Recently I have come across two businesses that in  my humble opinion have missed the point. I am not going to identify either business as that is not the important issue.

Business One. The first is a small food business. It does mainly take away food and also has enough seating for around 10 – 12 people. So hardly a restaurant. It is relatively new and opened about 6 months ago.

Just a couple of weeks ago, a typed sign appeared on the door, that due to the economic downturn, they could no longer survive and had to close. Now that is sad.

But there is always a back story – in my view anyway. Within 50 metres of the business, there are 5 other very similar businesses. One is a complete restaurant, but the others  are very similar in style and nature to the one that has closed. They are all full whenever they are open and two have alfresco dining and they overflow onto the street.

My wife and I visited the business that has closed when it first opened. The service was fine, but the food just not to our liking. They sold a very particular type of food from a European country. Probably popular there, but we didn’t like it. We have met several people who all had the same opinion. None of us went back a second time.

So how did they miss the point? Well I think they probably didn’t consider that if 5 other food businesses within literally a few paces were doing so well, why weren’t they? There are only 4 reasons that I can think of that people won’t return to eat a restaurant – 1. The food, 2. The quantity. 3. The service. 4. The price. In this case, in our experience, the food was the problem. The other 3 boxes were ticked. It would have been very simple to alter the menu just slightly, and I believe they would have had customers queuing, like the other businesses.

Instead, they chose to close. I think they missed the point by asking the wrong questions.


Business Two. This was a small cafe in regional Western Australia. It was the only cafe for miles and was near a major tourist attraction, and I mean major. The problem was, they apparently didn’t like customers or people or both – customers appeared to be a very inconvenient interruption to their day.

The first thing I noticed was the number of places in a huge carpark where you could NOT park. The attraction was a drawcard for tourist coaches which probably carried between 20 and 50 people, but they were not allowed to park near the door even though the majority of the passengers were older citizens.

At the door there was a sign announcing that I was not allowed inside with muddy shoes or boots. The cafe is surrounded by farms!

Inside, the sign announced that the toilets could only be used by people buying food – and you had to queue up to get the key.

Next there was a sign inside (and outside) that the bin was not for any rubbish other than wrappings from food that had been bought there. It was written thus: “Don’t bring your rubbish here so we have to dispose of it – only rubbish from this cafe allowed in the bin”.

Then of course there was the limited menu at certain times and on certain days, and the inability to sit down unless you had bought a meal – snacks did not count apparently.

All in all it was a decidedly unfriendly place.

So? If they just changed the wording of their signs to not be negative and made the cafe more welcoming, then their business would, I think,  explode. I talked to locals who said no-one went there because it was too negative and unfriendly. The owners were well known not to like tourists!! Even the coach drivers were not given a free coffee or tea – something that in my experience happens at every country cafe – a way to ensure the drivers continue to bring 50 customers. Lots of drivers apparently drive to the next cafe.

I know it must be a pain to have to clean the toilets after a lot of people have used them, but they were inside the business and so my guess is that a fair proportion would have bought something once they were in there.

The whole place was negative and the owners complained when I spoke to them about how bad business was – I wonder why – especially as hundreds of people if not thousands drove by them each day on their way to the tourist attraction. There was no other food place for about 50 kilometres!

So I think these owners missed the point about being welcoming and friendly and understanding that customers were their business.