Tuesday, April 28, 2009

5 questions about swine flu's effect on restaurants

1) Might this be a time when reason prevails?

The buzz on the internet could be characterized as cynicism rather than panic or fear. The consensus seems to be, “Isn’t this just the crisis du jour? And as long as it just gives me the flu, what’s the big deal?” If there’s fear, it’s not of eating pork or going to a restaurant. It seems to be prejudice-tinged worry about contamination from Mexicans. Which leads to….

2) What effect will this have on immigration reform?

From a Yahoo Answers message group:
“Most restaurants are saturated with Mexican workers, and I am sure many know someone that recently or constantly travel to/from Mexico; increasing the chance of contracting the Swine Flu. I personal believe we are at higher risk that we think if we often eat out at our local restaurants.”

Consider this snippet from a tirade on examiner.com, a new network of citizen-journalist reporters and commentators. It comes from Frosty Woodbridge, a popular spokesman for the faction that believes the best immigration policy would be to shoot on sight:
"The current Swine flu spreading across Mexico providesAmericans a glimpse of their future if mass immigration from third world countries continues into the United States.

"It stems from cultural habits that cannot be changed once they migrate over U.S. borders. Third world people lack personal hygiene, collective health habits and educational understandings of how their personal actions promote disease transmission."

Much of the installment deals with toilet-paper disposal norms. I kid you not.

3) Will it affect the turnout for the National Restaurant Association’s big convention next month in Chicago?

4) Does anyone doubt, at least right now, that tourism will be the big loser?

The European Union has already advised residents of member nations to forego all but essential travel to the United States. The U.S. travel industry is clearly worried. The head of its promotional group, the U.S. Travel Association, issued a statement this morning that urges the government to weigh carefully what it says and does about the situation. “We must address the situation with measured, pragmatic responses so as not to cause panic and negative consequences to the economy if health risks are not imminent,” said CEO Roger Dow.

5) Where’s the original reporting on what this means to restaurants?

Where’s the coverage of how the outbreak has affected the sales of places along the border, or in San Diego, or in concepts that might be particularly vulnerable because of its clientele, like Chuck E. Cheese? How about the impact on a chain like Pizza Patron, a brand targeted at the Latino community in the United States?

This is undoubtedly the story of the moment, and restaurants, as the modern-day town square, are in the thick of it. Yet the reshuffling of McDonald’s beverage line-up has generated more coverage so far in the business media. Why are they ceding this story to Twitter?

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