“Restaurant Impossible” is a successful TV series on the Food Network where world-class chef Robert Irvine is on a mission to save failing restaurants from themselves by showing owners a better way, retraining staff and renovating the premises.
I, too, have been on a mission to try to help restaurants stay in business—downtown and around the region—by eating on the premises, inside or out, and ordering carryout or delivery the past five months.
Rather than saving restaurants from themselves like chef Irvine, I’m trying to help save them from the politicians who are going to put even more of them out of business with endless restrictions and regulations. Only the absolute strongest will survive under these conditions.
Earlier this week, I had another great business lunch at one of my favorite downtown restaurants. As usual, the food and service were great. As I sat at my table in the bar, but of course not at the bar, which is another of those ridiculous restrictions, I looked around and saw only about a dozen customers at a place that packs them in day after day under normal conditions. I was angry, because it doesn’t have to be this way.
I’ve had some great food during the pandemic but also some average to below-average experiences. For the average, I try to extend the umbrella of grace. I understand how difficult it is to put your best foot forward under an avalanche of rules, regulations and restrictions.
If I get a meal that doesn’t meet expectations or part of my order is missing, I consider it a donation to the cause to keep folks going for another week. Because, who knows if some of these places can survive another week without a miracle?
I know many readers are still not comfortable eating outside their houses. Please understand this column is not an attempt to pressure anyone to do something you don’t feel safe doing. We all have to make our own decisions. I’m not afraid to patronize restaurants that I trust to take reasonable precautions in the same way I take reasonable precautions.
I’ve been saying of late to whoever will listen that, if we continue to leave the job of returning to life as we once knew it up to the politicians, they will most likely put every restaurant and small business out of business before we can move forward. I know that’s not their intent. But that is the result. Where is the balance of safety versus destroying the economy and half or more of all jobs?
There seem to be no boundaries when it comes to shutting down commerce. Every time I get optimistic about making progress to get Indianapolis or Carmel or Greenwood or Avon or Greenfield or every other city, town and county in the region to the goal line and back open for business, the goal posts get moved down the road again for “another two weeks” or “indefinitely.”
As events, meetings and conventions continue to cancel, and many workers still aren’t coming back to their offices, the entire region suffers, especially downtown.
I submit that history will write that the government reaction to this pandemic needlessly created one of the most destructive financial results in history. Whether I’m right or wrong about this supposition—if you are ready, willing and able—please support restaurants and businesses any way you can. A neighbor’s livelihood might depend on it. Thank you for reading.•
Morris is publisher of IBJ. To comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org.