Chefs, food firms stay optimistic as economy slows

Fri Oct 24, 2008 9:31am EDT
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By Richard Leong

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Restaurants and wine importers are feeling the squeeze of the belt tightening on Wall Street but are optimistic they can ride out the storm caused by the worst financial crisis since the 1920s.

"Everyone is feeling the pinch," said Todd Richman, an area manager at wine importer Frederick Wildman & Sons, Ltd. "But people are still going out to eat and drink."

Restaurants across the country have already experienced the spending pullback, although not equally.

Total restaurant spending fell 0.7 percent in September from August. Full service restaurants took the biggest hit with a 1.1 percent drop in sales last month, while fast-food eateries posted a smaller 0.7 percent decline, according to SpendingPulse, a retail data service of MasterCard Advisors.

Prospects of any immediate relief look dim as consumers say they plan to curb spending by eating out less and in cheaper restaurants. Nearly 40 percent of the more than 38,000 people questioned in a Zagat survey said they will cook more at home and if they do eat out it will be at more economical eateries.


Chef Anita Lo, who co-owns three restaurants in New York, sees tough times ahead.

"There could be a lot of closings this year. A lot of people will think twice about investing in restaurants," she said at the New York City Wine and Food Festival, which made its debut earlier this month.   Continued...

<p>Chefs prepare a meal in a file photo. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas</p>