September 27th, 2011
I have never understood why owners or management of a failing company usually don’t give others close to the company–especially customers–fair warning about what is going on. In many instances, the team, the core family that built the business, has showed up to work and found the doors locked. I have always said I would never do that to the people I truly care about and owe my life to.
I realize that sending an e-mail like this is risky and unorthodox, but I don’t care because I don’t have anything to fear or hide. We run our business with totally open books, and the core team that shows up to our weekly fiscal huddles will not be surprised by what I’m writing. I truly care about our team and each guest who has blessed us by choosing to eat at Nick’s instead of any of the many other places available to them.
As of the beginning of this week, the hard reality facing us has become glaringly apparent to me. We overbuilt and overspent, and then we didn’t cut fast enough or hard enough when sales started to go downhill. The issue is primarily with our Elgin restaurant, but because we are one company, the failure of Elgin will likely impact Crystal Lake as well, depending on the choices our bank makes. This failure is not the fault of our team members; on the contrary, I am extremely grateful to them for their incredible contributions, including accepting salary cuts, taking on more responsibilities, and volunteering to market us on their own time. The whole responsibility for our troubles is mine for making the bad decisions that got us into this mess.
I realize that many of you out there see a busy restaurant and don’t understand how we cannot be profitable, or as many of you have expressed, how we could not be “rolling in cash.” We do bring in a lot of revenue, but unfortunately that is not enough to cover our mortgage and the other expenses that accrue from having such large facilities. In 2008, sales at our Elgin location began to drop, causing that location to lose money. Fortunately, Crystal Lake was profitable enough to cover both restaurants most of the time. As of this year, that’s no longer true. The sales drop in Elgin alone has been 30% since last year and close to 40% since 2007, thanks largely to the bad economy and our location next to the road construction.
We thought that the opening of a new Walmart across the street from Elgin on October 26th would bring enough new traffic to save that location and our company. Unfortunately, the bills that we have been pushing back this year are catching up with us now, about four weeks short of the finish line. Barring some sort of miracle, we are going to run out of cash to pay our vendors and team members over the next couple of weeks and will have to close. Believe me, I have already tried everything possible and would not be writing this if the amount we needed was not many thousands of dollars more than I personally could come up with. I really did believe we were going to make it to the finish line and pull through this, but I have nothing left that I can sell, pawn, or promise–just my business, which now is on the table.
I do have one last hope for me and the 200 team members of Nick’s. If within these next four weeks we could see a large increase in sales at either of our restaurants, we could still pull through. So my final request is for each of you to come dine at Nick’s Pizza & Pub and tell all your family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors to come now, too. We want to continue on as a part of your community and aren’t ready to tell you goodbye yet. If you wish to contact me with investor ideas or any ideas or questions at all, you can email me at email@example.com, call me at 815-356-5550, or simply stop by and talk in person. Thank you for reading.
Founder and owner of Nick’s Pizza & Pub