Restaurants aren’t coming back

It was somewhere around ten years ago when Linda and I quit going to restaurants.  It isn’t that we can’t afford to, it was a more a slow gradual type of thing.

It started out with just spotty food.  Sometimes it was good…..sometimes it wasn’t.   Not hot, undercooked, tasteless, or obviously left over something or other.   Number 10 canned beans and corn served with institutional open a can and heat it up fare.  Thawed, frozen, thawed again, chopped and stretched.  Fast food started getting more and more cardboard as well. Something was happening to the industry.

And the cost.  It first hit me in a sit down restaurant here locally as my wife and I were looking at the menu.  Insane.  Just insane prices.  Now to be fair to the restaurants, they have to charge what they charge with all the taxes and fees and labor laws forced down their throat.

I doubt there is a single restaurant owner in the country that doesn’t want to put up good food at a good price.  Not a single one.  The problem is the profit margins are so low you just can’t do it.  

I don’t want to name names and will stick to one local example.  Went into a restaurant and was served raw chicken.  Seriously raw.  Sent it back, came back raw.  Started asking the waitress and was informed the cook…..even if they called him “chef” was some kid the owner put on the line with little training.  It was’t the kids fault.

Service is always good, IMO.  They work for tips.  The problem is profit.  Keeping the doors open.

Over the years it has just gotten worse.  A few times we have gone into the sit down places, looked at the menu, and frankly just shook our heads at the prices.  I don’t know how many times we just left, went over to Thriftway and bought something we normally wouldn’t have bought and made a nice dinner.  For a quarter of the price – and rented a movie to boot.  And saved 50 bucks.  The habit was broken.


Last year our daughter flew up with our grand daughter from the bay area for a visit.  Haven’t seen them in over a year and the first time they flew up here.

It was nothing but “lets go here and eat”  morning noon and night.  Linda and I didn’t want to go to some restaurant, we wanted to spend time with our grand daughter who we never get to see.  Make dinner with Grandma.

Completely foreign to her.  One simply just had to go to a restaurant.  It was just so provincial to not spend money and eat out of ones own kitchen.  What would people think? Why on earth would I want to go to all the trouble and hassle to go out to eat when I could sit home and spend time with my grand daughter?  

It is the mindset people get into.  And a mindset that is being broken as a result of this shutdown.


Now, am I just a cheapskate?  Possibly.   But I don’t think I am alone.

Another thing that happened is I started doing a little cyphering in my head.  Another little unintended consequence of changing your habits I guess.

Lets see.

Figuring a meal for two once a week is going to run you 50-75 bucks anywhere you go that is even just semi-decent.  That is about say ….on the short side…..200$ a month.  Add in a couple of fast food lunches at work….another 80$ a month.  Lets leave kids lunch out of this.

We are up to a good 3,360$ a year and still on the conservative side for an average husband and wife each working all day and maybe going out once a week.  Times 5 years…..that is 16,800 dollars.   Throw in a few pizzas and more lunch visits and the number goes way way up.

Maybe I am a cheapskate, but that is a lot of money.   It is a car payment every month.   For dried out fast food and pre processed restaurant fare that is.  

We don’t have fast food here in town.  I sometimes want to go into them when coming back from Aberdeen.  I would imagine I don’t do it more than once a year or so.  

Let me tell you.  Once you get out of the habit of eating the stuff….it starts to taste just something awful. Dry cardboard, over salted crap.  Sorry, but it’s true.

Much as I want to….I just drive home and make a sandwich or something.  Was coming back from a medical appointment in Chehalis last week and stoped in one of them on my way home.  Hungry,  as I did blood work and couldn’t eat breakfast.  

A number something meal was up to about 10 bucks.  You guessed it.  I just drove home.  That is insane.  You want to do it….go ahead.  I thought about getting something from the dollar menu.  A dollar?  What could they possibly be putting into something that they could sell for a dollar?  Nope.

We have gotten out of the habit of eating out.  It has changed our mind set and our taste buds.


Food is an interesting topic.  There is much more to it than you might think.  I’ve written a bunch about our foray into gardening and the such.  When you start to get into cooking a bit you find out just how much you don’t know.

In the interest of full disclosure, when I talk about cooking I use the Royal We, as my wife is the cook.

Over the years I kept hearing about how Danny told her to use this…..or that.  When I talk about gardening and planting this or this….Linda would chime in about asking Danny if it would grow.

Who is this Danny?

Turns out Danny is the vegetable guy down at Thriftway.  I have seen countless vegetable guy my whole life, always stocking the aisle …..watering the veggies….in countless supermarkets over the years.  Never given one of them a second glance.

Turns out the people who shop know these Dannys quite well.  They are a virtual fountain of information and help.  Who knew.

Now when I go into Thriftway and see him doing his thing….I notice him.  He is a vegetable rock star.

Same with the meat counter, but I won’t get into it.

My point here is once you get out of the habit of doing something, things change.


Jay Inslee has decided to shut the restaurant industry down.  Casinos and protesting is still fine though.

The family restaurant industry ain’t coming back.  At least in any form you remember.  Who in their right mind is going to put family money into a business model that the governor will shut down again and again and again.  Flu comes around every year and don’t think for a minute they won’t be doing this again. 

I truly do feel sorry for the traditional family restaurant.  They are a generational institution.  I just don’t see how they can make it anymore.  The state has burdened them with labor and taxes to the point that the margins aren’t there to be able to make a living.  

A restaurant needs to be clean, provide good food at a good price, and offer good service to survive.  Pretty simple really.  

Whatever form restaurants take in the future, it isn’t just me that is out of the habit of eating in them.  You are now too.   Even if the withdrawal was forced on you.

The first time you sit down you will taste it.  The price shock of the menu will make you sad and you will realize it is over.  

I suggest going to meet Danny.  It will make you feel better.