Why you can’t afford to eff up in NYC.

It’s 6:20 PM in my office.  And I’m hungry.  Feeling a craving for some chips ‘n’ salsa and a burrito to match, I strolled up 8th Avenue to my neighborhood Chipotle on 52nd.

I could just about taste the guac as I opened the door . . . and saw a line longer than the line for the women’s restroom at a Broadway theatre.

I stared for a second.  Maybe two.  And then decided to turn around and go to Subway.  No guac, but still good, healthier, cheaper . . . and you can bet a five-dollar-footlong that it would be a lot quicker.

Now, if this story happened in Sturbridge, MA, where I grew up, I wouldn’t have had much of a choice.  I would have just had to wait it out for my burrito.

But this is New York City, home of the Superbowl!

And that means there’s a restaurant on every block.  A bar on every block.  And 2-3 Broadway shows on every block.

If you’re running a business in New York City, whether that’s a tourist shop hawking tee-shirts, or a Broadway or Off Broadway show, you can’t afford to eff up in your customer service. You can’t have too few employees working during dinner, or rude cashiers, or unknowledgeable salespeople.  Because if the customer isn’t getting what he wants, he’ll get it just by turning around and going to whatever is next door.

Broadway used to be able to get away with more of a “whatever” attitude when it came to customer service.  But not anymore.  There are way too many options available for a person seeking entertainment these days . . . including staying at home where there’s never a line for the restroom and watch on demand, pause it when you want it, Netflix.

My dinner time story didn’t end when I finished my turkey-and-swiss by the way.  You see, tomorrow . . . when I’m hungry?  I’ll remember that line at Chipotle . . . and I might just go straight to Subway instead.  And that means Chipotle may have lost me for a long time to come.

We can’t afford that to happen to Broadway.  With attendance declining like it already is, every customer counts.

Is there a “long line” that you think Broadway needs to address in order to not lose customers to Subway?  Tell me in the comments below – with one caveat – you can’t say that the tickets are too expensive.  We all know that.  Give me something else.


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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.