It seems that we have reached a point where acceptable casualties is a consideration in so many decisions. Whether it is the environment, the postal service, senior citizens, global partnerships, healthcare, or restaurants – there is a tendency to set aside or forget just how important these businesses, global responsibilities, and people truly are to our existence. Let’s take restaurants as an example – one might assume that these businesses are a luxury since cooking at home is always a logical alternative. But, what those who hold the decision-making power might overlook is that restaurants are more than a vehicle for preparing food and passing it on to those willing to buy.
Throughout history – restaurants have been integral to civilized communities. This dates back to the Renaissance, through this time of enlightenment, the growth of human intellect, during times of conflict and war, struggling through recession and depression, when the structure of society and its government seems to falter and of course, when times are great and life seems to glow with optimism. Restaurants are more than places where we can fill our stomachs – so much more. Let’s take a look:
 RESTAURANTS ARE ESSENTIAL TO THE GROWTH OF SMALL TOWN AMERICA
From the days of prohibition to the opening of America through the Eisenhower initiative to build the highway infrastructure of the U.S. – restaurants were always one of the first signs of community spirit. Restaurants could be found wherever roads intersected and people began to build their homes. The America Diner and the Speakeasy represented the presence of promise and the existence of the institution of neighborhoods. Every town – regardless of size, needs its centerpiece restaurant.
 RESTAURANTS ARE CENTERS FOR INTELLECTUAL DISCUSSION
From the early coffee houses of Europe to the Brasseries and Cafes of France, the Trattorias of Italy, the Pubs of England and Ireland, the Cantinas and Taquerias of Mexico, and to the corner American diners, taverns, pizzerias, and hotel dining rooms – mankind has relied on restaurants to serve as a destination where people of all backgrounds and beliefs could gather and discuss or argue their beliefs, strategies, and conclusions. This forum has been essential as people from all over the world developed their philosophy of life and ethical/moral standards.
 RESTAURANTS ARE IN THE BUSINESS OF REWARD AND RECOGNITION
People crave some level of recognition and reward. It may be as simple as allowing friends a chance to say congratulations, an opportunity to recognize the bond between two or more people, the ability to gather and recognize the accomplishments of a group, toasting wins and commiserating a loss, celebrating a departed friends life, or simply a pat on the back for a hard days work – people desire and need those opportunities. Restaurants have always been the logical place where these activities take place and restaurant people are born to provide those opportunities.
 RESTAURANTS ARE THE GATEWAY TO CAREERS
Pick a professionally successful individual, or maybe a few who you see as highly successful in their careers – ask them about their background and most importantly – what was their first job. It is highly likely that many would say that their first introduction to work for pay was in a restaurant of some type. It may have been quick service, or probably a position such as dishwasher, counter server, or bus person, but I have a high level of confidence that the first job was in a restaurant. Some stayed with it, but many took the work ethic and entry level skills they learned and created a road map for their own careers moving forward. That restaurant experience set the stage.
 RESTAURANTS ARE THE PORTAL FOR ENTREPRENEURSHIP
If, in fact, the great American Dream is to own a business and chart ones own path towards success, then it would be impossible to ignore how important the restaurant business is to that dream. People migrated through Ellis Island from countries all over the world in search of this American Dream and many chose the path of restaurants. With their history and traditions in hand they came from Ireland, England, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Russia, China, Japan and dozens of other countries and took their small savings to open that corner ethnic restaurant from New York to San Francisco. The restaurant industry in America was born of this melting pot of ethnic explorers – it continues to be this opportunity that makes our country diverse, unique, and great.
Nearly 70% of all restaurants in the U.S. are private entrepreneurships and 80% of owners started their careers in entry-level foodservice positions.
 RESTAURANTS PROVIDE A ROADWAY FOR BUSY LIFESTYLES
Americans work, American families work, and these families need two incomes to thrive and support the lifestyle that inspires them – thus, restaurants are a necessity to support incredibly busy lives. Where dining out just fifty years ago was considered a luxury that was reserved for special occasions, it is now an absolute necessity.
 RESTAURANTS ARE ESSENTIAL TO OUR ECONOMY
According to the National Restaurant Association – 2020 projections (before Covid-19 struck) included expected national sales of $899 billion, in more than 1 million freestanding restaurants that would employ 15.6 million workers. This defines the restaurant industry as one of the top employers in the U.S. Of course, all of these projections will now change as a result of the current crisis, but this picture of growth and influence has been evident for decades.
 RESTAURANTS PROVIDE A FORUM FOR EXPRESSION
One of the common traits of restaurant careerists – especially cooks, chefs, and restaurateurs is an inherent need to express their art through work. To the chef – the canvas is their plate and to the restaurateur it is the art of hospitality, making customers feel welcome and special. No other art form allows the craftsperson to approach all five human senses as they develop a connection with each guest who walks through a restaurant’s doors.
 RESTAURANTS ARE THE ULTIMATE CONNECTION BETWEEN GROWER AND CONSUMER
When we enjoy a plate of food we are indirectly recognizing the hard work and passion of the farmer, fisherman, rancher, cheese maker, brewer, wine maker, distiller, and distributor. That restaurant plate is their collective chance to showcase their work as much as it is a canvas for the chef.
 RESTAURATEURS AND CHEFS ARE IN THE BUSINESS OF EDUCATION
Although some may deliver an education without realizing it – restaurateurs and chefs are providing opportunities each day for consumers to learn about the source of food, the people involved in the distribution chain, the ethnic background of the chef and his or her cultural influences, the styles of service passed down through generations, the warmth of spirit that the restaurant owner lays out every day, and the traditions of an industry that is rich and diverse. Every guest walks away from a restaurant experience with a new piece of knowledge every time he or she invests in the experience.
 RESTAURANTS ARE A MAGNET FOR URBAN RE-DEVELOPMENT AND GENTRIFICATION
When neighborhoods are focused on growth, when tired communities are committed to resurrection or transformation, and when people within a neighborhood are ready to create a new level of positive spirit – it is a restaurant that holds the key to that energy. Time and again we find this to be the case. Urban renewal begins with restaurants first, then shops and residences, parks and recreation, and so on.
 RESTAURANTS PROVIDE COMFORT, SUPPORT, AND HOPE
Restaurant people are some of the most generous to be found anywhere. Community leaders and essential organizations look to restaurants for help in supporting their causes, and restaurants always respond. We have come to rely on this generosity and know that those incredible chefs and owners are part of the heart and soul of a community.
 RESTAURANTS ARE ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT VEHICLES FOR APPRECIATING DIVERSITY
America gives lip service to creating diversity in the workplace and even attempts to formally or informally dictate that this happens. Diversity has been natural in the restaurant business since it’s beginning. Walk into any restaurant in America, even more so in urban centers, and you will find a plethora of ethnicity, race, gender, and belief. It is refreshing and natural.
 RESTAURANTS DEFINE THE CULTURAL BACKGROUNDS, TRADITIONS, AND FLAVORS OF A COMMUNITY
People tend to flock to the things that make us alike. City centers, in particular, find a natural gravitation to micro communities of ethnic background and at the center will be restaurants that portray the cultural similarities and traditions of that group. If you want to know something about a neighborhood- look to its restaurant scene.
 RESTAURANTS ARE THE SOUL OF THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY
As the world moves past the Coronavirus at some point – it will be the travel industry that defines how quickly the economy recovers. Whether for business or pleasure, people have a need and desire to travel by plane, train, and automobile. Every travel destination relies on its restaurants to help create its uniqueness and attractiveness. Travel and restaurants are an important partnership for economic growth and the wellbeing of a society.
This is a time to understand and appreciate the significance of the restaurant industry that is devastated right now. Those in the industry understand and support the need for isolation – we must work together to defeat this invisible viral enemy, but we must realize that many of the restaurants in the U.S. and beyond will not survive the impact of mandated closure. This is a wonderful industry with very tight profit margins, and an industry made of small private entrepreneurships without cash reserves – they are hanging on by a thread. When they are able to return, the ones that are able to hold out that long, it is important that we all find ways to support them. In the meantime they turn to the U.S. government – not for a handout, but for assistance and understanding.
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