Sunday, April 26, 2009

You need your customers more than they need you

While vacationing in St. John, my husband and I had the pleasure of meeting Richard Meyer, the proprietor for "The Lime Inn". We discussed the economy and inquired how the recession had affected his restaurant. Without hesitation he replied, “Business has been slow.”

Vacationers are traveling to St John, especially now that it is spring, but they are spending all of their time at the beach. Retail sales, restaurant activity and chartered excursions are suffering. I understood spending your entire vacation at the beach, but couldn’t comprehend why tourists were not eating at the restaurants. Groceries on the island are quite expensive (about double what I pay in Milwaukee); since food is expensive anyway, why go to all the extra trouble of shopping, cooking and cleaning up?

Upon further investigation, we discovered travelers are not buying food on the island; they are bringing it with them. They pack steaks, chicken, and sandwich fixings all in an ice chest then check it as one of their checked bags.

A couple of days later, we visited Richard's restaurant, The Lime Inn, which surprisingly was filled to capacity. The group ahead of us was told there would be an hour wait ‘til they could be seated. They left. Richard spotted us, apologized for the lack of tables then offered to have us sit at the server bar or the customer bar saying, "I need you more than you need me." We choose the server bar. This ended up being one of our favorite vacation experiences. Katy, the bartender, not only served us our food, but acted as a quasi tour guide recommending vacation hotspots and giving us insight into what it’s like living in St. John. Plus, the food was excellent. I highly recommend the Shay’s seafood sausage appetizer.

With discount chains such as Wal-Mart, Costco, and McDonalds pushing out businesses in every major city and small town, it is important in a down economy to distinguish your business through customer service. Take note of Richard’s sage observation "I need your more than they need me.”


  1. Oh, God, packing your own victuals? I'd rather just skip the whole vacation and spend my money eating out while staying at home. I will never understand the ways most people save money--seems like if you're going to St. John, you could just save somewhere else and do it up right while you're on your "vacation." Otherwise, why waste the money and the resources on plane fuel?

    Or maybe I just don't understand the appeal of a beach, seeing as how I don't own a swimsuit. On purpose.

  2. Savvy6:50 PM

    Great points CR. I too thought why waste the money on plane fuel. Several years ago, we traveled to Mexico for a long week-end, staying at an all-inclusive resort. The food was mediocre, the accommodations just average, the beach was sub par and crowded. I spent the weekend getting up at the crack of dawn to claim a lounge chair, so I could sit on the crowded beach and read all day. By the end of the four days, I couldn’t help but think next year if I can't afford a decent vacation I'd be better off staying home where I can eat my own mediocre food, sit on my own couch, avoid the hassles of travel and save $2,000 in the process. (Also, the pool had these underwater bar stools where a loud obnoxious group spent the afternoon drinking; I was convinced they were peeing in the pool.)