Wed 5 Nov 2008
According to a bulletin I received from My Foodservice News (mymfn.com), matters look pretty dire for the restaurant business in America. Under the headline, “Restaurant Performance Index Fell to Record Low,” the National Restaurant Association announced that in every category, including current situation, expectation and capital expenditure, the month of September was one of the worst in the history of record-keeping for the industry. Statistics have not been issued yet for October, another month of implosion for the world’s financial institutions, as well as my 401k, but the current report indicated that restaurateurs are extremely pessimistic about the prospects for the next six months.
But in the same newsletter, a piece by Mike Steinberger, who writes about wine for Slate.com, trumpets “Good News about the Recession!” Whoa, what good news is this? That restaurants may begin cutting prices for the wines on their lists. “Extortionate markups do send a regrettable message,” says Steinberger, “but it is nothing that a deep recession can’t cure. In the current economic climate, gouging on wine is not just unsporting but suicidal. Restaurants looking for strategies to survive the downturn ought to begin by cutting the prices on their wines.”
Gosh, Mr. and Mrs. America, don’t you feel better already about your pensions going down the tubes? What else will a deep recession cure? Obesity? Drug addiction? This is like the crew of the Titanic telling passengers, “Yes, the ship is going down, but, look, we’re waiving the shuffleboard fees!” The remedy for outrageous wine prices in restaurants is to stop eating out.
For restaurant wine prices to go down, prices on wines all the way from the producer to the broker and supplier to the wholesaler to the retail outlet, whether a store or a restaurant, will have to come down, and I see no sign of that happening. Coincidentally, the same day that I received this report from My Foodservice News, there dropped into my inbox an email newsletter from the venerable and honorable Burgundy Wine Company in New York, touting the 2006 releases from Domaine Leflaive. Admittedly, Leflaive is a high-class operation and the wines are superb, but $58 for a Bourgogne Blanc? $106 for a village Puligny-Montrachet? $148 to $290 for Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru wines? Here’s a product that seems recession-proof if you possess sufficient fiduciary prowess to indulge.