Monday, September 24, 2012

Penny wise and pound foolish

When we invite friends to our home and ask them to come over about dinner time, sure as shootin' they pretty much expect to have something to eat.  When our village invites people to drop in, likewise, folks who make the trip should be able to find food.

We were in the IGA today when two women swore off visiting our village "ever again" because, kids in tow, they visited our Maritime Festival and expected to find a hot dog stand or something where kids under six could get something to eat that 1. kids like and 2. wasn't a sit down lunch.  They found neither.  They blamed the "Greenport Restaurant Association" (whatever that is) for not permitting food vendors.  Having seen the the kerfuffle about outside food vendors at the Tall Ships, it was pretty evident what was afoot here and we shouldn't like it one bit.

It is, in the end, about turf and protecting businesses. We can understand the motivation and the necessity to make the most of the last major weekend event of the year.  We can't, however, buy into the math involved.

Village restaurants hold only so many people and at price points that are pretty steep for casual visitors. The Tall Ships were broken down to what a reasonable family of day-trippers would expect to spend overall and food and snacks for mom and dad and two little ones was thought to be in the $25-40 range give or take. For folks who want to sit down and order off the menu, of course the estimated price would increase. Well and good.  The issue then goes down to the nut of it; how many folks can the "restaurant association" feed?

Estimates run about 3500 plates in a day. That may be light or heavy but no one really knows. If 5,000 folks show up, the restaurants can probably handle the demand.  If 10,000 show up, they can't.  It is simple math. In the later event, we invited 10 for dinner with only 6 seats at the table.

Is there some way to figure it out so that the "restaurant association" gets the lion's share of business AND visitors of all economic brackets, age groups, and time to spend, can find a menu to suit them?  Yes. Of course there is.  But what happened was  that it became and all or nothing proposition. 

One of the first rules of business is that the customer us always right. The customer creates the demand.  In reverse, the village as a host said, "we determine what the demand will be" and it is as backward a statement as can be.  It slights the customer. It hurts non-food businesses by "pissing-off" visitors about the village in general and returning in particular. It causes grand mothers to wag their tongues in an IGA.

It is penny wise and VERY pound foolish.


  1. Perhaps you did not notice the Boy Scout concession right next to the post office selling, as they have every year, hot dogs and sodas! There were also other restaurants selling hot dogs and other portable foods in front of their stores.

  2. A contrary observation was that there have been any number of comments made and overhead dealing with the inability to obtain food at 1. anything that did't resemble a fair hefty price and 2. was snack food for along the way.

    The broader question is raised as to protectionism in general and if it has a place in a free market. This wasn't a village event but one from a museum into the community. Well and good.

    Conditional events happen - that is events with conditions to them - but the one hope and value of an event is that everyone who shows up during that weekend shows up again during the rest of the year.