My Twitter friend, Sara Nesbitt, forwarded me an article this morning about a business that is thriving without any online presence. No blog, no FaceBook Page, no Twitter account and no website. The business is Parchie's a restaurant located in Wilmington, North Carolina.
In the article, the restaurant's owner, David Wishon, says that the entire facility is technology free, except for the $100 cash register, and that he would rather keep meal prices low than to spend money on designing and maintaining a website. Parchie's has been in business 26 years, and has a busy breakfast, lunch and catering operation. After reading the article, I wondered if small businesses thriving without a branded online presence share any common characteristics. These three come to mind:
They have been in business for many years. Parchie's and businesses like it started when there was no such thing as the Internet. As a result, they thrive on the kind of in-person word of mouth that made all businesses successful before digital technologies came about. These kinds of businesses built a strong and loyal following through the years, before the Internet. They are therefore not dependent on it. They are entrenched in a local community that accepts and supports them. They are a part of the fabric of one another's lives, and have been for decades.
Physical involvement is required to fully enjoy what the business offers. Bars and restaurants are in a perfect position to successfully resist the Internet because a customer must present in order to fully benefit from what the business has to offer. I suppose if the price was right, Parchie's and businesses like it might overnight me a slice of homemade apple pie. I might enjoy it, but I can only experience the restaurant by being there. And I'm sure the same slice of pie tastes better served up in a friendly environment than a styrofoam box.
(Having said all of this, my strong suggestion to Parchie's and businesses like it is to empower your tech-minded customers to use location-based social technologies such as Foursquare, Gowalla and FaceBook Places to help promote your business. This way, you get the benefit of an important technology without having to actually manage it yourself.)
They don't want to grow beyond where they are. The business owners in the article who say they are not interested in an online presence don't seem to want to expand their businesses. The owner of Parchie's said that if the Internet brought him too many new customers, he might not be able to keep up with the demand. Another business owner, Lisa Botnick of Baked With Love Cafe, said she just didn't want to take the time required to become involved with the Internet. In essence, that's enjoying the way things are and making a conscious decision to keep it that way.
As you may have guessed, I fear that Lisa's strategy is short-sighted. On the other hand, if a person is not truly ready to embrace new technologies, it will be a waste of time for them even if the technology is effective.
Longevity, physicality and/or willingness to maintain the status quo. I think that one or all of these is necessary in order for a business to thrive today without an online presence. And even then, my opinion is that the businesses will eventually die if they don't make a conscious decision to embrace technology and put it to good use.
Question: Can businesses that don't have at least one of these characteristics thrive without some kind of branded online presence today?