A wonderfully short, entertaining, and educational book is “Who Moved My Cheese” by Spencer Johnson. It is a funny little story that colorfully describes how two sets of characters react when their “cheese is moved” (cheese being a metaphor for change). The book is less than 100 pages, so it is a quick read.
Today I was reminded of the “cheese” being moved as I walked to catch a plane at St. Louis International Airport. Less than 1,000 feet from the main security checkpoint is an awning for “Cheers”, a restaurant chain that got it’s image from a television sitcom from the 1980’s. I remember walking by this restaurant in the late 1990’s and every seat or bar stool was taken, sometimes with a line waiting to get in.
But the store is closed, boarded up and nearly unidentifiable – except for the “Cheers” logo above a locked door that used to be the main entry way for food and beverages. They didn’t close because the national economy was bad, or from a salmonella outbreak from the food they served, or because the owner retired – they closed because their cheese was moved.
The majority of their customers were men, women, and children waiting for friends or family members to get off their plane, or passengers waiting for their plane to board, or people killing time during a layover or delay. But after 9-11 the nation had to make changes – we could never ever let something like that happen again. Rental car parking garages were moved off site, security checkpoint restrictions became tighter, and only ticketed passengers were allowed past those checkpoints. The gate-area restaurant’s businesses waned once non-ticketed passengers were refused entry to the gate area and the additional time it took to go through security further reduced the chances of someone arriving early enough to be able to sit and eat a quick bite.
The business model for airport restaurants changed in the days following the attacks on 9-11 – the cheese was moved. I don’t know what happened to this chain, but I hope they were able to open in another location and maintain the same level of success that they had here in the Gate D area.