The continued expansion of the restaurant diaspora

Dear Feastlings,

I’m starting today’s email with a notice: if you’re tired of reading my gripes, I get it. You signed up to know about Feast the restaurant and what’s going on in it, thinking that meant you’d hear about events and wine tastings, specials and deals. And you do. You likely didn’t think you’d be hearing about Feast the restaurant and the inside of Doug’s head, but like it or not, this is also what’s going on in Feast, and in tens of thousands of other restaurants across the country and the world.

The notice I have for you is something you already know: you have a delete button. Just don’t read this if it’s going to make you cranky. If your sole purpose of reading these long-winded diatribes is to see what we’ve literally got cooking, skip straight to the links and ignore the filler in between; if you want to know what else is going on, go ahead and read the in between parts.

If I sound a bit testy, it’s because we’ve got a lot going on. Tonight we’ll be doing the benefit dinner that we do annually for the Primavera Foundation, where this year four people who don’t customarily work in restaurants come in and work with us for a few days to make dinner for 90 or so of you, and everyone pays for the privilege in order to aid the good works of the Primavera Foundation. It’s a great event, and we had a party of four cancel, so if you’re thinking about squeezing it in, you should ring up David Elliott at Primavera and see if there’s still a seat or four available. You can find his number, in red, and learn a bit about the series of events, here:

Having been tied up with this, it’s been a moment, not just to help these kind folk make you dinner, but to cover for a few others. This week saw the retirement of another talented longtime Feast crew member, who after eight years of giving it her all gave in to not wanting to deal with it anymore, and I can’t blame her for a second- there’s been a steadily rotating crew of people with little to no background in the industry filing through, punctuated with no-call/no-shows, heavy self-medicating of various types, entitlement (“what do you mean I need to punch out if I’m going to have a ten-minute video call with my kid multiple times throughout the day?”) and yesterday, someone who quit after being written up for inappropriate comments and behavior that offended multiple coworkers, because issuing a written warning was “hurtful.” Sigh.

So here we are, back to being short two people in the kitchen- three, really, if we ever want to reopen on Sundays- and at the same time, we’re trying to get the wine tasting posted,

The South of France

prep for our Father’s Day specials, for which we’ll be open an extra day next week despite the wisdom of it,

Some tasty treats for dad

and for the Bonfires of San Juan, a celebration of Spanish food and drink and the Summer Solstice.

The Bonfires of San Juan

Stressful as it may be, though, what it mostly does, apart from making me eat my feelings relentlessly, is make me contemplate the steady- or unsteady- expansion of the restaurant diaspora. Every time someone talented throws their hands up and decides to renounce the restaurant industry, again, for which I can’t blame a single one, it becomes necessarily that much more difficult for everyone left behind in the homeland of foodservice. And every time it becomes more difficult, someone else reaches their own threshold.
Restaurants are walking the tightrope stretched between impending doom and keeping their doors open by doing everything from raising prices cautiously and well after their own food and labor costs have mounted alongside their utilities and peripheral costs like linens or insurance; to skimping on the quality or quantity of what ends up on your plate; to instituting a service charge that’s connected to really nothing but walking in and sitting down

(mind you, European restaurants have been charging a cover charge of that sort for centuries, though they don’t have the same tipping structure that we have.) They’ve brought in robots and kiosks, or given a server a ten-table section, or had the chef de cuisine shoehorn working the line in with their administrative duties.

The restaurant industry will, like so many other things post-pandemic, change itself fundamentally to offer less and cost more, until it stabilizes enough to tempt those of us who remain to stick with it and believe we can make a living at the thing we love to do. I have no idea how long that will take, but I can say that after doing this for forty-one years, it won’t stabilize tomorrow.

So thank you who’ve stuck with us- the guests who’ve tolerated the interminable wait for a table or the lag between appetizers and entrees, and who’ve continued to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries despite the fact that the medium rare steak they order is served anywhere between rare and medium. Thank you, restaurant folk who’ve thought daily of an office job with a comfy chair and nights and weekends free, and have nonetheless given the industry a second and third and tenth chance. Thank you all for not giving up, and for giving those of us who remain in the business a reason not to give up either.


A bunch of people who remain in the restaurant business

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