It’s painful to watch the decline of a favourite cafe – it’s been under new management for the last 2 months. It was probably not an easy business to sell, as the menu is complex and standards high – that would make it intimidating for many potential purchasers. The previous owners set it up ten years ago, and it has a passionate following – for the product and for them as people. But new owners should expect this – it is too personal a business for them to assume people won’t notice and care about changes. Just doing the same as before is never enough in situations like this – cafe failure is always a possibility.
What else have I noticed?
- The beautiful fresh flowers on the front table are now skimpy, or missing. No more quirky signs or humorous touches.
- Instagram action has fallen away – previously we would see something wonderful just out of the oven almost every day.
- Most of the familiar staff have gone. That is inevitable with a changeover, but we miss the friendly greetings, especially from the previous owners. This ’emotional leadership’ can be replaced by new faces, but there are no obvious owners taking on this role – who is running the show? Who is the new chef? Many people like to know this…
- Cake cabinets are a little less full and abundant. They may have been overstocked before, but all that great food piled high was part of the attraction.
- Signs of carelessness – staff touching hair between serving, cash sales not rung up properly. Maybe I’m watching too closely?
- Decline in coffee quality – have they changed brands?!? This can be a disaster for regulars, and I’ve heard comment from others.
Taking over a popular business will always be a challenge, and the last thing that regulars want is change. There’s a strong need for stability, continuity and even more friendliness. Once a slide starts to happen, it can be reversed, but it needs ‘turnaround marketing’ skills that many people don’t have.
>> Check the positive companion article to this: When You Take Over a Cafe or Restaurant – How to Do It Right .