Can The Restaurant Industry Rebuild Itself in 2009?

The Food Dude at Portland Food And Drink has a spectacular post this week about the state of the restaurant industry, complete with his recent observations of both local food establishments and the dining habits of guests around him.

A few items he notes:
* The disappearance of ‘organic’ from many menus. Not surprisingly, given the state of the organic markets, and the significant overprice of organics vs. traditional food items.
* Significant drops in spending on alcoholic beverages. With an average 200% markup on alcohol, this isn’t surprising either. Why pay $6 for a glass of wine at a restaurant when you can swing past the store on the way home and buy a bottle for $10?

Other items I’ve noticed throughout my recent dining experiences:
* Less fresh produce, particularly with garnishes. The cucumber slices on my salads have been reduced to bite-sized cucumber chunks.
* No more freebies! From the basket of bread to the drink refills, restaurants are definitely cutting back on all the little costs that add up to big expenses.
* More comfort foods, less steak and seafood. Most notably, one of our favorite local steakhouses has reduced their menu from thirty daily fish items and ten cuts of steak to fish and chips and the occasional NY strip.

Has the restaurant industry hit their recessional bottom? We’ll keep an eye on things in 2009 and hope for a bit of steady growth.

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