than trying Indonesian food in its homeland? Refering to BJ Fogg's B=MAT behavior model, then it means that the Motivation (M) is already high, so that's left is the Ability (A) and Trigger (T) to create the expected Behavior (B) -- trying out Indonesian food.

While on most cases money is not an issue for the visiting tourists, sadly the availability and properness of good Indonesian food in the tourism destinations itself is often overlooked. 

While the street food stalls might offers authentic Indonesian taste, it's hygiene level is often worrying, and that poses a big problem for traveling tourists. Why?

Food Poisoning Risk

With just a few days of staying, the risk of food poisoning and spending several days in bed to recover is simply too high. Eating Indonesian food on the street then, would be something that the tourists have less Ability (A) for.

The restaurants therefore, provides a more suitable first encounter with its controlled environment as well as better hygiene standards.

However, most of Indonesian hotels are succumbed to the stigma that the taste of Indonesian food needs to be toned down to meet the International taste (read "The European Taste Stigma"), with the assumption that International audience have low tolerance for spice and local taste.

Issue with Recreating Authentic Indonesian Food in Restaurants

Outside of the taste discount issue, there's also the challenge of recreating authentic Indonesian food using European standard kitchen in the hotels and restaurants. Indonesian food are mainly cooked in traditional kitchen that utilizes traditional cooking wares and techniques, something that modern kitchens struggles as they utilizes a different cookwares with different cooking characters.

Take for example, the creation of sambal in traditional kitchen where chillies, palm sugar, terasi, shallots and other ingredients are mixed together through grinding them on stone mortar (coet/cobek), something that modern kitchen can't afford to do considering the effort and the time it take. While mixing the sambal ingredients together in a food processor might seem to do the trick, the absence of molecular binding of flavors releasable through manual grinding is noticeable, and to an older generation it's even unforgiven. I remember my late father in law (mertua) adamant demand on having his sambal only created using the old school Minang method using the huge stone mortar. Or the persistence of many housewives in the village to cook their rice the old way using two steps process of cooking and steaming, because the rice cooked in a rice cooker can't possibly compete.

While chefs might find a good workaround of the technical challenge, it simply means, there's a big challenge of creating truly authentic Indonesian food in hotels and restaurants. 

Alternatively, visiting tourists could also go out and have authentic Indonesian cuisine experience in traditional restaurants or warung. Unfortunately, Indonesian tourism destinations seldom have quality Indonesian restaurants exist that appeals to, or being actively promoted to international audience. This is the conditions that needs to be changed.


With the tourists already eager to try out Indonesian food, and they're already in Indonesia, the Trigger (T) in this Indonesian Food Onboarding scenario would be something easy to create, from something as menial as printed brochure, to a food festival.

The main concern however, which would ensure fruitful reward in the long run is on ensuring the Ability (A), Indonesian food must be made accessible to visiting tourists.

Let me know should you have comments. (byms)

BJ Fogg's Behavior Model image is from

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Rolland Grogg said...

Awesome post! I'll be referencing it many times over. You've done our breathtaking piece of town so much equity. Food Truck