Property giant suffers for communication failure

by Neil Everton

A lot of people have a bad taste in the mouth about the way a property giant is treating two popular eateries at a Nova Scotia shopping mall.

The way the property company has responded to public and media inquiries is a classic example of how to fail Communications 101.

Here’s the background. Crombie REIT, part of the Sobey family empire, is redeveloping the Scotia Square mall in downtown Halifax. The redevelopment is in the hands of Halifax Developments – another part of the Crombie/Sobey empire.

Crombie have told Ray Khattar, owner of the popular Ray’s Lebanese Cuisine, that he has to be out of the mall by the end of March. Ray’s food is so good he won the prize for Best Falafal in Halifax 13 years in a row. He’s been in the mall 31 years. And he’s never missed a monthly rent payment. Five months ago Crombie told him his rent would have to double. Ray’s reaction: ‘Let’s talk’. He heard nothing more until the eviction notice.

Another small eatery with a loyal clientele, Taste of India, has also been ordered out.

People who regularly use the mall’s food court suspect the small operators are being pushed out to make way for the big food chains and franchises who won’t blink at higher rents. But diners are fighting back. In two weeks Nancy Hayden collected more than 5200 signatures on a petition.

So let’s look at the communications failures:

  1. Crombie didn’t have a plan for telling a tenant of 31 years’ standing why he was being evicted. Ray Khattar says when he asked a company representative why he had to leave all he got was a shrug of the shoulders.
  2. Crombie’s (non) response to the media allowed an information vacuum which was quickly filled by Crombie critics:

In our media skills sessions we tell people the way you communicate bad news reflects your core values as an individual and an organization.

Through the petition and in on-line forums people are telling Crombie just what they think of their values. But that’s what you get when your communication strategy is not to communicate.


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