attitude Business culture Community Competition Consumer Advocacy Creativity Customer service Entrepreneurs Hospitality Leadership Management marketing to the affluent Marketing to women Restaurants service Small Business

A business problem, not a water problem

Photo credit: Michael Hyatt

When book publisher Michael Hyatt posted this image saying “When you read this at Panera, you know your city has a water problem”, it struck me as a business problem.

Sure, the city might have a problem, but that shouldn’t be your customers’ problem.

Every day, we must adapt to the cards we’re dealt.

Rather than “We are not serving tap water, sodas or brewed tea today” and taking what might be perceived as a political shot at the city (the same one who does their next restaurant inspection?), a customer-centered management team could have called Culligan (et al) to get all the restaurant-approved water they’d need to provide glasses of water and brewed tea.

If you’re Culligan, there’s a win-win there.

Perhaps you can’t easily and quickly alter the water supply for a soda dispensing system, but that still doesn’t require a sign.

A quick look at last week’s sales totals from the register would have told them that they sell 430 sodas per day on average and run over to Costco or Sam’s (or called their normal supplier) for a canned/bottled supply that would span the gap for them.

The next work day, they could consult with their soda mix supplier and explain the situation further, ask for advice on water supply adaptation and then contact their plumber to arrange for a way to feed the third-party water into their soda system. Or they simply could have adapted using pre-mix, though that would probably be too much of an interference to the restaurant’s workflow.

Instead, they chose to sell no soda and no tea (both high profit margin items) and take a shot at the city.

Maybe the city needed a smack, but the place to do that is at the city offices, at a council meeting and worst case, in the local press.

Using your customers as pawns in that game makes for a losing battle, especially when they are standing at your front door with their wallets and purses open.

PS: Interesting that coffee wasn’t mentioned on that sign. Might be because many places use high-tech water filtration systems for their coffee water supply lines. I wonder if a non-franchise restaurant would have reacted the same way.

5 replies on “A business problem, not a water problem”

Mighty fine posting.

My only other comment would be … “While you were busy making signs, why weren’t you busy finding solutions for your customers?”

Hi Mark. Yes, Panera definitely had some better options to pursue than the one they did. At the same time, it was probably a decision that was made by someone not too far up the company ladder.

This story hits home for me as water issues are what I blog about. This is a good example of how we take our clean water for granted. I think we should be doing as much as possible to protect our drinking water sources and spread the word.

Thanks Mark,

Nick W

I wonder why the word “today” was used. Unless I’m mistaken, sub-par water quality is normally not an issue that can be fixed overnight.

But, I guess using the words “until further notice” is business suicide, as far as gaining customers who patronize the place for those items are concerned. In essence, the business owners want potential customers to not be strangers and to check back on the morrow…


Great question, Sonny. I suspect you’re right – be interesting to know if that much thought went into the wording. Hard to say if it was that or they knew of an impending fix.

Comments are closed.