Having loyal customers and continuously lauded customer service can help restaurants thrive even in the worst situations.

Would you eat at a restaurant that was in the news for a rat infestation? I assume from the look on your face the answer is “Hell no!” However, for loyal customers of Melton’s App & Tap in Atlanta, no rodent outbreak is going to keep patrons from their Irish nachos.

This summer, Melton’s voluntarily shut its doors when rats were sighted on the premises. Not wanting to expose his customers to a health hazard, the owner took the proactive approach and immediately shuttered the pub. After bringing in a specialist, it was discovered the rats were invading from the pet store that sits adjacent to them in their shopping center. The pet shop had been dumping pet food out back resulting in the exterminator killing over 500 rats within just one month. The restaurant owner has spent a large amount of money in extermination, legal and construction fees in order to help correct the situation. For the full details, click here and read up on the story in the news.

Possibly THE worst thing that can happen to a restaurant is to have an infestation of any kind. That’s the sort of thing most customers can’t get over; unlike they could the occasional rude waiter or messed up food order. However, this doesn’t seem likely to deter the Melton’s faithful. Having myself spoken with several regular patrons (me being one of them), the consensus is that once the doors have been reopened, patrons will willingly and happily return.

This is the power of customer loyalty and a strong brand. Despite having a kitchen that was at one point being run by rats (and not the cute ones from Ratatouille), customers are so committed and loyal to Melton’s that they will be returning after the reopening. From the start all communications with patrons were honest and open. Meltons even solicited patrons’ opinions as to whether they should reopen and if they would come back. They were contacted through their email list as well as social media and PR efforts on the local news to fully explain their side of the story. Coupled with the restaurant’s already strong brand and public trust, Melton’s has demonstrated it can weather this storm.

Does your restaurant have a devoted following? What do you think you do or need to do that would generate such loyalty?