My family enjoys going to a Chinese restaurant near where we live. For the past three years, we go there once or twice a month.
One day a few months ago, we went there again. The first thing we noticed when we walked into the restaurant was that all of the waiters and waitress were new. I’ve never seen them before. I thought they just hired a few new employees.
We then ordered a few familiar dishes. But, all of the dishes tasted very different. We usually ordered very similar dishes every time. So, it’s very easy for us to tell something was not right.
I talked to the waitress. "You know, the dishes taste really weird."
"What do you mean?"
"We’ve been here many times before, but these dishes just tasted different today".
"How could that be possible? We have the same chef cooking here."
"But, all of you look different. I’ve never seen you guys before. Did the owner sell the restaurant?"
She paused; looked around. Then she said. "no, the owner went to Hawaii for a long vacation."
I didn’t believe her. We kept eating the not-so-delicious dishes. Then an older waitress walked by. She asked me: "you said that the dishes taste different, can you tell me how different?"
"Why are you asking me. You should know."
"Oh. I just want to find out so that we can improve".
"Are you the new owner?"
She didn’t say "yes" or "no". She skillfully changed the topic, and left.
It’s becoming pretty clear that the restaurant had a new owner. But, they didn’t want to tell their customers about it.
It’s funny — the same thing happened to me last weekend.
I used to work in downtown Seattle, and there was a hot dog stand that I occasionally visited. Until this time, the owner was always there selling the hot dog himself. He was a middle-aged men with a friendly smile. He kept the hot dog stand very clean.
When I went to buy hot dog this weekend, the hot dog stand were manned by two young men in their early 20’s.
"Are you guys new owners?" I asked.
"Oh, no. The owner is in Hawaii."
I smiled, but didn’t say anything.
They still had the same menu, but the stand looked dirtier and messier. One customer accidentally dropped a coin onto the grill when he handed the money to cashier. The cashier used the chef’s tongs to pick up the coin, and then immediately use the tongs to pick up the meat on the grill.
It’s gross. The previous owner would never do that. I’d never go back there again.
Both the Chinese restaurant and the hot dog stand wanted to maintain the brand/clients under the previous owners. But, as a customer, what I care most is the preservation of the customer experience that I’ve always enjoyed. I don’t really care there is a change of ownership as long as I can have the same experience. Unfortunately, both businesses have failed in this regard.
Next time when a new owner tells you that the previous owner goes to Hawaii, just tell them that you’ll be back when the owner is back. Let’s see what they say.
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