You Can Make a Difference Every Day
It happens every time a beloved local restaurant (or food business or farmer or food magazine) goes out of business. Its customers wring their hands and say, “If only I’d known, I would have ...” They say, “Everything looked fine,” and “Sure, I hadn’t been there in a while, but I had no idea they were struggling.”
Well, I’m here to tell you that every small local business is having challenges. Even those that appear successful at the moment are only one economic downturn, or one legislative/tax change, or one staffing/competitive misstep away from closing their doors. Small business owners are a proud lot: No one wants to admit they are in trouble or that they need help. So what can you do? Support others as you would have them support you. Here are my suggestions:
1. Patronize the business. Go that extra step to shop at a local establishment. Sure, try the fun new restaurant, but don’t forget your go-to neighborhood joint. If you’re a local business, buy from other local businesses. The next time you need to send a present, choose a local food gift.
2. Tell people. Whether it’s via social media or a mention in your next conversation, tell your friends how much you enjoyed experimenting with that new vegetable in your CSA basket or how great the service was at the local market. Word of mouth is powerful.
3. Let the business know why you’re shopping local. Did you see them advertise in a local magazine? Did you find them on Local First? Have you been enjoying their product for years? Tell ’em!
4. Attend local events, and bring a friend. Special dinners, classes and food festivals raise awareness (and sometimes funds) while they build community. Volunteer if the opportunity is available.
5. Follow and comment on social media. Your “likes” raise a business’s profile, but your comments and posts are the holy grail for Facebook. Visit the website and pin a luscious food photo to Pinterest. Share, share, share.
6. Leverage your national connections, if you have them. Is your organization looking for somewhere to host its next convention? Does your family have a reunion coming up? Do you have access to the “best of” poll in a national travel magazine or food website? Speak up for local businesses.
7. Send a letter of praise. From a quick e-mail to a handwritten note, let that local writer know you enjoyed their article or that your birthday celebration at the local bar was the best time ever. (Or, if your gentle criticism will help the business do better and attract/keep more customers, send that.)
Be the customer who says “I can’t believe how long they’ve been in business. Now it’s my kids’ favorite place, too.”