State of the Restaurant industry 2021 – by Chef K.
The world is undergoing a systematic restructuring. Not a Great Reset, or a Leap Forward. A re-prioritizing of life, all politics aside.
If we had started the glide into work from home 20 years ago when it really became possible to do so, people wouldn’t be going through this awkward phase where they find themselves crash landed into it. Everyone’s schedules are thrown off and they are trying to figure out how to run things outside the generally accepted principals of the past 100 years.
For a year, most of them have only known home/shopping/outside. They have cycled out of the normal patterns associated with commuting. With heavy schedule keeping. No after school activities, no faith-based activities, very few extracurricular activities. And it’s a real quandary for what to do when we filled our schedules to the max before the pandemic.
Now, Fridays and Saturdays, they are flooding downtown here. Monday mornings can be perky too. But T-Th, it’s the cold death of space out our door. Nothing and nobody.
Traditionally, office workers would hit us on the way into the office and at lunch. Well, no one’s coming in to work, and they aren’t traveling downtown to get lunch. We run 2 people, myself included T-Th, and 4 people F-S. 3 on Mondays unless it’s raining, as there are still plenty of people traveling over the weekends.
However, if you aren’t located next to or in a shopping center, you’re not seeing daily traffic. Which means your employees (current and prospective) aren’t traveling that way either.
It’s a very odd, unique time right now as people figure out priorities and standards. And also remember, retail & fast food(kroger/walmart/mcdonald’s/etc…) were able to pay bonuses during the pandemic due to increased sales. Restaurants were laying people off left and right. That left a mark on the industry. Suddenly the normally easy cash they relied on for a boost to the bottom line (holidays, birthdays, bills to pay off) was no longer reliable. Servers especially. With the move to take out only, they – even the most dynamic and requested – became expendable. And if they do come back, it’s a totally different feel during a shift. The 2 hour lunch rush now comes in a half hour, and the rest of the time is taken up by one or two tables. At best. Take out orders at worst.
The reliability of picking up extra shifts to pay for that vacation is gone. The kids that were in school while you picked up lunch shifts, that’s gone too. Now there is a 50/50 chance your kids – and everyone else’s – are actually in school. So call it childcare insecurities. Lots of insecurities extend from this situation, and the restaurant industry was in no position to acclimate to them. And is struggling to find its own feet in all this.
And if you consider how much of our lives are touched by people who work in and around the industry, you get the feeling that this situation is only the visible part of the iceberg. There are people who are having the same restructuring in all fields and professions. The local federal courts are going to continue Zoom trials after the pandemic is declared over. They are finding it to be an easier managed situation for both parties, as well as reducing court costs. Telemedicine is certainly going nowhere, so how much office staff does a doctor need?
Even teachers aren’t assured anything at this point, as public schools are seeing record enrollment drops and saving a ton on building costs and maintenance.
Leases, contracts, corporate fleet buying, school nutrition contracts…
We really haven’t begun to deal with all aspects of this restructuring.
In all things, do what good you can where you can and when you can, but shore up your own base first so you’re in a position to help.