A restaurant in my town closed its doors the other day completely unannounced. Without even a hint that things weren’t going well. In fact, I ate there just last week and had to wait for a table — the place was that crowded.
I learned the news that my favorite go-to place for a night out was gone the usual way news travels in today’s small towns: through social media. The chatter started on Facebook and Twitter on a Thursday night. The area online news publication posted the story that same night. The next day, the daily paper covered the news.
I still couldn’t believe the restaurant had really closed, so went to see for myself. Sure enough, there was a sign on its front door, “We are sorry to say that we are now closed. Thank you for your business. Please visit us at our other locations,” with a list of other businesses (none that were really nearby).
True, this business operates other restaurants. Also true, my rewards card (free dessert or appetizer after 10 visits) would still be honored. But their closest location is a 30-minute drive from my house.
Would I really want to drive even a short distance to someone else’s local restaurant where the hostess and wait staff don’t know my usual order or my name? And where was the customer service when they decided to shutter their doors without even informing their regular customers?
Ironically, I received an email about the restaurant closing a full week after the story ran in the paper, without an explanation or an incentive to dine at their other locations.
Regardless of the type of small business you run, your customers are your lifeline. Sometimes change happens, and you have to make quick decisions. But don’t let your valued customers be the last to know what’s happening.
When you have news to share with your customers, prepare a carefully worded explanation and send it directly to them. Don’t let them find out through other sources, which may not be reliable. Annoy one customer and you run the risk of annoying them all. Keep pertinent information from them, and don’t expect a following wherever you may land.
Luckily, there are other restaurants nearby that will soon be our next favorite place to dine. But I’ll miss the peanut butter silk pie.
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