Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Fork in the Road

There’s lots of advice for managing your money and weathering the economic turmoil that has most of us anxious in Suze Orman’s 2009 Action Plan. Among the financial planning guru’s prescriptions is to stop going out to eat for a month. Bad idea. There are many smart ways to save money but this isn’t one of them. At least that’s what some of us think. I give you two opinions on the subject.

The first is from Douglas Katz, Owner of fire food and drink and President of Cleveland Independents
As a Suze Orman fan and a chef/independent restaurateur, I must take issue with her recommendation to avoid eating out as part of her 2009 action plan. In principal, avoiding eating out may provide a short-term solution for select consumers, however, it is crucial to view this decision in term of both its short and long-term impact on the economy.
According to All Business, a D&B Company:
• Restaurant-industry employment will reach 13.3 million by 2012.
• In 2010, the restaurant industry will operate more than 1 million units and post sales of $577 billion
• More than eight out of 10 salaried employees at table-service restaurants started as hourly employees
• One third of all adults in the United States have worked in the restaurant industry at some time during their lives
• The number of African-American-owned and women-owned eating and drinking place firms increased at double digit rating during the past decade
• Eating and drinking places rank second, based on sales volume, among retail establishments owned by African-Americans and Hispanics
• Eating and drinking places employ more minority managers than any other industry
With independent restaurants closing on a daily basis due to lack of volume, Suze’s advice can only serve to further impact this situation. It is my hope that she will investigate this situation in a more global manner and ultimately discuss the fact that, in this particular instance, she may have jumped to a conclusion that does not best serve the consumer.

Katz has assembled some important facts and figures. My views are less researched and more personal. With vacation plans on indefinite hold, eating out is one form of fun I can still afford. A restaurant meal may be a luxury, but it’s one that's within reach for me, when so many things are not, and the experience usually lifts my spirits. After working all day or all week, it’s like a mini-holiday just to sit back and be served. It feels good to relax, get out of the house, and put my cares aside for an hour or two. And in these hard times, I need that.

And let’s not forget that those people taking care of us in a restaurant-from the servers and bussers to the prep guys and dishwashers in the back, are our friends, neighbors, family-members, somebody’s son or daughter, all just trying to earn a living like you and me. They live in northeast Ohio and spend their money here so that means they’re helping to keep all kinds of other people employed. We’re an economic eco-system, a community, with every part inter-related and inter-dependent. Now’s the time to pull together, not turn our backs on one another.

And think about this. Virtually every charitable organization and worthy cause in this town enlist the support of local restaurant owners and chefs for their events. They are a regular presence at fundraisers, DONATING time, talent, and countless pans and platters of wonderful food to support the good causes the rest of us champion . Now it’s our turn to support them. If we don’t many will go out of business. We’ll miss them when they’re gone and lose valuable cultural and community resources.

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