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  • Writer's pictureKen Clark

Saying Thank You to the Restaurants We Call Home

Perhaps the only thing better than a good meal is a good meal that someone else prepared for you. It’s more true every year that goes by, when we consider how much faster our lives keep moving and that shopping, prepping, serving and cleaning up a meal takes an immense amount of time and energy that most of us don’t have.

Thank the culinary gods for restaurants, bars, food trucks and the nearly 10% of the American workforce that own, staff or sell to a dining establishment. Without them, a lot of us would be eating cereal right now, wouldn’t be able to go on first dates, have a spot to decompress after work or somewhere to take late night study breaks. Whether we’re celebrating, soothing, socializing, grieving or scrambling to the next activity, the hospitality industry is an indispensable ingredient in our lives.

More than just serving up our favorite hot dish or cold drink, these places also become touchstones in our individual identities and family journeys. They give us a community of people who recognize us when we walk through the door, are glad we’re back and who track with the details of our lives. Our “kitchen table” discussions happen as much at their mom and pop Mexican restaurant down the street or the food court that is their first real job as anywhere else in our lives.

Heck, even our favorite TV and movies characters have their favorite haunts, from the diners in Seinfeld or Saved by The Bell, to hole in the walls like Cheers or the spot where we’re left wondering what happened to Tony Soprano. Forget what you’ve been told… we are not what we eat… we are where we eat.

Restaurants: You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Until Their Gone

Even in the best of economies, owning one of these places can be extremely challenging both financially and emotionally. Likewise, eight hours on your feet juggling hot plates for “hangry” customers, all in the hopes of a dignifying tip, is as honest of a living as you can find. On the bad days, it can be one of the toughest, most disheartening jobs on the face of the planet, where your self-esteem can be cut to the bone by an unfair online review or a customer who didn’t think you filled their glasses fast enough.

It’s one of the great ironies that these places, so central to how we live, are also so easily overlooked in virtually every gratitude inventory we’ve come across. We don’t appreciate how much we love a restaurant until it closes down. We aren’t grateful for our favorite server until they’ve moved away. Like other things in life, some of the most important parts of who we are are also the pieces we most easily take for granted.

Just Desserts: Saying Thank You to the Food Industry

If you want to make the world a better place through gratitude, look no further than those appetizers, hot from the oven, or the doggie bag in your fridge. Some of the hardest working, most under appreciated, most frequently encountered folks in our world are the ones who spend their days trying to serve up smiles. Between the folks working the drive through windows, the baristas slinging your morning java and the kid working her way through college delivering pizza, most of us have an almost daily opportunity to thank someone in the food industry.

So, start doing it. Start saying thank you. Complement their service. Pull the owner aside and tell them that they’ve got a great restaurant and an incredible staff. Actually look at the person in the drive-through when they hand you your change and give them a big smile. Make your kids say thank you to every server who sets food down in front of them. Go online and write a good review. Post a picture of your family at your favorite new spot and tell everyone to go try it. Help your local restaurant stay afloat by buying gift cards during the slow season or a recession. And seriously, TIP YOUR SERVER a little extra. You won't miss that extra 5% an hour from now, but you’ll make their day.

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