Why do people run food businesses if …

Why do people try to run businesses if they don’t have the proper approach or mindset? Two examples of someone who should have not gone into the food business :

The Cheapskate Cafe Owner

Visit #1 : ‘Excuse me, we’re closing’

The husband & I were excited when we heard that a new coffee shop/cafe was opening near us. In our minds, you can never have too many cafes or coffee shops. This cafe had a chocolate theme, so it was another reason to visit them. Since we live in an area where very little stays open past 9 or 10pm, we usually only went to this cafe on the weekends when they stayed open until 11pm. Besides having to remind them to go light on the chocolate for our Cafe Mocha, we decided that their selection of cheesecake desserts definitely put this on our ‘keepers’ list.

Several weeks after they opened, we decided to meet some friends at the new cafe. It was a Saturday, so we knew that the cafe would be open until 11pm. It was 10:30pm when we got to the cafe, and there were about 5-6 other people there when we all arrived. The owner (an older women in her late forties) was working behind the counter that night, along with 3 of her employees (ie – part-time teenager help). Several of us ordered drinks and desserts (killer raspberry cheesecake slices!) and settled down at a table toward the front of the cafe.

About 10 minutes before closing, the part-time staff started their cleaning routine. At this point, there were only several other people in the cafe besides ourselves, so the staff started in an unoccupied area. The other parties left, making us the only customers. Knowing that the cafe would be closing soon, we were talking about what our plans were for the rest of the evening when the owner came up to our table :

Owner : “Excuse me, but could you finish up your drinks and food? My staff is trying to clean up to close; they are hourly and I have to pay them overtime the longer you sit here.”


We were stunned speechless. After an awkward minute, our group got up and left. The owner followed us to the door, locking it after we exited. After a couple of minutes, it sunk in what had just happened – the owner threw us out because she didn’t want her staff to work longer than the scheduled close time. And while we didn’t mind being reminded that the cafe was closing, the way that the owner communicated this made it obvious that she had never worked in the food service industry, or any business where customer service is integral.

So to those thinking of running a cafe or other business which requires interacting with customers – remember that service is a large part of the customer’s experience and can make or break people soliciting your business. This cafe is now on our ‘last resort’ list of places to go.

Visit # 2 : ‘We can’t do that’

Since very little is open late on the weekends, we’ve gone back to the mentioned cafe a couple of times. Fortunately, the owner wasn’t there the past few times when we went back, and we remembered to go way before closing so we wouldn’t run into the same issue as before. :P

Several months later, we found ourselves at the cafe with two of our friends one late Saturday afternoon, ordering coffee to go. Our usual order (a cafe mocha, light on the chocolate, no cherry and no chocolate coated spoon), was taken by the cashier. Our friends then ordered their drinks. Since one of them wanted a lighter version of a cafe mocha, they asked if they could get a cafe american with chocolate. Unfortunately, when they made their request, the owner had switched places with the regular cashier, who was explaining our order to the person manning the espresso machine .

Customer – “Can you make a cafe american with a little bit of chocolate?”
Owner – “Oh, we can’t do that – you have to order the drink you want from our menu selection.”
Customer – “Well, I don’t want a heavy espresso drink so I wanted to see if you could just add a little chocolate to the cafe american.”
Owner – “No, you have to order one of the drinks listed on the menu. If we start adding or taking away, this confuses the staff and we have to figure out the cost difference and charge you for it.”
Customer – “Oh…”

Our friend ended up ordering a hot chocolate instead.

European coffee drinkers will know that a ‘cafe’ american is simply an espresso drink which has had about 8-10oz of hot water added, to simulate the drip coffee that Americans are used to drinking as their coffee. So the owner could have just added a dollop of melted chocolate to appease our friend. But once again, the ‘cost conscience’ side of the owner expressed itself in denying the customer’s request.

So why did this person decide to open a food business, when they obviously don’t have any ‘customer service’ sensibility?!

One Response to “Why do people run food businesses if …”

  1. Good Food Good Service» Blog Archive » Coffee shop/cafe business update … Says:

    [...] our local food businesses seem to have as a common trait. I learned an interesting update to my rant post about the coffee shop/cafe owner who didn’t seem to put their customers’ wants first [...]

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