When we are fortunate enough to indulge in a real lunch break, we all have a favorite spot. We are drawn there by the menu, the service, the location, or some combination of all three. When that rare triumvirate is attained, said lunch joint is elevated into a pantheon of perfect daytime escapes.
If something were to happen to that favorite, affecting the very attributes which draw us there time and time again, usually there are only a few more visits made before the prospect is abandoned entirely and left to ruin. A case in point is my own favorite lunch escape in the small metropolis where I live. They had the perfect menu, and in fact had recently added several new sandwiches, one of which was my absolute scientific and culinary philosophical ideal in terms of flavorful sustenance between two slices of bread.
Well, not long after I marveled at the improvements to an already flawless regimen at my favorite luncheon location, I was to be brutally disappointed. Evidently it had changed ownership. I was not aware of this fact until I crossed the threshold of the establishment afterward expecting the same luxurious departure from my daily routine to which I’d grown accustomed, and instead finding an utterly changed cafe.
My hopes were dashed when I saw a new hostess stand, tables rearranged in a bizarrely fast-foodlike fashion, and a new menu that retained the original cafe’s branding, but none of its gourmet offerings. The décor had been altered, stripped of its original character. Someone whom I eventually ascertained was part of the new management staff carried an empty and filthy bus tub back and forth through the dining room countless times in the vacant cafe.
As at this point it was only a few days since the change in ownership, I saw several people walk up to the door, glance inside, note the unfavorable alterations, and drift away. Never to enter the place again, I’m sure.
Ironically, this restaurant, which managed to flourish in a very un-chic town, was named “Caffe Niche.” Well, the new owners clearly didn’t know their niche. They abolished a thriving business and eliminated any loyalty customers had to a once thriving lunch spot.
I might be a bit early in condemning this business to failure, especially since I recently noted its patio was buzzing with diners one evening, but as a cautionary tale I think the experience still rings with meaning. Make sure you take a close look at what keeps your customers walking through the door before you conduct an arbitrary makeover. Sometimes it’s a lot more than just a sandwich that makes the meal.