Hey ya’ll, it’s the ARM Dude here. I am writing to you with a very heavy heart because today marks the end for Audry’s Mexican Restaurant. They are shutting their doors after being in business for 60 years. I understand and support the owner’s decision to close the business his mother started so many years ago. It saddens me though because Audry’s has been my special place for more than 20 years. I believe this story is relevant to my mission with this blog because it is a perfect illustration of a business doing all of the right things to create a loyal customer.
It would take several pages to communicate all of the personal significance that Audry’s represents in my life. That being the case I will endeavor to keep this blog focused on how they converted me from an occasional patron into the loyal customer that is writing to you today with tears welling in my eyes as I tell about their demise. I believe there are lessons that we can all learn from by following their example.
First and foremost, Audrey Cantu, the matriarch for which it is named, created a business that understood its identity and the role it played in the community. Tony, her son, grew up with the business and kept these traditions in place when he assumed responsibility for the daily operations many years ago. The business model was quite simple. It was to be a business focused on providing great food at a fair price for the lunch time crowds in downtown San Antonio. They would not be open in the evenings or weekends because to do so would have impacted their family time. The staff would be friendly and tasked with making everyone, regardless of race or social status, feel special when he or she walked through the doors. It was their flawless execution of this business plan that led me to become a loyal customer.
How do I define a loyal customer? Well, I haven’t worked in the downtown area since 1991 yet I have consistently made Audry’s a part of my lunch time plans at least twice each week. Some weeks I went more often even though to do so meant making a round trip drive of at least 25 miles. There have been some days when the food didn’t taste as good as other days. There have been some days where parking was a major problem. There have also been some days when the service was running a little slow because of the size of the crowd. There was even a problem with their sign having the name Audrey misspelled. Some people might have seen these to be reasons enough to find another eating establishment. I did not because everyone at Audry’s had worked hard to earn my loyalty over the years. They had earned my trust by not taking me for granted. They did this every single time I visited so it was easy to overlook the hiccups on the rare occasions when they occurred.
I can not pinpoint the day or time frame but at some point over the years Audry’s became a part of my being. It was no longer about me frequenting an establishment. It became a place where I was a foot taller with shoulders more than wide enough for any troubles. It had become a part of my identity to the point where friends and former co-workers expect to see me there if they visit. This occurred twice just last week. It had become a place where I cared about the staff members just as they have so dutifully cared for me.
I hope each of you reading this blog gets the opportunity to participate in a client-vendor relationship like I have had with Audry’s Mexican Restaurant. All business owners should strive to reach the standard set by Tony and his team. You can do it by employing great staff like Opie, Cindy, and the many others that have worked there over the years. It will require you to have a client centric business plan with a focus on executing your plan to perfection. It won’t be easy but it can be done. The reward will be loyal customers that are lifetime fans. These fans will provide you with an immeasurable amount of word of mouth advertising that will be instrumental in the growth or sustainment of your business.
I am not sure what Monday will bring but I do know that I will miss hearing Opie say “Hey Tommy Boy, are you going to have your usual today?” even though I knew she had placed my order when she saw me walk through the door. I believe in everyone there and trust they will each have new and exciting opportunities come their way that would not be possible without this business closing. To all of them I say, “Vaya con dios amigos. I will miss ya’ll dearly.”