Running a business is hard these days. Razor-thin margins, rising costs, financial challenges at every turn. No one ever held a gun to any entrepreneur’s head and forced them to open their own business—it’s a personal decision made stone cold sober or high as a kite. Bitching and whining about how hard it is is like wishing you hadn’t taken up sky diving as the altimeter is dropping–your choice, your outcome.

However, as with most everything, it is getting harder and harder to run a business with a mindset towards doing the right thing. Guests will certainly leap onto a chatroom, panel, or coffee shop table-talk bandwagon about “pay your staff a living wage” and then turn right around and let you hear about it 2 a.m. in their Scooby Doo pajamas under an alias on the internet about how high your prices are.

There is nothing that a small business, especially a restaurant, is paying for the first month of this new decade that isn’t more expensive then it was this same time last year. And as many, many Colorado restaurants lean towards doing the right thing, it drives the expense line up. Composting, elevated recycling, turning fryer oil into fuel, wind energy, choosing eco-friendly dish detergents, cleaners, compostable to-go packaging, penguin friendly straws—the list is long. And just as consumers see these price increases when doing their own personal shopping, it’s the same for us in the restaurant business. Add to that rising occupancy costs, insurance, utilities, workers’ comp, and a bevy of incentives and benefits any right-minded employer is trying to offer its amazing work force, and the profit line gets as skinny as a mountain creek in August.

So please, on behalf of all my Colorado brethren and sistren working their asses off to make their restaurants work–consider all this before you tear into a restaurant on a public forum complaining about menu pricing. We won’t and can’t sacrifice increasing our labor costs–it’s the right thing to do. We can’t buy commodity and non-sustainable meats and vegetables and seafood and feel good about serving it to you, our guests. We can’t not try and limit our carbon footprint, and the tracks we leave behind us, even though it costs more to do the right thing. We have to work hard to balance that fine line with the only tool we have to generate income—our menu pricing. No chef consciously says, “let’s rip our guests off, really jack them on menu pricing today.” Small, independent restaurants are the most challenged as they don’t have buying power or bulk savings opportunities.

So be kind and be fair. If you really care about a restaurant or a business, reach out to them independent of big social platforms like Yelp and others and ask what’s up. Most every business has a website with an “info@” email link. Let them hear about it, air it out. But maybe approach it with the intent of helping them get better, rather than trying to get funny thumbs up likes ‘cause you were really harsh. There is absolutely no excuse for poor service¬–intelligence doesn’t cost us a dime extra. But as we all march forward, everything, including restaurants, is going to get more expensive—especially if operating with the intent to do the right things is on the menu.


Featured in the winter/spring 2020 issue of Dining Out Magaizine

Dave Query