Closing Time

 Originally Published on Linkedin


By Danny Meyer

Back in 2006 I published my book, Setting the Table and on the very first page, wrote this portentous sentence: “So far, I haven’t had the experience of closing any of [my restaurants], and I pray I never will.”

Well, prayers aside, we did experience closing a restaurant four years later, when we concluded that our beloved Indian restaurant, Tabla, was no longer economically sustainable. In retrospect, a combination of stubborn pride, shame for breaking a 25-year winning streak (weren’t all restaurants meant to stay open forever?), and a deep concern about putting 125 team members out of jobs led us to hang in there a couple of years longer than we probably should have. We also didn’t want to disappoint Tabla’s passionate and loyal fans. Sadly, there just weren’t enough of them.

Ultimately the decision to close hinged on my realization that keeping people employed at an un-profitable business wasn’t doing them any favors. So we made the heartbreaking choice to close Tabla – and determined to do so with dignity and intention. All too often in our industry, a padlock on the front door might be the very first notice employees, landlords, and suppliers receive that a restaurant will be closing.

We were able to provide three months’ notice, early and transparent communication to all of our stakeholders, and career support for our employees. All these years later, many of those people have gone on to have successful careers within our company and beyond.

Now we’re about to do it again. Earlier this year we announced our intention to close North End Grill by the end of 2018 (we recently shared that our final service will take place Saturday, December 15.) Again, we’ve communicated transparently with our team and committed to helping each of our employees transfer jobs.

Closing anything—failing at anything—hurts. As entrepreneurs, it’s our responsibility to continuously find ways to evolve and pivot the business so that it can remain competitive and relevant. But we are equally responsible for balancing hope and reality, and for knowing when no degree of optimism is going to overcome the underlying challenges.

And when reality dictates closing, we have a choice: to do so in secrecy and shame, or instead, with dignity, integrity, and pride. Uplifting outcomes (some of which can take time to reveal themselves) usually ensue from taking the latter path: your team grows tighter and stronger from weathering adversity. It’s actually a painful, but incredible learning experience. You build trust with guests, suppliers, investors and all stakeholders by upholding your values during difficult times. And you benefit from the introspection needed to reflect upon and learn from what went wrong. It’s a lesson every entrepreneur can practice with failures big and small.

At North End Grill, we’re consciously trying to make the most of our final weeks by innovating up until the very last service. If you visit between now and December 15, you’ll find a new Italian-inspired menu and a passionate restaurant team that will be especially grateful for the opportunity to serve and cook for you one last time. I couldn’t be more proud of them.