As much as things are better for us financially than they were last year, it still mostly just means we’ve lost less money this year than last year. That may sound like a soft-pedaled alarmist message, but at the same time, hey: let’s call a spade a spade. Our numbers are always down in the summer- I defy you to find a Tucson restaurant who isn’t operating in the red come September- but by being down as little as we’re down, we’re up 23% over last year, and that feels, um, good? I think?
And despite our prices creeping up all the time, people seem, for the most part, anyway, nonplussed. I’m grateful that the majority of the people who dine here aren’t as price-sensitive as people who dine at the more affordable end of the restaurant spectrum, but it still warrants that tightrope walk between covering our ever-increasing food and labor costs, plus all the secret costs that work their way in. We pay a premium now just to have the seafood truck pull into our parking lot. In fact, if you count the gas surcharges by the two dozen-plus purveyors who sell us ingredients and products, or rent us linens, or cart away our used grease or garbage, we pay hundreds of dollars a week just for the privilege of having those trucks pull into our parking lot, before anything ever gets unloaded from them or loaded onto them.
So we have to keep inching up our prices, but the more we inch them up, the more we drive away people who are at the threshold of what they’re willing to pay for a night out. So then we sell less and the costs of doing business go up even more. I feel like I’m playing bridge with a partner I can’t read, and I wish someone would kick me under the table.
Again: I reiterate here that we’re doing better than we were last year at this point, so it’s perhaps more observation than complaint, but there’s a cumulative effect to walking that tightrope every day for two and a half years. I find myself opening the emails that I never had before, and daydreaming about easier times. I clicked on this link the other day and found myself simultaneously appalled that I had even clicked it out of curiosity, and yet strangely becalmed by the ersatz smiles on the staff and patrons at a restaurant, clapping joyfully as a disturbing robot brings them their birthday cake before it hauls away garbage in a bus tub.
And despite the fact that I have no intention of selling Feast, whether it’s because my undying and unhealthy love for it prevents it, or whether it’s because I don’t expect I could find someone foolish enough to buy it or on whom I could unload it without feeling overly guilty, I clicked on this one as well:
If nothing else, it makes me feel that we’re in better shape than I had thought, and that if the Thai restaurant in Plainfield, Illinois, or the sandwich franchise in Grand Forks, North Dakota can fetch $125,000, Feast is probably just fine. Or even if it weren’t, I could possibly get out of it most of what I put in, especially if things continue in the direction we’re taking this year over last year.
So for now, I won’t be hiring a robot, unless it’s to be my quiet friend, the one who listens to my troubles, brings me a snack and a glass of wine, and hauls my garbage away in a bus tub while I smile the disturbing smile of an extra in a commercial for a robot.
Nor will I be selling Feast, unless the person who makes a killing in Grand Forks looks to expand to a pricier Tucson venture. I’ll just keep on doing what I’ve been doing for 21 years now: changing the menu every month,
hosting a weekly wine tasting, which I should note, is, experimentally, at least, entirely in person this week, with no Zoom component,
and writing the occasional meandering email about whatever clouds are bumping against the insides of my skull at any given moment. It’s September in Tucson, so it’s quiet, and a good day for a daydream.
Drifting off for now,