Sunday, October 12, 2008

Reality bites

A long-time acquaintance confided tonight that his restaurant company will soon have to cut its staff because of the economic situation. The operation is of a size, he explained, where he’ll have to let go friends and what he termed members of his family. He didn’t need to tell me how upset he is by the prospect.

Welcome to the restaurant industry post-meltdown. Tonight we kicked off our annual MUFSO conference with a slam-bang cocktail party featuring the specialties of Washington, D.C.’s top restaurants. The conversations were as varied as the drink orders. But sooner or later they tended to flit back to the issue of the moment: How bad is this economic situation, and when might the industry feel some relief?

There was hardly a uniform opinion on the when, though the consensus seemed to be that we’re many months away from relief—at best. And as for the depth of the downturn, the universal assessment could be summed up as a shrug. The one point of agreement: The situation is unprecedented. And I heard that from persons whose tenure ranged upwards to 24, 35 and even 50-plus years.

Undisputed was the notion the economy is in standstill mode until the public gains some confidence that relief is foreseeable. The hope for resolution has been tossed aside. Executives spoke wishfully of a change in the trend lines, never mind a solution.

Yet, virtually everyone stressed, the cycle will turn. It may be a different industry that enjoys the rebound—and certainly a smaller one, most agreed. It’s the pain many will feel between now and then that seemed to be the concern of attendees.

1 comment:

  1. One thing that you also forgot to mention is the low turnout at MUFSO this year. With so many companies tightening down on travel for Q4 and trying to push as much expenses out to 2009, there are a lot of vendors here at MUFSO! Unfortunately, this credit crisis is making its way into the restaurant industry.