I think we're tired ...

We are not an independent but we might as well be. We own a take-out/delivery outlet in a small (pop 4000)somewhat isolated community in Northern Ontario Canada. Our head office visits about once per year and we have little to no support from them. We are making a decent enough living but, every so often, thinks take a turn and we feel sort of hopeless.
We are steadily having more problems with our equipment which is getting old (15 years) and it is usually impossible to get anyone who knows anything about what they’re doing for repairs.
Our population is shrinking (but there may likely be a boom around the corner - five years or so). Our customer base is going down with along with our chances for quality staff.
Our only other competitor is surviving for reasons beyond our understanding. He came in and bought a small building, brought all his old equipment from a previous business elsewhere, proceeded to treat most people in town (including customers) quite poorly, made a mediocre product (well, we’re kind of biased but, chintzy toppings and bland taste) and I could go on. We initially lost about half our business when he initially came in but slowly recovered to the point of almost getting them all back. Now he’s sold (and left town!) and there’s been a grand (re)opening, etc. Our business has just dropped. Oh. Sigh. We are assuming that our superior product, our fast and friendly service and, the fact that our employees and their friends don’t gather at the front and smoke seemingly nonstop, will eventually bring most of them back again. But its hard you know? Especially in a small town where you have to close your eyes to people you know - parents of your kid’s friends, folks from church, your neighbourhood, etc. - and not let it get personal. But it does hurt.
I think we’re tired but we’re not old enough to retire.
I’m not sure why I’m writing this letter. A cheap form of therapy maybe?!
I initially came on this site to look at promo ideas. I think we’ve done them all at one time or another but we’re working with a tough crowd here. Money doesn’t always move them and we’re just not sure what we should do next.
I would appreciate any comments on our situation and any ideas around where we could turn for some marketing/promo ideas that work.

when someone has a grand opening, your business will suffer initially. People will always want to try the new guy in town.

Just continue your usual thing. Be courteous, give great service, and put out a great product.

You probably already have the majority of marketshare for your area.

After reading your thread, the first thing I thought of was new menu items. Give your current customers another reason to buy from you more often.

We do Pizza, Subs, Salads, Wings, and Pasta. Plus we have a fryer and do apps and stuff in our dining room. I swear if I had more room and money, I’d add a pressure fryer and sell fried chicken too.

Thanks for the input folks.
Rob. I know you’re right. We just have to keep doing the do and welcome them back with open arms when they do come home!
And although we are somewhat limited by our franchise’s whims, we will give that some thought Scott. We could do the chicken but my ethics get in the way on that one!
Anyway, thanks again to you both.


Probably franchise limitations that could be “fudged” due to remote location and infrequent accountability to the home office. Man, that is a hard one to wrap my brain around when franchise restrictions come into play. All my good small-town stuff requires flexibility and creative license to make the store a paragon of the community that everyone associates immediately when saying the name of the town.

Maybe ethics was the wrong choice of word. More like, my personal moral principles. I don’t want to push unhealthy food. We’ve been told many times, “You have an Indian reserve right near you. You’d do really well with chicken.” That’s just wrong to me and I wouldn’t do it. That’s all I meant by that.

Personal ethics can be very good, and one must be true to oneself. That said, sound business decisions can often conflict with personal ethics/values, and therein lies a defining moment for the owner.

The other end of your personal ethics is that those adults out there are competent to make decisions for themselves and deserve to be treated like adults rather than children who cannot be trusted.

There really are hard decisions to make in the business world. Best of luck to you whichever way you go with the business in building it and strengthening sales. Shrinking marketplace and dropping sales cannot be an exciting thing. . . but it doesn’t have to be disaster if you find creative sales boosts.