As we are still very much in the early stages of this pandemic, my heart goes out to all of those involved in the restaurant/hospitality industry. For years, I (and many others) have been touting the ever-growing food scene in Salt Lake. In the past 10 years, our dining scene has seen growth and transformation that I don’t think anybody could have fully imagined. So it pains me to think of what the state of the industry in our salty city will look like a year or two from now.
This piece in the New York Times, written by Gabrielle Hamilton, is a heartbreaking glimpse into what is going on in the industry right now. Even more disheartening is that Hamilton is an award-winning chef and author—someone who you would expect to be able to financially able to weather a financial storm such as this. And if Prune may not survive after all of this is over, what is going to happen to all of the mom-and-pop shops out there that don’t have the sizzle and star power of a James Beard award-winning chef? Here’s an excerpt from the piece:
It would be nigh impossible for me, in the context of a pandemic, to argue for the necessity of my existence. Do my sweetbreads and my Parmesan omelet count as essential at this time? In economic terms, I don’t think I could even argue that Prune matters anymore, in a neighborhood and a city now fully saturated with restaurants much like mine, many of them better than mine — some of which have expanded to employ as many as 100 people, not just cooks and servers and bartenders but also human-resource directors and cookbook ghostwriters.I am not going to suddenly start arguing the merits of my restaurant as a vital part of an “industry” or that I help to make up 2 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product or that I should be helped out by our government because I am one of those who employ nearly 12 million Americans in the work force. But those seem to be the only persuasive terms — with my banks, my insurers, my industry lobbyists and legislators. I have to hope, though, that we matter in some other alternative economy; that we are still a thread in the fabric that might unravel if you yanked us from the weave.Everybody’s saying that restaurants won’t make it back, that we won’t survive. I imagine this is at least partly true: Not all of us will make it, and not all of us will perish. But I can’t easily discern the determining factors, even though thinking about which restaurants will survive — and why — has become an obsession these past weeks. What delusional mind-set am I in that I just do not feel that this is the end, that I find myself convinced that this is only a pause, if I want it to be? I don’t carry investor debt; my vendors trust me; if my building’s co-op evicted me, they would have a beast of a time getting a new tenant to replace me.But I know few of us will come back as we were. And that doesn’t seem to me like a bad thing at all; perhaps it will be a chance for a correction, as my friend, the chef Alex Raij, calls it.