For anyone out there who doesn’t think that all politics are local or that any topics (beyond conventional food fare) are off base here on this page, I think you need to rethink your position. Food prices are skyrocketing. Forty percent of Americans are saying they are worse off than they were a year ago, and that was before the recent financial meltdown. Regulatory oversight of the agencies that are tasked with protecting Americas food systems of all shapes and sizes is nonexistent, and because of that, things are guaranteed to get worse before they get better.
If you think the recent milk and melamine scare, the California downer cattle abattoir brouhaha, or the recent salmonella and E. coli outbreaks won't get worse or occur with greater frequency, think again. Restaurants are going to be closing in droves. Credit is tightened to the point of asphyxiation, so not only are eateries going to see thirty- or sixty-day invoice plans go the way of the horse and buggy, short-term credit lines from local banks that have been used for years to make payroll numbers work when the slow snowy weekend coincided with the mandatory liquor payment are being phased out for customers with sketchy performance.
Recent polls indicate that casual restaurant consumers are fiddling while Rome burns when it comes to re-assessing their personal budgets. And around the water cooler, business diners and those that eat out more than once per week are talking about cutting back.
Want more? JP’s closed last week, and if a restaurant as universally liked and well priced, as that one was, is having a problem, then what does that say about the other restaurants that are hanging on by their fingernails? Yes, I know, I have often said that restaurants close because they don’t have customers, and that’s cold but true. Occasionally, however, there are circumstances beyond the control of simple restaurant economics, such as the road construction outside of JP’s. That makes it a local political issue; nagging DOT and city road delays, tax adjustments, etc., all impact what you eat, where you eat it, and how you eat it.
Mall Of America is recession proof in the sense that its numbers will always be high in terms of overall foot traffic, but individual entities there will fold in greater numbers throughout the next six months than at any other time in the last few years, I would think. So, too, the restaurant industry will survive, and people will still eat out, but concepts need to be easy to swallow for the ‘new poor’ that we are all fast becoming. Grabbing a bite of cheap Chinese food, a burger and a beer at Salut, or some pizza and a less-than-stellar glass of red are still going to be easy choices for some, but how do the Porter and Frye’s of the world stay in business? That being said, Manny’s has been packed every time I have stuck my head in the door at the W.