Monday, April 19, 2010

Restaurants Are Trendy. Or, Econ 101 For The Food Set.

I read an interesting article in the New York Times a couple days ago that suggested restaurants are bellwethers of the economy. This is great news for me and everyone else in the essentially commission-based restaurant industry. It feels great to be a trend setter.

Here are some other bellwethers:

Bank of America

Sienna Miller

JP Morgan and Intel

Bellwether Hard Cider

Kate Moss

Aptly comparing restaurants and retail, the New York Times article finds hope in the slowing rate of decline in New York City's food industry. While this article focused on consumer optimism as manifested by a desire to spend on entertainment, I'm thinking there might be some cooler reasons that restaurants are good economic trend forecasters.

Restaurants don't only service one-off walk-in costumers. As we know from my own special event work, restaurants are hosts to business functions, both on site and catered. There is business entertaining, client lunches, networking dinners. An upswing in the balance of corporate expense accounts will quickly register in the restaurant industry, making eateries a good place to track business health.

Restaurants themselves are big buyers. From the alcohol at the bar and the glassware its served in, to the raw ingredients and the cooks that transform them, any given restaurant is already pumping money into its related economies and is directly impacted by the trends that govern them. If a given restaurant can afford to stay open, there are a slew of other businesses and economies benefiting from its existence. A robust restaurant scene theoretically suggests robust affiliated economies- better times for food purveyors, kitchen appliance retailers and manufacturers, beverage companies and the like.

Looking at restaurants as an aggregate, there's got to be a ripple effect. I've certainly noticed it in the New York City labor market. So many of the jobs on Craigslist are at restaurants. I myself am a testament to the power of restaurant hiring. The only steady employment I've had in past year has been in the restaurant industry- and the only other long-term job offer I've gotten from the scads of random interviews? To work at another restaurant.


  1. Hi....So true....but Iwonder how a person "qualifies"as a bellwether?

  2. Thanks for commenting!

    Merriam-Webster defines bellwether as:

    Function: noun
    Etymology: Middle English, leading sheep of a flock, leader, from belle bell + wether; from the practice of belling the leader of a flock
    Date: 13th century

    : one that takes the lead or initiative : leader; also : an indicator of trends

    Think of it this way: Kate Moss wore skinny jeans years ago and now all the girls wear skinny jeans. Sienna Miller wore shorts and tights years ago and now every girl in Williamsburg is doing it. We can look to them to predict where fashion trends might be going.