As in years past, I am responsible for writing the State of the Industry report, which begins in this issue on page 26. I usually devote eight pages to the piece, but had to do it in four pages this time around because this brutal economy has injured nearly all businesses, including publishing. So my heart breaks for you as I observe and write about the struggle you're going through to survive these hard times.
What's particularly sad is that too many consumers still believe that restaurateurs are millionaires living glamorous lives. They have no idea how slim your profit margins are and how hard you work. So I was more than a little annoyed recently when financial guru Suze Orman, on the Oprah Winfrey Show, advised people to stay out of restaurants for one month. This advice was part of her “2009 Action Plan,” which also included “Do not spend money for one day” and “Do not use your credit card for one week.”
Orman, who is a millionaire many times over, built her fame and fortune by offering personal financial advice through books and television to people who have been fiscally irresponsible. Good for her. But where does she come off targeting only the restaurant industry? We all know people who've gotten themselves into deep financial doo doo, but it was because they purchased wildly pricey homes beyond their means or bought cars, boats, big screen TVs and the like. I don't know anyone who lost their home to the bank because they spent too much money in restaurants.
Should people be more financially prudent during a recession? No doubt. But the answer to solving this country's financial woes is not to stay home and live a hermit's life. If large numbers of people took Orman's advice and did not eat in restaurants for a month, millions would be hurt. Not just the restaurant owners, but the 13 million people who work in the industry as well as the suppliers, distributors, farmers, ranchers and others who support them.
As you might expect, Orman's words have riled many, including Doug Katz, the chef/owner of Fire Food & Drink and president of Cleveland Independents, an organization dedicated to helping local independent restaurants survive and thrive in a highly competitive restaurant market.
“With independent restaurants closing on a daily basis due to lack of volume, Suze's advice can only serve to further impact the situation,” wrote Katz on behalf of the organization. “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.”
He's right. Her suggestion does not best serve consumers or the country because restaurants not only feed millions daily, they offer a retreat during this most stressful time.