Going to Friendly’s these days is like getting back together with an ex.  You are drawn to it for what you once had.  Then you quickly remember she went on a self-destructive bender that’s resulted in a downward spiral.  And you cry, because you really enjoyed sharing ice cream covered in peanut butter sauce with her.

A few years back, Friendly’s acknowledged that things had gotten bad.  They went on an “apology tour”, taking out expensive ads to let consumers know that they had failed in customer service and were taking steps to fix it.

She swore things would get better.  You believed her.  You took her back.

What happened next? The customer service got worse.  Wait times increased.  Staff became disgruntled and left.  And so we broke up again.

Ah – but Friendly’s had a fix!  Ignoring the obvious problem – customer service – they decided the real issue at hand were the prices!

So they went on an “apology tour” again, taking out expensive ads to let consumers know that they had failed – this time in pricing – and were taking steps to fix it.

She swore things would get better.  You believed her.  You took her back.

They slashed prices. And in doing so, they flooded the restaurant with more people… spending less money and being even more high maintenance.  The already overtaxed wait staff was now working twice as hard for smaller tips, despite the fact that price was never a problem.

What happened next? The customer service got worse.  Wait times increased.  Staff became disgruntled and left.  And so we broke up again.

But wait!  Friendly’s has a fix!

It’s a whole new business plan and they’re gutting the existing model.  They’ve launched a new “express” approach.  There are no waiters anymore.   You now go into the restaurant, order at the counter, then go take a seat.

Upon getting the kids settled in, you realize that you are now responsible to get your own silverware. And napkins.  And drinks.  Because nothing makes the already miserable experience of taking your kids out to dinner MORE miserable than having to get all of your own stuff.

Did I mention the prices have increased?  But wait! You don’t have to tip now! Interestingly, it appears there are three times the amount of employees… which would explain those costs.

Approximately six hours later, an employee finally figures out where you’re sitting – most likely by the fact that your starving kids are screaming and you’re desperately searching your purse for the nips that you keep in the event of an emergency.

If the hangry kids don’t clear the plates for you by launching them across the restaurant, you get to do it yourself – because remember, there’s no waitstaff now.

At some point, an employee comes over to take your receipt to go get the ice cream that you paid for. It comes out about an hour later, wrong.

She swore things would get better.  You believed her.  You took her back.

At some point… we need to accept that the relationship is over.

I don’t care how much I enjoyed the peanut butter sauce.  I’ll get it to go.  The only thing that will save this restaurant group now is a total gutting of the geniuses who got them to this point.  And alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol.

Guys – simple business lesson.  Listen to your customers.  Because if you don’t… Friendly’s happens.

Kyle S. Reyes is the founder of The Whiskey Patriots, Chief Executive Officer of The Silent Partner Marketing, and the National Spokesman for Law Enforcement Today. Reyes is also an acclaimed keynote speaker on patriotism and leadership, entrepreneurship and marketing by storytelling. You can follow him on Facebook.