Conversations and quotes in this article have been transcribed from the Foodbeast Katchup Podcast: "#114: $7 Billion & 1.4 Million CA Restaurant Jobs At-Risk" out now. Hear the full conversation: Foodbeast Katchup Podcast on Spotify, Foodbeast Katchup Podcast on Apple Podcasts, and available on major platforms where podcasts are heard.
The new normal has pushed me to understand more about the inner-workings of the things we love. Getting together for a meal with friends and family is, without a doubt, what I miss the most. Anecdotally this seems to be similar with everyone I talk to – regardless of what industry they work in or the passions they pursue.
In my search of figuring out how both FOODBEAST and I could assist our friends, family, colleagues and networks within the restaurant industry, I’ve learned A LOT. That was especially so with my recent interview with Jot Condie: the CEO of the California Restaurant Association (CRA), the oldest advocacy group of its kind, originally founded in 1906.
For those unfamiliar with Restaurant Associations they’re a combination of marketing and lobbying, and in this case the CRA has been communicative with city, county and state governments and their officials, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti & California Governor Gavin Newsom.
As much as we’re all fiending to set a reservation, eat one of our favorite meals and support the establishment that has in turn supported us, Condie reminded me of the enormous impact restaurants have beyond serving food and drink. They are one of the largest segments of private employment, fund local communities (through sales taxes) and provide third places for us to gather, connect.
Restaurants Provide Employment – First Jobs, Second Chances, The Underserved
“The California Restaurant Industry was the second largest private sector employer in the state, 1.4 million work in the food service industry at about 100,000 restaurants,” – Jot Condie
More than 1 in every 30 people were employed by the food service industry at the start of 2020. In addition, restaurants have served as opening opportunities to first-time workers, a place to start anew for the formerly incarcerated and a ‘fallback’ for different industries in hard times. (Side note, read this great article on why those jobs shouldn’t be considered a backup solution).
Condie estimates that up to nearly ⅓ of all restaurants will close. If that ratio translates directly to restaurant employment – we’re talking about 400,000+ in job losses.
Restaurants Provide $7 Billion in Sales Taxes to The State & Counties of California
“You’re likely to see, [over] the next year to two years, state budgets and local budgets be affected by this [. . .] the tax generation stopped immediately.” – Jot Condie
State and County programs have large parts of the their budgets directly tied to sales tax initiatives, of which restaurants are historically the #1 contributor. According to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office – money from sales taxes are earmarked across K-12 education, higher education, health programs, criminal justice, public safety, mental health, transportation and more.
Restaurants Provide ‘Third Places’ – Locations to Connect, Converse & Celebrate
“We’re the opposite of social distancing which is why the restaurant industry was called out first. This is the purpose we serve: a place to gather.” – Jot Condie
I’m ready for the opposite of social distancing (when it’s safe): longer hugs before a wonderful table of friends, family and food.
But to get there, there’s something we can do right now: organize. Many of us have a bit (or a lot) of time on our hands. Many of us have access to all types of technology to communicate safely (heck buy some stamps to save the post office??). We have our own networks connecting us to others.
Write a letter to your local mayor, county supervisor. Coordinate with your neighborhood to support a local small business. Write a thank you note to your delivery driver, your grocery clerk, the frontline worker you personally know. If there’s anything Foodbeast can do to continue to help, firstname.lastname@example.org.