Why the Restaurant Industry is the Most Important Industry in Today’s America

Restaurants have always played an important role within the business, social, intellectual, and artistic life of a thriving society. think about the cafes of Paris within the ’20s; the three-martini lunches of the ’50s and ’60s; we’ve sketched world-changing ideas and planned revolutions in restaurants.

Acquaintances become friends around a table within the safe and controlled environment of a restaurant. Restaurants are more important than ever. At the tail end of 2014 the influential restaurant blog, Eater, published a round-up of the 60+ restaurants that opened in Boston just this past fall. the author covered everything from Five Guys, a rapidly expanding quick service burger joint, to Cafe Artscience, a hybrid restaurant/lab/gallery space in Cambridge. Restaurants today lie at the guts of 21st-century American life. Why did more restaurants open this fall? Why are restaurants at the guts of 21st century American life? Why are restaurants more relevant now than they need to be at the other time in history?

In a nutshell: Urbanization, Digitization, and Globalization. We’re all getting pretty conversant in these terms. These are the three dynamic and interactive forces reshaping the character of our world at the atomic, subatomic, and galactic levels. You can’t see a force. you’ll see the results all around you each day. Beyond the essential purpose of restaurants to supply food and drink, restaurants have, historically, fulfilled a person’s need for connection and shaped social relations.

82% of American citizens now board cities, almost double what it absolutely was 100 years ago. As more people move to cities, living spaces have gotten smaller and high rent is getting stratospheric. In metropolis and NY, officials are considering overturning laws that set a floor of 400sf for apartment size; sometimes to as low as 200sf. Living affordably in many cities means living with tiny kitchenettes and without dining or lounge space.

You can’t eat megabytes of information or venture out to eat online. We are also in an exceedingly digital age but restaurants operate in an analog world. The digital revolution has not disrupted the industry because it has film, music, retail, etc. Technological advancement has been slow and incremental. Even the foremost impactful technologies have done little to change the quality process of restaurants or the guest experience. Why?

Since we learned to harness fire almost 2 million years ago, existence has been centered on the fireside. Harvard primatologist Richard Wrangham argues that everything that defines our species- anatomically, biologically, socially- may be traced back to cooking food. Communion around food is at the core of faith, family, relationships, and the majority of society’s pillars.

We move out for reasons far beyond sustenance and biology. We are seeking connection, edification, and validation after we venture out to eat. If anything, the more of our lives we live online, the more we crave the items the board provides. Although the restaurant industry itself remains unchanged by digital advancement, the industry is hugely impacted by the disruptions digitization has delivered to other industries.

Think of your favorite neighborhood restaurant. Now imagine you heard they were doing reservations out of India, prepping within the Midwest, and serving at their current location. That may be odd, right? Well, most industries work in this fashion. To know how the restaurant industry is exclusive in a very globalized world, it’s helpful to imagine your neighborhood spot is comprised of two components: a producing facility-the kitchen, and a sales and marketing space-the dining room. The last 60–70 years have seen the geographic uncoupling of producing and sales. for many industries, it became economically indefensible to make and sell things within the same location. We’ve grown familiar with the formula ‘Make things on cheap land with cheap labor then sell them where people actually live’. It’s this rule, and therefore the technological advancements that have made it possible, that have driven many roles overseas.

This formula, however, doesn’t work for 95% of restaurant operations. Sure, there’s some processing of foods that happens upstream within the supply chain except for most restaurants, the raw product arrives within the morning, gets prepped during the day, and is sold within the evening. to try and do otherwise often comes at the expense of quality and a more discerning guest features a lower tolerance for this sacrifice. Restaurant work is sort of impossible to offshore or outsource meaning it’s one amongst our last, truly durable American industries.