Culinary no-no began on Father’s Day 2007, a beautiful summer day, when I wrote about grilling brats. And eating brats. And topping those brats. I was inspired by my wife, Jennifer who, in my admittedly unscientific opinion, ruins brats by squirting ketchup on them. Other dining taboos quickly came to mind. The original idea was to take this concept only a few months, till the end of summer and then pull the plug. Then the unexpected happened. People started reading Culinary no-no. Lots of folks. So we keep doing the no-no.
Drove past the newly opened Starbucks at Loomis and Layton mid-morning today. Outdoor patio furniture was still set up. Not a single seat was taken.
Scenes like this, dining comfortably in the open air are becoming more rare in these parts with each passing day.
Somehow restaurants need to convince patrons to move back inside at a time when many patrons seem highly reluctant to do so. It’s a tough call about how to proceed but something’s got to give. According to the National Restaurant Association about 100,000 U.S. restaurants, or 1 in 6, have gone under since the coronavirus first hit. So, what can restaurants on shaky ground possibly do? They have some options.
Install space heaters outdoors.
Put up tents.
Utilize temporary igloos.
Heat lamps (but just try to find some).
Hand out blankets.
Now those are ways to enhance the dining experience…NOT.
Suppose restaurants resort to some or all of these tactics. No guarantee they will be enough to lure return customers.
To survive, how about increasing menu prices? Are you kidding?
Steve Nikolakakos owns three restaurants in Manhattan.
“How are we going to increase prices?” he said. “Everyone is broke.”
At the moment, quite possibly the only workable options to survive, ever so slightly, are carryout and delivery. Clearly, restaurants are hurting.
Monthly U.S. restaurant sales hit their lowest point in April, when they plunged to $30 billion, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That was less than half the amount restaurants made a year earlier. Sales steadily improved as lockdowns ended, carryout demand picked up and states allowed to-go alcohol. U.S. restaurant sales hit $55 billion in August, but that’s still $10 billion less than last year.
Some waiters and kitchen staff have gone back to work. Restaurant employment rose by 3.6 million people over the four months ending in August, according to government data. Still, there were 2.5 million fewer U.S. restaurant workers in August compared to February.
Read from CNBC about the challenges restaurants face.
CULINARY NO-NO BONUSES
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