Friday, October 10, 2008

Food for Thought

When we were having dinner at the Canton Road El Rodeo (the Mexican restaurant we frequent every Wednesday night), I had a conversation with the manager (a wonderfully thoughtful and generous woman who never fails to make us feel at home) about business. Unfortunately, the news wasn't good. Like most of us who rely on the public to come in and spend money, her business was hit hard by the two-week-long gas crisis in metro Atlanta. When people aren't sure they have enough gas to get to work for the week, many of them quit going anywhere non-essential. And while I certainly don't agree, many of them apparently define Mexican restaurants and comic book shops as non-essential.

And like us, some of her customers still haven't returned to their old habits. Almost everyone I've spoken to in the metro area has seen the same problem: traffic is down from its pre-gas-crisis levels. It's like 10% to 40% of the customers (the percentage varies depending on the nature of your business, but it seems the restaurants are suffering the worst) just haven't come back to the places they used to frequent. It wasn't a gradual change, either; for almost everyone, the problem began between September 8th and September 11th, the first week of the post-Ike gas problem.

Of course, we left a better than usual tip--and usual for us is 35% to 40%, but I kicked that up to 55% or so instead--but I know that's not enough to make up the shortfall. I hope there's a turnaround soon; I always hate to see friends forced to endure hard times...

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