Locals and the Survival of Business

12 11 2006

I’m compelled to write on this important topic due to an event yesterday that really ticked me off. Leelanau is a tourist county, it is a county that doubles in size in the summer and shrinks away to nothing in the winter. Each business in this county makes the bulk of their money during the summer months. Many simply shut down in the winter rather than trying to survive. Each business that stays open hopes to have just enough in reserve to make it through the long winter when things slow down. If there is one thing you don’t want to do in this county as a business owner, it’s piss off a local. We locals are who put food on your table in the winter. We locals are your repeat business, your loyal customers, your friends and neighbors. Without us, you can not sustain your business and make a profit at the same time, ESPECIALLY after Labor Day.

That said, once again another business in the Village of Suttons Bay has pissed me off. My parents and I went to Boone’s Prime Time Pub last night for dinner. Earlier in the year, my parents had received a gift certificate to Boone’s. My parents don’t just randomly visit restaurants, particularly mid to high price restaurants. They aren’t cheap, it’s just not something they do. I’m fairly comfortable saying that had it not been for this gift certificate we would not have eaten there. Anyhow, the food was good, the service was good and the atmosphere was even good. Boone’s has a ‘good food and atmosphere’ reputation and has for many years. My parents presented the gift certificate, along with a cash tip to the server and off we went. The next thing we knew, the server was hollering out the door trying to tell us that they didn’t accept those gift certificates any more. There are 2 things wrong with this. First, it’s extremely tacky, we had already left the restaurant. Second, it’s not my parents problem that the restaurant no longer accepts gift certificates. This establishment already got their money once, what they hell were there doing asking for it again?

The excuse from the manager on duty was that the restaurant was under new management. To that I say BIG FUCKING DEAL! Where were the signs saying that gift certificates were no longer accepted, why did the server TAKE the gift certificate and accept it AFTER we were sure to ask when we handed it to her if it was still valid? For a meal costing under $40 (the value of the gift certificate), the manager should have simply eaten their loss. Now, they’ve PISSED OFF A LOCAL and I won’t be visiting their establishment this winter. I’m going to tell my obligatory 7 people about this experience. Folks, when you piss off a consumer, that consumer will tell a minimum of 7 people about their experience. Those 7 people will tend to tell 7 more. Pretty soon, you start to loose lots of business because of ONE person that you pissed off. If there is ONE single rule that you must follow as a business owner in a small, seasonal town, it’s take care of the locals. The minute you don’t, you’ve lost a sale and potentially a life long repeat customer. Hanson’s Foods in Suttons Bay has lost my business for a life time because of their arrogance, I’ll have to think long and hard about Boone’s too.

I’ve eaten at Boone’s no fewer than 10 times in the past 5 months. Take my average check for 2 people (about $30 with tip) and multiply that by 10 and you’ve got $300. Subtract the cost of food and labor to prepare it and Boone’s has made a likely profit on me of at least $150. That’s a phone bill or some other utility bill. It’s 8 hours of labor for a server, its a contribution towards the building lease. Take it further, multiply that $150 by the seven people I’m going to tell about this…that’s $1050! You figure it out from here.

NOTE TO LOCAL BUSINESSES: If you think tourists are going to put cash in your pocket in the winter up here you had better think again. A good business decision starts with thoughtful consideration of who your customer base is. If you intend to take advantage of that base, you had better have plans in place for another venture.

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