It’s fascinating how the nature of time evolves with age. As a kid, I used to think the 15 minute drive to the next town was eternity, as a university student I could rarely make it through a lecture without checking the clock 50 times. Yet as an adult, I don’t hesitate to spend 45 minutes crossing town to grab a pint, indulge at a pastry shop, or check out a new restaurant, all in the process of exploring a cool or up and coming neighborhood.
It goes without saying that food and drink establishments contribute to the vibrancy and culture within a neighbourhood. Could you imagine a Sunday afternoon walk to the coffee shop without a quick peruse at the local bookstore, or catching a show without having a few bites and drinks at the bistro on the corner beforehand? For many groups of friends or partners, local shops and even more so, restaurants, act as urban trading cards. We have all been in group chats where the bulk of the conversation is enumerating new restaurants to try and debating which menu looks better. Yet the cozy comforts of working from home during the winter months, have left us with little reason to venture across town and explore, especially when delivery is just a few taps away.
Throughout this pandemic, we have seen first hand what is at stake for our cities if restaurants die. Without them, local retail suffers too, and with that the end to the very reason we live in cities or decide to move into gentrifying neighbourhoods in the first place. Moreover, with the mass exodus of young people abandoning their small condos for the ample square footage in the suburbs, there is a looming vacuum on the horizon. So I am here to remind you that spring is just around the corner, and many small businesses, particularly restaurants, will be in desperate need of our support.
Analysts claim that North Americans have saved record breaking pent up saving, partly due to the uncertainty the pandemic created, but also because international travel was limited and all domestic social venues shut down. Many are certainly itching to pack their bags and escape to some warmer destinations where cheap food and drink are abundant, but I think it is important for us to consider the diversity of food and culture in our backyard, and the economic stimulus that will be generated by spending our money here at home.
Whether you live in the downtown of a major metropolitan area, or in the suburbs that are relatively accessible via some form of public transportation, I encourage you to allocate some extra spending money this spring and explore the variety of dining experiences our cities have to offer, before it is too late. I know you’re eager to spend 5–7 hours on an intercontinental flight, but I am sure the 45 minute drive across town can be equally as rewarding.
An expert in dining room economics and the guest experience, Frazer Nagy is an entrepreneur and the co-founder of Tablz, a Transparent Kitchen company, committed to a vision of changing the way the story of your dish is communicated and helping restaurants finally become profitable businesses.