As I prepare this post, I think back to a few years ago, when my family and I owned a luncheonette near Middletown. There were many types of customers who I encountered, ranging from young teens to seniors. It was a large demographic to fulfill, but we made it work the best that we could. There were great memories, surrounded by some very unique people.
When a full time teaching position came about for Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts Instruction in 2008, I could not resist the application. Being a culinary arts graduate myself, I was overjoyed to be accepted for employment in higher education. It would be my opportunity to share my knowledge and experience with the next generation of food service personnel. I then became known as “Mr. K.”
When I think back to specific observations from my entrepreneurship, I can write chapters and books on complaints, disagreements, and some disappointments. Whether taking 8 extra Splenda from my coffee island or taking 8 of my Smuckers Jam packets off the tables, some customers felt a sense of entitlement to grabbing extra amounts of food items to stock their own pantries. This was not very thoughtful, as we were a family-owned operation without the financial backing of corporate institution. It led me to take a stance that strongly favors family-owned businesses and shuns those institutions that simply want a piece of the pie from residents of Middletown, USA.
Needless to say, this type of activity on the part of customers should not happen in any establishment. Not every chain restaurant or sandwich shop is corporately-owned. There are many franchisees operating in our area, some with tremendous luck and others without.
Since owning that luncheonette, I have been keeping a keen eye on emerging establishments in the area. I have seen Papa John’s attempt a comeback on Rt. 35 south, after failing in its first attempt by Chuck E Cheese’s several years back. This came as a surprising move, as there are many options for pizza or Italian food within a 1-2 mile radius of Sears. With Sonic opening soon on Rt. 35 North, I can only shake my head as to the impending increase in development of food establishments along Route 35. We don’t have a Taco Bell or a White Caste on Rt. 35, between Red Bank and Keyport. White Castle has tried in Port Monmouth, on Rt. 36, in recent months.
Superstorm Sandy did nothing to help struggling restaurants. As an Instructor for Food Service Sanitation, I thought of all of the establishments that had to discard all unused food product from their refrigeration. This action must have been painful for the checkbook, but is indeed the best way to eliminate any lawsuits and loss of reputation for a restaurant.
There are several factors that could influence a restaurant owner. With the cost of food items being higher than ever, the possibility for profitability for an establishment becomes bleak. Problems that have to do with flooding or power failure eliminate any chance of gaining revenue for many days at a time. The truth is that banks and landlords are not necessarily going to wait for a business to get back on its feet. It is a fixed cost, and the owner should presume that it is due on the same due date.
Think about the reality affecting family-owned business in our area, whether food-related or not. Remember that someone is struggling to maintain consistency and quality for you as a guest, at the expense of possibly reducing the quality of life at home.