OUR DAILY BREATH: WHAT RESTAURANTS MEAN TO SOCIETY

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Cooking for others is one of the oldest professions known to humanity. Since fire was first discovered – we have enjoyed and developed the skills to cook, eventually season, and finally plate prepared food to please other people. Cooking is one of the most admired and appreciated skill that allows the cook to express his or her history, traditions, ethnicity, and skill while engaging guests in a story. This storytelling through cooking evolved over centuries into restaurants that offered interesting tales to strangers and friends alike.

Dating back to Medieval times when cooking was reserved for nobility and later during the Renaissance when merchant travelers relied on local taverns for respite and a chance to break bread – restaurants and restaurant life has always been present. In the United States – the importance of restaurants only became mainstream after prohibition ended and speakeasy’s transitioned into full-service restaurants, and later after World War II when our country decided to invest heavily in an interstate system of highways that opened the country to an exponential growth of small towns where intersections gave life to gas stations and diners. Today, restaurants serve a multitude of purposes that has brought this industry to a status of importance that is impossible to deny.

Although our current crisis has brought the restaurant industry to a halt, it is important to remember just how integrated the business of selling and serving food is to society as a whole. It is this understanding that will bring the industry back. It will undoubtedly be different, but it will return. Here are a few examples of why this is true:

[]         CONVENIENCE

Once we return to a more robust economic time – the need for restaurants to service dual income family life and urban professionals with little time to shop and cook will once again be evident. These cycles of industry demise followed by a surge of regrowth have happened time and again after difficult times – it will happen after this one. Convenience – especially in highly developed societies is essential.

[]         A REWARD SYSTEM

It’s is human nature to seek reward or at least some form of recognition for work done and an individual’s value to others. Far too often this does not exist in the workplace, or sometimes even in the home – restaurants fill this void through the reward of a sincere smile, special service, preparation of tasty and beautiful food, a pleasant atmosphere and appointed table, and in many cases recognition of return guests. This is a very important part of the restaurant business – hospitality.

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“Having been in the restaurant business, our job is to be responsible for our customers’ happiness. It’s the nature of the hospitality industry. You need to take care of people. You take care of customers above all else. Customers are your lifeblood.”

-Andrew Zimmern

 []         SOCIAL ISOLATION OF A NATURALLY SOCIAL POPULATION

There are some who enjoy being alone, but most humans are inherently social by design. We relish the company of others – the chance to discuss, remember, toast, seek advice, lean on others shoulders, and laugh over life’s joys and quirky mistakes. This social isolation that we are engaged in will leave a tremendous void in people’s lives. It is easy to see that given the opportunity – people will return to their social nature with ease. Restaurants will be there to provide the environment for socialization.

[]         A PRIMARY OUTLET FOR SHARING TRADITIONS

Pride in one’s heritage is most easily expressed through the traditions of food. The use of indigenous ingredients, the protection of recipes passed down through generations, the combinations of food and how they marry with a restaurants atmosphere are built on protection of those traditions. Whether you are aligned with the ethnicity of a restaurant or simply interested in learning more about that ethnic groups traditions – restaurants are perfect vehicles for protecting and promoting a unique history.

[]         A FORUM FOR DISCUSSION, DIALOGUE, AND OPINION

During some of the early days of restaurants and coffee shops in Europe – cafes were the place where individuals would gather to discuss the issues of the day, argue points of view, and build opinions and belief structures that were at the heart of a community. Restaurants and bars have continued in this role ever since. What we believe, how we evolve, and finding a place to share ideas is at the core of a healthy society. Restaurants open their doors to this important role.

[]         I WISH I COULD COOK LIKE THAT

If a restaurant fails to set the stage for the question: “How does the chef bring out those incredible flavors in this dish?” then it has lost its ability to be special – to be necessary. So many restaurant operators are good at this – they create some part of the experience that is so special that guests must make a reservation. When the chef and the restaurateur are in sync, then a restaurant becomes essential.

“When we eat something at a restaurant, however simple it may look, there’s something in it that makes you think: ‘Well, I couldn’t quite do this from home.”

-Alex Guarmaschelli

[]         INFRASTRUCTURE DEMANDS

In densely populated urban settings (Paris, New York, San Francisco, Florence, Rome, Madrid, Chicago, Miami, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and hundreds of other cities around the world) – space is the most valuable commodity. Housing in these areas, out of necessity, is tight leaving far less room for the joys of cooking at home – especially in groups. Restaurants have become physically necessary to support the lifestyle of cities and will once again be needed to fill this role.

[]         A FORUM FOR EXPRESSION

When we look at who owns restaurants and why – we find a desire to reach a level of financial success, but also a deep seeded need for chefs and restaurateurs to express himself or herself as either a culinary artist or social host. This desire will quickly regain traction once we move past this crisis.

[]         TRAVEL WILL RETURN – TRAVEL DEMANDS RESTAURANTS

We have accepted life in a global economy and although we will likely learn some lessons as a result of this world crisis, a return to global business is inevitable. People will need to travel for business and everyone will eventually gravitate back to a desire to explore. When travel returns, so too will a real need for restaurants that can service the physical need, but also create an exciting and unique benefit of travel to other parts of the country and world.

Impatience and concern is most certainly making those who made their living in restaurants reconsider their future involvement in this business. This is natural and will likely take a toll on the number of restaurants that return to operation and individuals who seek to continue working in a business that has truly exposed its fragility. On the other hand, when we consider what restaurants mean to various cultures and communities around the world – there should be little doubt that food businesses will once again thrive. For those who love the excitement, creativity, adrenaline, unpredictability, and importance of restaurant work – there will always be a future.

PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER

Restaurants are essential to a full life

Harvest America Ventures, LLC

Restaurant Consulting

www.harvestamericacues.com BLOG

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