In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants are challenged as patrons shelter in place and local regulations ban many dining rooms from reopening. While restaurants have certainly demonstrated the adaptability required as they've pivoted to curbside service and delivery, there's no doubting the importance of in-person dining to both our community psyche and our local economies.
For starters, consider a recent study that says of all things consumers want to do in a post-pandemic world, going to a restaurant is the top item. In fact, 62 percent of all respondents indicated this is the first thing they'll do. While restaurants are great for our collective psyche, they're also great for the economy. Considering just the independent restaurants -- not chains or other types of operations -- the number of people independent restaurants employ in New York City alone is greater than the number employed by the entire United States aviation industry. The Independent Restaurant Coalition has cited these facts and others as part of their campaign to help local economies.
But why are restaurants so important to local economies? Let's take a closer look.
When you consider the number of people required to run a full-service restaurant -- from bartenders to dishwashers -- and then you factor in the number of meal services per day, there's no denying the power of foodservice when it comes to employing people. According to the National Restaurant Association, more than half of Americans have worked in foodservice at one point or another, accounting for nearly 16 million people employed by the restaurant industry at any given moment.
This is a great reason to support local restaurants during the current pandemic. Whether it be carryout or delivery, or even in-person dining when available and as consumers become more comfortable, supporting our local restaurants is paramount to supporting our local economies.
The Supply Chain
Many restaurants put money into the local economy. From paying rent or property taxes to utilities, restaurants pump a lot of cash into the local economy. More and more, restaurants are taking advantage of local suppliers to create farm-to-table menus, and this is more cash that flows into the local community.
Restaurants will run to the local grocery store for emergency supplies, and their delivery drivers stop at local convenience stores for gas. Plus, most of the employees that they employ will spend their paychecks locally, pumping even more money into the local economy. Most restaurants use local banks for deposits, and this also helps to keep the economy flourishing. All across the supply chain and in periphery businesses, supporting local restaurants helps support the local economy.
A Sense of Community
Every town in America has that one pizza place where the little league teams go after games or the barbecue joint where all the locals flock to pick up goodies for tailgating before the big game. Most people enjoy going out for a meal with family and friends. It provides a sense of camaraderie and community.
There are always certain restaurants in any town that everyone knows. Not only do they know the place, they know the people who work there or own it. In some ways, the sense of community created makes the restaurant as important to locals as their own kitchens. Some towns are known as foodie havens, and this sense of community comes from all the local and national businesses in the area.
Food tourism is a big thing. People will go out of their ways or even plan trips just to try a particular restaurant or dish. You aren't going to go to Atlanta without eating at the Varsity or to San Francisco without dining at the Fog City Cafe. A town with a thriving restaurant culture can become a tourist destination all on its own. Also, when traveling by car, people will choose to stay the night in cities with a lot of good restaurants. You may find that part of the reason a person returns to your local community is that they love eating at a specific restaurant. A good local restaurant can make a huge difference for a town of any size, especially for attracting visitors.