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Let's Turn it Around Grand Rapids: An ArtPrize Learning Experience for Businesses & Venues

Posted by GRGridGirl , 28 September 2009 · 1,182 views

ArtPrize...I'm impressed and shocked at the same time. Impressed with how the West Michigan community has embraced ArtPrize by visiting downtown to see great art and with the ArtPrize organization for producing a world-class event. Shocked with how SOME of the central city business community produced poor service or simply, not open for business this past weekend.

Over this past weekend I believe that over 30,000 unique visitors attended the numerous festivities downtown for ArtPrize. WOW! Out of this thirty-thousand, I believe twenty-thousand went downtown for two or more days.

So how was business for the retail, coffee, sandwich shops, markets and restaurants downtown? Word on the street is that many of them had record sales over the weekend, a nonstop flow of people from the moment they opened to when they finally were able to close their doors. However, word on the street is that many of these businesses were not prepared for constant high business levels or just not open, resulting in loss of sales and a less than sub-par experience for customers, new and old.

So let's turn it around Grand Rapids. I would like to point out that we are not just talking about a customers experience in your establishment. We are talking about the ArtPrize Experience which involves every aspect of the time people spent downtown.

Okay, so what were some of the major issues?

Closed for the day: How is that we had thousands of people walking around downtown and you're closed for the day. Not only does it not make sense, but hey you just missed out on huge sales. Huge sales!

Not open until 4pm: Thanks for being open. Did you consider that since a major event was occurring between 12:30-1:30pm on Sunday, that maybe, just maybe opening earlier would be a good idea?

Unhappy Staff: This one was the biggest surprise. One would think that servers would be overjoyed with high business levels because it directly brings in more money to their pockets. Nope, I guess not. Instead I overheard on multiple occasions restaurant employees complaining to each other about customers in the restaurant or eating in their sections. These staff complaints were heard all within earshot of folks waiting for tables. 'Hello? I can hear your complaining and it isn't pretty.' Not only are you representing your establishment in a negative light, if I'm sat in your section, I will ask to move.

Bad Service: Result of an unhappy staff. We've got thousands of people super excited to be downtown checking out all the interesting art. Well, at some time these people are going to be thirsty or hungry. They understand that downtown is busy and are happy to wait for a table or for the turn in line. Finally, they're able to get a table at an establishment that they've never been to before. As they look around they notice that not one employee is smiling and it takes twenty minutes before they're greeted, another twenty minutes to get a beverage, and another twenty-five minutes to get food. They think, okay we understand that you're busy, but how is it my fault that you're unhappy? I overheard people talking about how they were having such a good time walking around looking at art and then they went into X establishment and had horrible service. In addition to the long waits and rude staff, when they asked their host or server a simple question about ArtPrize the response from staff was 'I don't know' and moved on, never getting back to them.

Venues not open till after 5pm: Okay, so as a venue you need to be open during the hours that ArtPrize set, which is 5-8pm, Monday thru Thursday. In case you didn't notice, people are coming downtown at all times during the day and have limited choices on venues to visit due to the venue evening hours. This morning I brought 50 high school students on a tour of the Center City for ArtPrize. With the poor weather, I had to change the agenda for the tour. I would have loved to bring the students through certain venues, but they were closed until 5pm. It was nice to see The BOB was busy during the day, as they are open for business and as a venue.

On a side note, I hope the municipal government and Downtown Alliance adjust the cleanup hours for the district. Last night was appalling on how dirty the Monroe Center was with overflowing trash cans and litter all over the street.

Let's turn it around Grand Rapids, we still have time.

It's easy to find out what events are happening downtown for ArtPrize. I expect each day this week thousands of new folks will trek downtown for their ArtPrize Experience. These people have to eat; most of them will want a beverage; they'll want a place where they can rest their feet; they'll look for a place where they can bring their kids to; they'll want to try that restaurant or two they've heard from friends, but never had time to make it downtown.

A little education and planning go a long way. Personally I would rather be overstaffed for a day or two and open earlier then give bad service or lose out on record sales.

I was amazed at how many times I heard this, 'I don't know' to simple questions such as:
- Do you know where I can register?
- Do you know why my text votes are not working?
- How many artists have work here?
- Do you know where I can find out more information about this artist?
All of the answers to these questions can be found on www.artprize.org. Print and post for your employees. The text voting problem is how a text is sent, which is 'vote (artist vote#)' when texting to 878787. Most people just send in the artist vote number and forget to include the word 'vote' before the number.

ArtPrize is the perfect opportunity to create 'Raving Fans' of your business or venue. Guests that have a WOW experience at your establishment will tell their friends, families, co-workers, and on their social media sites, which will attract customers to your business. 'You have to go to (downtown spot) when you're at ArtPrize, they have the best...'

We still have a lot of time left in ArtPrize 2009. I'm sure the more Raving Fans we create with WOW experiences, the businesses downtown and in the surrounding neighborhood business districts will continue to reap in the benefits, long after ArtPrize is over.

So let's turn it around Grand Rapids. Let's show the world how the ArtPrize Experience is part of the Grand Rapids experience...the place you want to live, work, play and visit.

Have fun, see great art, and enjoy the conversations!

Rachel Lee

here here
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Sep 28 2009 07:41 PM
Great comments Rachel. I also saw a lot of missed opportunities for businesses that are normally closed on Sunday. With an even like this, open up, get new customers, give them great service and give them a reason to come back another time. It seems like a no-brainer to me, but obviously not everyone was using their brain that day. smile.gif
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