A cry for help: St. Pete Brasserie the latest restaurant to appeal directly to its customers

But Wilkins knows that an overwhelming response from his loyal customers is just a stop gap, something that will keep the restaurant afloat for a few weeks. He's had an offer from a local company that is willing to buy the concept -- something he's willing to do in order to guarantee a paycheck for his employees -- but that that would also mean he'd no longer be associated with the restaurant. Wilkins would like to avoid that, if he can.

"With me throwing my pride in the backseat and making a public cry for help, maybe some investors will come through," says Wilkins, which would mean he could stay at the helm of his pride and joy. "It's not massive money -- it's peanuts, really -- but peanuts to me, well..." An influx of customers will buy him the time, and the media and social media coverage might bring potential investors out of the woodwork. Or out of his "friends" list.

If that doesn't happen, Wilkins will not go down with the ship, however. "I want to be able to sleep at night and I don't want to have a failed restaurant under my name," he says. "If I sell, everyone who works here would have a job, which is the most important thing."

Except Wilkins himself, of course.

In the old days, a business owner often felt rather alone in his times of troubles. He could maybe appeal to a few friendly regulars for assistance, but usually his burden went unnoticed until loyal customers showed up only to find a closed sign on the door. These days, there's no need for an entrepreneur to suffer in silence. In fact, it often makes good business sense to let it all out.

We saw that recently with the sudden Facebook announcement by Bowled owner Michael Cecere that he was going to have to close up shop. Within 48 hours, the sudden outpouring of support (and a suddenly packed dining room) convinced Cecere to keep up the fight. Wednesday morning, St. Pete Brasserie owner Andrew Wilkins issued the same sort of appeal to his loyal fan base, although he was a bit more calculating in his approach: His social media appeal came with blanket email to the mainstream media outlets. That's good business sense, too.

According to Wilkins, St. Pete Brasserie has done an amazing amount of business since he took over and transformed the place from the ill-fated The Table last year, but there was too much debt to overcome easily. "In January and February we made damn good money and that should have been put in a nest egg for the bad months ahead," explains Wilkins. "But there was too much to pay off from the old restaurant." Now that business is down during the lean summer months, the restaurant doesn't have the cash reserves to keep going. Enter Facebook, and the dining room is suddenly full in the middle of the week.

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