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Edition 245 – Permanently Closing

I caught up with my expert IT consultants on the Central Coast for lunch a few weeks ago. They’re a key part of our business and without their expertise, responsiveness and ability to pull rabbits out of hats, we wouldn’t be able to function as a business.

When I turn up to the cafe they‘ve suggested, the first thing that struck me was a sign at the door stating “We’re permanently closing from the 6th October”. “That’s a shame”, I say to myself. Having been here before, it’s a nice place with good food and a great view over Lake Macquarie. Perhaps they’re a victim of how COVID 19 has impacted the hospitality game, I wonder.

I’m the first to arrive, a little before my lunch guests. The chap at the front counter, let’s call him Mr Personality, asks my details, then says he can’t fit me in, even though there is a booking. I point to the old school paper diary on the desk in front of him, tap on the name of my lunch guests and say “I’m with them”. His response continues his warm welcome – “You’ll have to go away until a table is ready!”

My lunch guests arrive shortly afterwards, but not before I’ve retreated to a park bench, on my own, away from the cafe.

Throughout lunch, the service was consistently inconsistent. Meals delivered at different times. Meals placed down for us to eat, without cutlery. Plates left on ours and other tables afterwards….a long time afterwards. Certainly not very hygienic in a world, in a year, where we’re sanitising everything that moves.

Let’s face it. This business isn’t closing as a result of COVID. This business is closing as a result of disinterest on the part of the owners. It’s closing because they’ve forgotten that in the hospitality game, you actually have to be hospitable!

Whilst we’re talking about one small cafe, the fact remains there are small and family businesses out there right now that need to up their game. So:

  1. Stop complaining about your customers and clients – they’re your reason for being there.
  2. Tidy up around you – if the stuff I see looks untidy, it makes me wonder about the stuff I don’t see and don’t understand.
  3. Answer the phone – one local business in the past week simply let the phone ring out. It’s easier to drop in, believe it or not.
  4. Pay attention to your customer’s needs – a Skim Latte, Extra Hot should not arrive as a Cappucino, particularly for those amongst us with a chocolate allergy.
  5. Greet people as they enter your premises – staff, contractors and clients. It’s not that hard, but somehow, you’ll stand out by making the smallest of fusses.
  6. Open up on time – or if you can’t, make it easy for people to understand why you can’t and when you will.
  7. Respond to emails and phone calls within reasonable time frames.
  8. Thank your customers and clients for their business.

Maybe everyone is just a little worn out after enduring 2020 the way we all have. Perhaps some of us have had enough and want to bring Christmas forward so they can head to the beach for a fortnight, two months early.

Or maybe, we need to remember what it was really like in April and May of this year (or more recently in Victoria!), when everywhere was quiet, when the shutters were pulled down and when the rules were “don’t go out”. They were the times when we worried how it would all play out – when we wondered when things might return to normal – and when some family business owners were just a little bit scared of the unknown.

Be grateful for the opportunity to have a business that people want to do business with, that provides a valuable product or service and builds a future for you and your family. The alternative isn’t that attractive.