A recent family vacation found us staying in a Washington, D.C., residential neighborhood. Tony, hip, and vibrant, this part of town had every type of small business imaginable: Hair salons, nail salons, bookstores, ice cream parlors, and restaurants of every flavor.
And one lone bagel shop.
Looking to escape the $9 glass of orange juice that our large hotel offered, we ventured out on a Saturday morning and came across this bagel shop. The line was literally at the door, which you would think is a good thing for a small business.
Perhaps. But once inside, we encountered chaos. There was no sense of order, no discernable line, and the workers behind the counter were shouting out orders as if we were on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
With hungry kids and no food in sight, we left to find breakfast elsewhere.
So, what was going wrong?
Just because you’re the only small business of its kind in town doesn’t give you the license to run things willy-nilly. And, a about a half-mile down the main thoroughfare, we came across a chain store. No long lines; no shouting; no chaos.
Now, a small business may not be able to offer the same service options that a chain store can provide. For instance, in addition to more counter people, the chain store offered self-serve kiosks where you key in your order, use a payment card, and have your breakfast brought to your table.
But there’s a lesson to be learned here. When you know it’s going to be one of your busiest times of the day or week, staff accordingly. Also, set up signage that directs folks where to place their order and where to pick up. In addition, you could have someone on the other side of the counter directing customers for a smoother flow of traffic, handing out order forms to speed the process, or even delivering orders table-side, if space permits.
Remember, just because you may be the only establishment of its kind in town, it doesn’t mean you can be oblivious to the smallest details that could determine whether a new customer comes on board or a repeat customer truly repeats. In this instance, the chain store filled our needs (and our stomachs). Who knows how many residents will make this choice the next time they have a hankering for bagels?
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