roger bissell

Where Will We Eat After This Is Over?

The following is a familiar scene we all know too well…

roger bissell

credit: John Fornander

You’re headed home from work and stop at your local neighborhood restaurant for an imbibing libation or food. As you sidle up to the bar to grab a drink or wait for your table, before you can even ask, Tommy the bartender has your favorite drink waiting for you. Before the second sip has slipped its way down your gullet, you breathe a sigh of relief because your stress from a busy workday is gone.

As if on cue in a perfectly orchestrated symphony, Tommy walks over to tell you the epicurean specials of the night. The chef has painstakingly created a farm-to-table menu of about five or six items with locally-sourced ingredients. You relish this opportunity as a result of the relationship you have built with the chef and staff to try his newest special. You are immediately rewarded in the first bite with savory flavors that are new, exciting and well-balanced. Tommy keeps you apprised of the local dining scene and what’s going on in the neighborhood. He is the consummate professional, a people connector and an integral part of your community. You begin to wonder how did your life function without Tommy and the general manager who also stops by effortlessly to ask about your kids and your meal.

This is what bliss and the good life truly looks like. You pause for a moment to reflect and realize what a great decision it was for you to choose this vibrant neighborhood with an amazing sense of community.

Or was it?

Fast forward to April 2020.

Tommy is gone.

Your neighborhood restaurant, along with 12 others within walking distance of your home, are no longer there.

You are now quarantined inside, struggling to recreate the charm and ambiance of that place in your own home. While the food will suffice, it is the human interaction and exchange of cultures that will not.

We now live in the age of Coronavirus where 40-60% of the restaurants in America have unwillingly had to shutter their doors for the next 1-3 months (possibly longer). What remains (hopefully) is mostly national chains which surely have their place on the dining scene, but they are run from a national corporate level and are consistent but not nearly as creative as local restaurants who have more flexibility and freedom.

Roger Bissell

credit: Roger Bissell

The restaurant industry represents nearly 1 trillions dollars per year and almost 20 million jobs. This is to say nothing of all the secondary purveyors and companies that exist as a result such as farms, food purveyors, linen companies, factories for china, glass, silver, paper products, marketing and advertising. This dollar amount represents nearly 5% of the GDP and the impact is huge! Workers in the restaurant industry spend a higher percentage of their income into local businesses in comparison to other industries.

Some quick facts to consider:


  • The restaurant industry employs more minority managers than in any other industry
  • 9 out of 10 restaurants have fewer than 50 employees
  • 7 in 10 restaurants are single-unit operations
  • 9 in 10 restaurant General Managers started in entry-level positions
  • 8 in 10 owners started in entry-level positions

*National Restaurant Association

Why do these facts matter?

Restaurants are the epitome of the American dream. 

They are one of the last bastions of what the hard working American dream is all about. The restaurant industry crosses over and affects so many other industries and people. Moreover than that, it is the meeting ground and social lubricant for countless events and relationships and it provides a meeting place for all walks of life. It also represents the divergence of culture. We are a nation made up of people from so many countries which I can proudly claim myself. It is through food that we actually can pass down generations of culture. As a result of this Coronavirus, it is my fear that generations and cultures will be lost. What are we going to do to insure that it survives and perseveres? We are a nation united and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. We must look one another in the eyes and help out our fellow Americans as they have helped us through their food which has nourished our souls, communities and hearts. What can you do to help?

Roger Bissell

credit: Roger Bissell

Here are a few ideas:


Directly support the industry by ordering takeout and buying alcohol from local restaurants.

Make a donation today.

  • The Restaurant Workers Community Foundation COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund – The fund has raised over 2.7 million dollars to provide direct crisis relief to individual restaurant workers, aid¬†nonprofit organizations serving restaurant workers in crisis and for zero-interest loans for restaurants to get back up and running.
  • James Beard Foundation Relief Fund provides critical financial assistance to small, independent restaurants that, due to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) national disaster, have an immediate need for funds to pay set operating expenses and keep from going out of business.
  • Golden Rule Charity Founded in 2015 and led by hospitality industry native, Judy Walker, Golden Rule has been the only organization providing timely relief to hospitality companies and employees in need, with a nationwide reach.

Are there other organizations or initiatives that I missed? Shoot me a line here.

We’re all in this together.

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