And We Wonder Why Customers Just Don’t Come Back

 In 1. David Scott Peters, Marketing, Operations

And We Wonder Why Customers Just Don’t Come Back

I know, I know, I sound like a broken record. The more passionate I am about helping the independent restaurant owner thrive, not just survive, in the sea of chain restaurants out there…the more frustrated I become when I see the independent operator shoot themselves in the foot!

Tonight I took my family to a small barbeque restaurant just a few miles from my house. It’s tucked away from the main road. Its signage is simply “BBQ” (I’m sure a restriction from the landlord). And on top of that…there is a HUGE Famous Dave’s BBQ Chain restaurant literally a stones throw away across the street.

We’ve seen this restaurant from a distance for literally years and have never stopped by. Don’t ask me why, but it just never seemed inviting to us.

Tonight that all changed. We were on our Independent Restaurant Operator quest (and if you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that’s difficult in my neighborhood).

The restaurant was surprisingly well decorated. It felt pretty comfortable with a very cowboy feel to it. It seated about 40. It had a walk up counter/cashier to order from with a very pleasant young lady behind the register.

The menu board was next to impossible to read. We were offered menus to look at and we placed our order and paid.

Out the orders started to come. First Sue, my wife, and Brooke, my daughter, had their sandwiches brought to the table. Sue’s came out on a generic white Styrofoam plate. Brooke’s on a Zoo Pals plate. Each received no silverware or napkins and none were on the table.

My son, Tyler, and I were going to split a full rack of ribs (Translation, Daddy was getting a lot of ribs! ). Ours came out on a beautiful wood cutting board. We were given plates that you might find at your grandmothers. They were yellow with a flower pattern on them. We were given silverware and napkins.

Besides that fact that the food was OK at best, what was wrong with this picture? Across the street, Famous Dave’s was on an hour plus wait doing tens of thousands of dollars in business, while this little BBQ place had three tables.


  1. The food was nothing to write home about.
  2. The menu board was difficult to read and looked terrible.
  3. Our meals were served on disposable plates and on china and wood cutting board. (It wasn’t consistent at all)

The décor said to us, hey this place could be a real find.

The menu board said, this must be a Mom and Pop operation.

The food said, either we came on a bad night or this isn’t good BBQ.

The plates and silverware, or lack there of, reminded me of going to your Aunts’ house for a forth of July BBQ. You got your meal on what ever you could get your hands on.


Please, please, please pay attention to the small details. They make a difference in your customers mind when its time to decide where to go to eat.


I may be bias, but I know a WINNER when I see one.

A couple of weeks ago I was in Newtown, CT meeting my Elite Members for our quarterly meeting. We were visiting Elite Member Rob Ryder’s restaurants. He has quickly built the State of Connecticut’s BEST BBQ restaurants hands down (Maybe the BEST ANYWHERE).

Let me tell you what a successful Independently Owned restaurant should look like. Rob’s restaurants are called The Cook House. You can see their menu and pictures of the restaurants by going to

Each of his restaurants are impeccably clean and inviting for the whole family. The atmosphere is unusually comfortable, from the oldest store to the newest.

Now the food…THE BEST BBQ I’VE EVER HAD!!!!! Heck, they are creative too, with the first and only BBQ Sunday I’ve ever seen! It’s not a dessert. It’s an appetizer and it’s really, really good.

The service was friendly and fun. And it’s no wonder I told Rob that his restaurants had the whole package and could kick Famous Dave’s Pig Hind Quarters if they ever decided to expand on a grand scale.

Learn from one restaurant’s mistakes. Learn from another’s success.

Pay attention to all the details. They really matter!

If your restaurant is empty, it may be time to look at your operation with a critical eye…a customers eye.

Remember to keep smiling,

David Scott Peters

PS – If you’re ever in the Newtown, CT area, you MUST stop by one of The Cook House Restaurant’s. Tell the manager on duty that David Scott Peters sent you. Maybe they’ll give you the nickel tour.

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