Eye witness account: How a business is destroying itself

Regular readers know that I am based on the South Coast of NSW living in a small village (and commuting to Sydney as required.) The town relies quite heavily on the tourist trade (weekends and holidays) and comprises only two blocks of retail trade in the main street.

There are only 5 or 6 decent coffee shop options in town. Personally, there are two that we frequent depending on the circumstances (including who is behind the machine). This store was at the premium end with numerous local business awards and south coast tourism awards. A medium coffee was $4 – going back more than 3 years to give you an idea.

Despite this, it was the most popular coffee shop on the strip and many locals could be seen there regularly getting the same thing at the same time.

About a year ago one of these shops changed hands. The new owners have retail experience – but no hospitality experience.

This is the story so far:

  • Within a few weeks, several of the (relatively) long-term staff left.
  • Within a month or two, the prices went up, including charging locals the holiday surcharge.
  • Within another month, the chef left.
  • Portions started to shrink, but to be fair the quality has not deteriorated on most dishes, although I don’t think the menu is an improvement. (Although this is a matter of taste.)
  • The coffee became inconsistent as instead of the one barista (pretty much all the time) they opted for a rotation policy.
  • Staff would enter the store through the front entrance when they clock on.
  • Wait times increased.
  • On rainy/quiet days they started packing up at around 4pm – where this previously would never have happened.
  • On the busy days (like Fridays) they often have only 3 people on the floor – and to be brutal about it, it would be the C-team where none of the staff could handle the multi-tasking at POS without getting flustered.
  • Regulars started migrating to the other coffee shop – and to day it is rarely the busiest on the strip – except on some weekends where they capture many first-timers.
  • They registered a Facebook page and tried a few ‘innovative’ things like special menu nights and even music evenings – but that has stopped.
  • ·        Not so long ago this review appeared on Google Places:


“Was a regular customer, then during the school holidays (not a public holiday or sunday) went in for lunch, and the public holiday menu was given to us. We said "oh i think you've given us the wrong menu" and the waitress said "no it's the right one, it's the holidays" and we said "it's not a public holiday" and she said "yes but it's the school holidays" and we said "thats ridiculous, you cant charge 15% extra just because it's school holidays, that's illegal" and she said "that's the menu" so we got up and left. what a joke. never been back.

(Since they haven’t bothered to claim their Google Places business, they cannot manage this effectively.)

These are just some of the symptoms.

My questions to you dear reader, are:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Since I am a local consumer, how do you think I should handle this scenario?

Look forward to your diagnosis in the comments…


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