Hope springs eternal

The current winter season in my city has been absolutely brutal. As of right now we have had 12 restaurants close down since the middle of December and I am hearing rumblings of a few other places that are between a rock and a hard place.

Very Very Very Closed (2)
Very very very CLOSED, via Flickr

A few have done the absolute worst by their employees and let them go without any notice whatsoever. Others just a week of warning. Few are those that do right by their people and give them proper warning so they can start looking for employment elsewhere.

This does lead to the specific problem I am thinking about as I write this. There is now a glut of skilled restaurant people looking for work in this town and no one will, or can, hire them. In the summer months restaurants are absolutely desperate to hire skilled labor, but the situation reverses during the winter months.

This year has also been much, much worse in terms of closures. If memory serves the average was three or four restaurants permanently closing for business. I am not about to go down an internet rabbit hole looking for data so it is likely the average is higher, yet no one really talked about it. In this industry places can and will come and go in the blink of an eye.

So, what happens to those newly unemployed hands? A lot of them probably have other jobs they can rely on to pay the bills. Others will find employment, maybe in this area, or by moving to another part of the country. But a few will quit— and will not come back to the industry. This applies particularly to the cooks. Cannot sell food if there is no one in the kitchen to cook it.

There is some hope with some new restaurants already open and others that will be opening in the coming weeks and months, but it might not be soon enough for people in trouble now. When spring arrives the employment cycle will, without fail, start over.

Some people are blaming local government for raising the minimum wage or for general hostility to small businesses. Others are blaming the state for favoring Big Business. Let us please not talk about the federal government. Everyone is kinda sorta joking about blaming Millennials, even though they’re the labor pool most restaurants depend on much to their own detriment— when is the last time you saw a server over the age of 50 working somewhere other than a diner?

I don’t have a solution or even the idea for a solution. I just noticed this fact and consider myself fortunate to have a career in a different sector, with enough time to turn my thoughts to this industry that has taught me so much and I hope will keep doing so.

I hope that most find jobs quickly at good places. For now hoping is all I can do.

Leaving, both ways

This post started so innocently, in a most innocuous manner.

Got up from the desk, went over to the kitchen with my mug. Grabbed some tea, filled the mug with hot water, set a timer. That’s when I saw them:

iPhone with timer app open
There’s an app for that

All the timers I had set for items I would be cooking:

  • Baked beans
  • Braised chicken
  • Spicy ground meat. Deep, red spice and heat, almost a chili.
  • Sous-vide eggs
  • Random odds and ends that just remained there

Those timers were on my phone for months while I worked at this establishment. Timers for basically everything there was, with names that were easy for voice recognition to work with.

Without these timers I assure you, I would not even be in a kitchen. Al the product I would be burning and throwing away, all the waste. Working on the line gives you a great sense of timing but nothing beats having a timer.

And then, my mind still in efficiency mode, I deleted them all.

It wasn’t until I was done with this that I realized what it was I had done. This restaurant recently closed down and I know a few of the employees there are still reeling, yet here I am casually deleting the last remnant of it on something I use every day, namely, my smartphone.

Yes, there are the mementos: a couple of spoons, a pan, a mug, the great many pictures of my coworkers goofing off. But these timers… they were something of actual use, not just something that was done for fun. This was done for actual work.

But they’re gone now.

You leave a restaurant, and slowly, bit by bit, a restaurant leaves you.

There is a bar out there what will do this

Surfing around found myself entranced by this post over on Reddit:

Sure the design of the cup makes you feel like a child— which might be what the bar wants. Perhaps there are other designs out there that would hold up to the rigors of food service but I have yet to find one that fits the bill. Maybe one fully made of glass, with a wide straw opening?

Then of course you could use metal straws.

I have yet to see a bar actually washing the inside of them properly so your mileage as a bar person will vary depending on what the boss got for the place.

You could also use paper straws, which seem to be the preferred solution for bars everywhere.

People will complain they go soft too quickly… but that’s because you’re leaving the straw inside. You can put it on the bar on a napkin, or on a saucer if provided one.

Me? I’m all for sippy cups.

Wine Tariffs

The story is simple: The president has said he wants to protect American trade but the actions he has taken up to this point have proven he is just not up to the task. Which brings us to something a lot of people are not really prepared to deal with:

The potential upcoming tariffs (up to a 100%!) on articles of European origin. These would be on top of the tariffs started back in October of 2019.

Having gotten in a trade war with China the federal government is now getting into something that could be termed trade skirmishes, all because the president did not like something the European Union was free to determine for itself after a long-running legal fight that involved the World Trade Organization.

Please comment on this regulation at regulations.gov, and contact your Congress representatives to dissuade the U.S. Trade Representative from this levy.

I am just typing this up quick, but there are plenty of explainers out there. Just don’t believe that you specifically will be able to drink around it. There are many great and excellent wines made outside of Europe, yes, but they’re not the one you like, or the one you remember so fondly, or a myriad of reasons. Look around! Information is always there.

Be aware this levy is not only on wine. Other products are also affected: Cheese, olive oil, and oh yeah, whiskey and scotch.

Your local favorite restaurant with that wine you have not been able to find anywhere else will thank you for it.

Another go, another try

Well, here we are again. Maybe this time I will actually be able to develop this into what I have envisioned— main problem being I don’t really have a vision for what I want this to be… yet. But I’m sure ideas will follow.

I type this as another chapter of my food service career ends: The restaurant where I have been working for the past few months is in the process of shutting down. I have already worked my last shift and all that remains is to pick up odds and ends that I have taken there to make my job easier. The company is making some effort to place employees at other restaurants but given the current winter season there is only so much it can do.

I am not to worried as I do have employment elsewhere that, I hope, will allow me to actively bring my words here.

Here’s to a new year.

Restaurant Industry 2030

I’m just about two months late to this party but better late than never, right? The National Restaurant Association did a report on what they think will happen over the next 30 years and it is worth a read, even if it is for the chuckles you’ll get out of it.

Restaurant 2010. A look ahead at the forces experts predict will shape our industry.

Be aware— it is kind of a large download, tipping the scales at 30 Megabytes which is why I am linking to its landing page instead of the document itself. If you are limited on bandwidth wait to hook up to someone’s wifi.