Small Business Story: Bert’s Diner Builds Relationships with Customers

The CoverWallet Small Business Scholarship encourages entrepreneurship in students by asking them to take on the perspective of a local small business owner. Students share their perspective on the opportunities and challenges faced by a business in their community.

Student: Justin Ellis, CSU Sacramento

Small Business: Bert’s Diner

Bert's DinerOwning a small business is becoming a more difficult dream each and every day. Many entrepreneurs are scared to even try their hand in the business world because of the failed attempts they see everyday. However despite these risks, some small business owners defy the odds and risk it all to make their dreams come true. This is true for Bert’s Diner, a local 50’s themed diner in Elk Grove. Every Monday, they offer a ½ off burger special, and every Monday for the past 4 years my friends and I have made sure to be there at the bar eating our burgers and fries.

Getting a discount on our burgers isn’t the only thing that draws us to Bert’s. Even with the discount, it would still be cheaper to go to a fast food joint. The idea we have behind going every single Monday is to support this small business that is right in our town. The diner is in a location where there are only a few restaurants. Despite being right at the corridor where rural residents of Wilton (the town next door) enter into Elk Grove, many people drive right past and continue into town. By going every week we form relationships with the employees in a way that truly creates a connection to the business. Getting people to connect to a business and come back because of their relationship with the employees is important to a small business. There isn’t a single waitress or hostess who my friends and I don’t know. Having employees who make the customer want to keep coming back helps establish a reputation for a business. For small businesses a reputation can push them into the profits, or slide them down into the red.

One problem that is very difficult on small businesses is the cost to keep up with current safety requirements. Often the cost to add new features that are mandated is more than a small business has to give up. While it is important to ensure the safety of employees and customers, it is much harder for small businesses to upgrade their facilities than it is for large chains that produce much higher revenues. As a small business that is in a small location, Bert’s faces the risk that if high cost additions become mandatory such as updated fire sprinklers or alarms, then they would not be able to pay for such renovations that do not increase revenue. The best solution is a tiered system based on square footage and number of employees, where all businesses must meet a basic safety standard, but ones with greater area and more employees must meet higher standards. This system would allow small businesses to grow and improve their facilities as they grow.