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Where Y’Eat: Closing a Restaurant the Right Way

By Ken Hawkins via Wikimedia Commons

We know people are prone to flock to the newest restaurant to open up. In New Orleans, we also know people tend to pack an old favorite that's closing down. They want one last visit.

It can be memorable. It can be profitable for a business on the way out. And I wonder why sometimes people never get a chance to do it. Recent experience around New Orleans shows this phase of a restaurant’s life needs more attention.

The decision to close any business must be wrenching, and it’s often not even a decision. The end becomes inevitable.

What’s hard to figure is why some decide to spring the news on their customers and even their own staff with no advance notice. This is the time of year when it happens a lot. The slow summer slump in the New Orleans restaurant business means closures predictably stack up.

Sometimes, they bow out gracefully, even ending on a high note. And then, sometimes restaurants leave you wondering. Staff arrive for a shift to learn they’re out of a job.

Altruism isn’t even required to see there should be a better way. A business owner’s self interest should be enough.

When people learn a restaurant is closing, many want to go back one more time. It keeps the till running. A business can recoup some money and sell off some stock, even if it has to suck up the gift cards floating around out there. Tipped employees typically have great final shifts as sympathetic regulars open their wallets.

Give people a chance and the results can be heartening, even if they don’t change the trajectory for a declining business. When people learned the steakhouse Crazy Johnnie’s would close, they turned out in such numbers it stayed open much longer than planned. Ditto for Mizado, where customers kept the doors open an extra month before it finally closed.

Not all decisions happen under the best circumstances, but there are still ways to make the best of bad situations. Ending a business will always be difficult. It doesn’t have to be a disaster.

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