Dear Richard: ‘Should we tell our friend his children are running his business into the ground?’

Dear Richard,

A close friend is the proprietor of a local restaurant, whose day-to-day running he passed on to his children a couple of years ago.

We recently went there for Sunday lunch and were horrified to discover how it had gone downhill. I appreciate that it’s been a difficult time for the industry, but the service was absolutely dreadful, with long waits between courses. Outside, the entrance was scruffy, with weeds growing in the doorway, and there was no atmosphere to speak of inside.

Do we mention this to him, outlining these problems we encountered, or do we keep quiet? Our concern is that if we do mention it, we might lose his friendship – which we value – but if we don’t the situation might get worse and his income in retirement will be jeopardised, and the business he spent his life building up destroyed. I do not want to see a popular place go to rack and ruin; nor lose a good friend by telling the truth.

– Anon, Norfolk

Dear Anon,

A Do. Not. Mention. This. To. Your. Friend. Under. Any. Circumstances.

This is, literally, his business. Your long friendship is totally separate from the way he runs his restaurant. That’s nothing to do with you, other than as a consumer. If you don’t like the service or the scruffiness, don’t go there. Eat somewhere else.

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Just think about it. If you tell him the place is going downhill, you’ll be making multiple criticisms – of his children, of the staff and, most of all, of him.

Handing over responsibility for a successful business to his kids must have been a huge decision – and here’s you telling him he’s screwed it up. With his useless children. Ouch. Double ouch.

You’re also assuming that he isn’t competent to notice that things are on the slide. How do you know that? He knows that there’s been a pandemic, and that there’s a staff shortage across the whole industry. He or the children may have a plan to deal with the problem.

You’re not a restaurant critic, so focus on your friendship rather than the food, service or weeds waving around the door. Criticising someone’s children is truly going where angels fear to tread.

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