Who doesn’t love Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives? It is one of me and my wife’s favorite TV shows. I might have just eaten a three-course meal, but when I switch on Triple D, my stomach always begs for more. I’m not quite a Foodie, but damn close.
Guy has been a leader in raising money to help restaurant workers impacted by the COVID epidemic (over $20 million raised to date). Before I get hit with angry tweets and emails, I have no idea how Guy feels about national or local pandemic lockdown strategies or politics in general. I do know that he is passionate about helping restaurants, chefs, and foodservice folks get through these tough times.
This is why I thought of Guy Fieri when I read the report from Bloomberg that as many as one in three US restaurants will permanently close this year. Let that sink in. That’s more than 250,000 businesses boarded up, and a quarter-million entrepreneurs’ dreams derailed. It hurts to think about all of the folks damaged by this disaster – not just the business owners, but also the employees and people like me who love to eat out.
If you’ve been reading my blog (and you should be, lol), then there is no doubt in your mind where I stand on this issue. If I can navigate the crowds at Wal Mart, or Home Depot or at a liquor store, why the hell can’t I safely dine in at my favorite restaurant? In many places (like where I live) I can, but what about in California (where Guy lives) and in other Cities and States (New Jersey, are you listening?) who refuse to give small business owners the same rights they grant mega-corporations?
We cannot go back in time to March 2020 and stop the lockdowns. What we should have done in March was implement strict quarantines on our most vulnerable populations (nursing homes, assisted living places, etc.), require that everyone take reasonable precautions (no mass gatherings like football games, etc.) and ensure that we all social distance, wear masks, etc.
If we had done that, millions less would be unemployed today. Less businesses would have been destroyed. Would more people be dead? I don’t know, and neither do you.
I’m a data person. When I see the data from places like Sweden, when I compare death rates per capita in New York to Texas and Florida, when I read Alex Berenson, I question our decision to lockdown. Rand Paul is right – the lockdowns were most likely the worst American public policy debacle of all time.
History may not judge us kindly. We’ve racked up trillions in debt, created nation-threatening social upheavals, and bankrupted millions of people over a disease that kills probably no more than one half one percent of those who get infected.
Sadly, the foodservice and tourism industries have been the hardest hit. Vegas is on its way to becoming a Mad Max movie. Southern California might not be far behind. We cannot keep pumping funny money into the system forever to get people through the economic meltdown. Politicians on both sides use the pandemic to further their election strategy. This is far from our government’s most shining moment.
I grew up next door to people who owned an Italian restaurant. Some of my fondest memories are of Sunday dinners with them – incredible pasta, pizza, and Spumoni ice cream. What if this pandemic would have hit back then, in the 1970s? Would they have made it?
You know what, I’m sure they would have. Why? Because there was no social media or smartphones back in 1975. Plus, people were more stoic. We had major flu epidemics in 1957-58 and in 1968. If you adjust for population, many more people died in those flu pandemics than have died from COVID. Nobody advocated shutting down schools in 1957 and 1968, much less cashiering the entire economy.
Here’s another nightmare for you and me to contemplate. The restaurants forced to close this year will be replaced by what when the pandemic ends, by new small business owners? I’ll bet not (on the aggregate). Get ready for more restaurant chains; corporate mega-food financed by Wall Street. Why? Because they have easy access to cheap capital. Corporate America is perfectly positioned to feed off of the carcasses of financially dead small business owners. Same old story, right? The ultra-rich get even richer, and we get screwed.
The American dream has never been at more risk. Our small businesses are being destroyed by failed emotions and politics first/logic second public policy, greedy tech billionaires run amok, and a lame cancel culture that cannot pull its collective head out of its backside.
Will I be able to watch Triple D in 2022? Will Guy Fieri have non-corporate chain American restaurants to visit and great chefs to tell us all about in two years? I hope so, but, sadly, I’m beginning to doubt it.