Risking it.

Dear Feastlings,

I was sure that yesterday’s email would be the last one I sent this year, but I’m sending one more, and I know it’s risky. It’s New Year’s Eve, after all, and not only are we still prepping for it full-tilt- there are the customary miscommunications that need to be rectified, the staff needs to be briefed on the menu items, and we’ll be dealing with all the customary last-minute calls from people who, like all of us, have been so focused on their own Covidy holiday mayhem that it didn’t occur to them until today that they might need a reservation on one of the busiest restaurant days of the year.

I’m not writing about that, and I’m not writing about our own situation. Feast is fine. We’ve lasted twenty years and change, and we’ll still be around for a while, at least until our mortgage is paid. But I know that you remarkably kind people are prone to take action, and prone to write back. I’m perpetually amazed at how many of you don’t just hit the Delete button when these emails come around. But this note isn’t for Feast.

I’m writing for small business writ large, and here’s why: Feast has had the luxury of stepping into the pandemic with nearly nineteen years under its belt, and that means nineteen years to get caught up financially, to squirrel away some cash, and to build relationships with literally thousands of people. I’m not remotely worried- what I’m about to mention here will likely be balanced out when we do inventory next week and see what we’re still sitting on and what it’s worth. And there’ll be more- tips credits, Covid-related tax breaks for people we kept employed throughout- we’ll be just fine. But I do this thing that I’m guessing most business owners do, which is looking at where we are financially at the end of the year. Even with it being New Year’s Eve, with 140 people scheduled to dine with us tonight and another few dozen picking up New Year’s hors d’oeuvres, we won’t end the year in the black. Being takeout-only for the first five months of the year and the ensuing seven months at maybe 60% capacity will find us somewhere around five or ten thousand dollars in the red, which I can assure you beats last year.

So Feast will dip into the coffers it’s built for now over twenty years and call it even- we lost money for the first four years we were open and lived to tell about it, and we’ll do that again, so please understand that this is by no means a call to action to help us out. We truly don’t even want sympathy. What we’ve lost in money these past two years, we’ve more than gained in connecting with people who love us, who support us, and who inexplicably keep reading these emails. We’re grateful for that like nobody’s business.

I write this as a call to action for younger, smaller businesses than this one. I don’t put a lot of stock in New Year’s resolutions for myself- I’ll stick with what I stick with and I won’t stick with what I won’t- but this is a reminder for myself and for whichever of you don’t wander past my soapbox without stopping to listen: small businesses need you. They needed you last year, and the year before, and they still need you. They’re composed of people who rely on them to feed their families, not stockholders looking for maximum return on their investment of disposable income. I hope that you’ll take a minute this week to think of a small business, one that’s been affected by two years of shutdowns, broken supply lines and shaken consumer confidence, and then you’ll go out and shop with them. Or think of a charity who’s relied on the generosity of all the businesses who’ve suddenly found themselves without the ability to donate like the used to. I think in terms of my own industry, of course, but I know I can’t begin to think of all the people who’ve been affected financially by this mess in scores of other industries, so I’ll leave it to you. Whether it’s a hobby you have; a business that supplies a business of your own, or someone that takes care of your family, friends, or pets; someone that you see every week but never stopped to think that maybe one of the businesses you rely on each day; the people you’ve supported over the years are all fundamentally reliant upon you, and upon others like you.

You can only do what you can do, of course. Maybe you’ve been hobbled by it yourself, but if there’s something I’ve learned over the past 22 months, it’s the value of community, and that when every member contributes, it no longer matters how large or small the contribution any one person makes. Enough drops will fill a bucket, or a bathtub, or an ocean, and I, for one, will be happy to help someone float on it to a more secure place.

Happy 2022, everyone. May it beat the pants off of 2021.



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