Out to lunch with… Simon Faure-Field (CEO of Equal Strategy)

Appetite – Interview Sheryl Quek photography Matthew Lee

You can’t see it, you can’t touch it. But Simon Faure-Field‘s chosen field is one that will affect how you feel through your sense of hearing and smell.

His job is to create signature fragrances and customized music soundtracks, especially for restaurants and hotels, to ‘create an imprint on customer sensibility and brand the overall experience.’

Sounds a little out there? We can assure you, quite truly, that his work is real and practical. It’s all to do with a new, niche area of business called brand atmospherics, now a hot trend in the United States and Europe. And, according to the 37-year-old Englishman, Asia is hopping on the bandwagon as more hotels and restaurants pay attention to the aural and olfactory aspects of their place of business.

Notably, Simon’s fragrance solutions can effectively neutralize residual cooking smells at the molecular level, which can make them quite ideal for hotels with cafes adjacent to the lobby or guest reception area. Locally, M Hotel, Naumi Hotel and Pan Pacific Hotel are just some of his clients.

Appetite finds out just what Simon has to say on the business of smelling good.

In a nutshell, explain ‘brand atmospherics’ consistency. It’s about the customer having a consistent experience that reflects what the brand is about. Take Naumi Hotel, an upmarket 44-room hotel. The music we provide in the lobby and bar area has a fresh, modern feel that reflects the hotel’s positioning. Even the music you hear on the phone when you call the hotel is customized. It’s all sends a powerful subconscious message.

How did you get into this business? We started Equal Strategy in 1998 in the middle of the Asian economic crises. I realized that a lot of businesses do not practice consistent branding and neglect sensory branding. The music you play n the phone affects how the customer reacts, especially when it comes to the perception of waiting time. With high tempo music, they don’t feel like they are waiting as long as when low tempo music is played. The telephone hotline is a key customer touch point and that is an aspect that is often overlooked.

Sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing- which do you value most? The sense of smell. Walk into an outlet and if it doesn’t smell nice, you won’t want to stay there.

How do you create fragrances for your clients? You have to connect the fragrance to the relevant business. Three things you have to consider are: the business, the brand and the environment. What is the concept behind the business and how do they want people to behave? Do they want people to slow down and relax or movie quickly and be refreshed? Take a sports shop – it should smell energizing and refreshing. In this case, a citrus-based scent is ideal. In a restaurant environment, however, a lavender scent is best. It’s been proven too, the guests stay longer, drink more and spend more time in restaurant that use lavender scents, compared to those that use citrus-based ones.

We all know that music and smells can shape our perceptions. But isn’t it all subjective and not as quite an exact science? Yes, general aspects are subjective – such as music genre. But understanding the arousal aspect of sound and scent is quite scientific.

So what is the first thing that you notice when you step into a restaurant? The ‘mood’ of the restaurant.

What are your favorite cuisines? I enjoy Italian. But I go through phases – each lasts at least six months. These days, we have been doing dim sum virtually every weekend. So Shanghai dim sum is my No.1 favorite.

What are some of the most common requests by your clients? No two clients are the same. For each client, we start with a blank canvas. The most requests is: ‘Our music is awful- the staff keeps meddling with the CDs and we have no control over what’s being played. Please help us!

What brought you out to Asia? I was offered an exciting role in a growing communications company in Singapore, and I was attracted by the vibrancy and opportunities of the Asian markets.

When did you get your first taste of Asia? My grandmother used to live in Burma, so Asian food is very much part of my life. It left a very deep impression on me. I first visited Singapore and Malaysia when I was 10, as my Dad worked for Pearl and Dean.

What’s your favorite dish at Blu? The Maine lobster, it’s fantastic.

Fine dining restaurant or hawker centre? Hawker centres are not so good because you get sweaty. I don’t like to go for meetings with someone who reeks of the hawker centres so I don’t do it to them.

What dish can’t you live without in Asia? Nasi padang. There’s only one place I go for it in Singapore: Sinar Nasi Padang at Circular Road.

Rate yourself as foodie. Eight out of 10. I enjoy my food and when I find a place I like, I am a really loyal customer. I am not as adventurous as I used to be – but that’s because I tend to get upset when I am disappointed by the food.