Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Surviving the NYC strike

The New York City transit strike, some 22 hours old as I write this, is forecast to cost the Big Apple $400 million in lost business per day. The local restaurant industry has yet to estimate its portion of the loss, but the wallop was evident during the long-distance trek into work today. A Pret A Manger grab-and-go outlet across from Nation’s Restaurant News’ Manhattan headquarters was closed during what would normally be the morning rush, presumably because employees had no way of getting to work from the outer boroughs. Similarly, the local Hale & Hearty lunch chain had to forego salad sales this midday because it had only enough employees to man the concept’s signature soup station. A Dunkin’ Donuts outlet visited by a co-worker during her 90-minute hike to the office from Queens was being run, quite frantically, by a single employee.

In Penn Station, where traffic was unusually heavy because its trains were still running, a deli had to make due with the meager foodstuffs left by a distributor’s pre-strike delivery (commercial vehicles are prohibited from serving downtown customers except during strictly limited hours). Bus and subway commuters switched in droves to Penn’s Long Island Rail Road trains, but concessions were unable to exploit the situation. Some lacked supplies, while others were located along corridors whose access was limited by the police, for reasons that were never given.

Similarly, a unit of Chopped, the hot young made-to-order salad chain, had to close some of its salad stations. It was unclear if the outlet lacked employees, or the greens to keep them busy.

Then again, the places might have been staffed appropriately. In the middle of Manhattan, during the height of the holiday tourism season, when normally you have to fight your way across a street, the sidewalks were as sparsely trafficked as the fringe areas of Peoria. The drop-off is clearly going to hurt.

For those of you who aren’t in the city: A key issue of contention is the transit workers’ demand for three consecutive annual raises of 6%, which was a retreat from their original demand of 8%. And they don’t want to contribute anything to their healthcare coverage.

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