Monday, August 17, 2009

The 3/50 Project

You may have to click on that to read it. Or you could just go to the website's home page. I picked up this very flier at a clothing boutique in the Fremont neighborhood in Seattle, and I think it's an absolutely wonderful idea. It doesn't particularly apply to only food businesses, but today we will study it from this context. I don't need to explain to you the idea, since that has already been laid out, but I will tell you why I think it's great.

You ought to know, especially if you are thinking of going to culinary school, that owning a restaurant is exhausting, back braking work that most likely won't bring you a mansion and a yacht. Even the restaurants doing great really don't have that much of a margin of profit. Any trained chef will tell you that. A small restaurant (as compared with large chains) cannot negotiate a price on, for example, thousands of pounds of meat. Think even farther about a business that may have a menu that changes seasonally- they cannot get a lower price for having a standing order for the same ingredients year round. Rarely does family owned restaurant have the resources to grow and/or farm its own food (although the small ones that do are insanely delicious and insanely expensive).

The truth is, if you choose your restaurants based on price, you will (generally speaking, of course) almost always end up at a chain. Seattle is a very community minded city, full of people who do not mind paying a little more money to get a lot more quality. Therefore, this city is probably the least of all cities in the US that need to worry about supporting local businesses (not to mention that a few of our "local" businesses include Starbucks, Nordstrom, and Microsoft). There are also a great number of foodies (like Raj and I) who do not need to consciously remember to go to smaller restaurants- we usually end up there, anyway. My point is, there are a ton of local restaurants here doing great.

Other parts of our country don't think this way (i.e. the town I grew up in, though it's finally beginning to shift). Even when the economy is doing great, if no one goes to the local businesses, they will cease to be. As will the artistry of the chefs who most often don't do it for the money (like large chains), but simply for the sheer joy of being able to live out their passions (if you are that person, then culinary school is for you).

So maybe you can't even afford to spend $150 extra at local business. Still, think to yourself- can you afford to pay $2 more for a burger or sandwich? I think you probably can.

By the way, one of my favorite spots to visit when I'm in my home town is Eggs N' Things. It's not the fanciest establishment, but it's local, it's loved by the neighborhoods, and, even though I've had better food, you can just tell that they care. Start there!

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