Foodservice Equipment Reports

Don’t Let It Bring You Down: Go Sell Something

Well, the clowns in Washington did it again. Yes, they avoided pushing us all completely off the cliff, but they didn’t avoid screwing up the economy and undermining the faith the rest of the world places in the American economy, and the U.S. dollar and Treasury bills. They’ve short-circuited yet again, for the third year in a row, a moderate increase in the pace of economic recovery. And all of us in the foodservice equipment and supplies business are going to pay the price.

As I wrote in FER Fortnightly last week, I suspect the partial government shutdown and debt-ceiling brinkmanship has cost the E&S market at least half a point of growth this year. It will hurt growth next year, too. Consumer and business confidence was already falling in August as the potential for a shutdown and debt-ceiling fight became apparent. With more than two weeks of shutdown, it will get worse. Operator expectations in the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index were off sharply in August. Preliminary reports of same-store sales and traffic were down in September. Consumer sentiment, as tracked by the University of Michigan, plunged in the preliminary October report released last week. Many economists expect a half-point reduction in growth of real gross domestic product in the fourth quarter.

And the prospect of going through the whole exercise again in three or four months is hardly likely to inspire confidence among consumers and businesses. Spending and expansion plans will almost certainly be put on hold.

So what should we do about it, short of working in each of our states to wrest redistricting from self-interested politicians who gerrymander their districts into safe seats, and polarize both sides of the House? Go out and create some demand.

The job of a really good dealer is to create demand, not just fill it. Other than a few manufacturer’s reps and national accounts people, dealers are the closest folks in the entire system to the operator. So talk up the benefits of replacing that old fryer or griddle with a new, more energy-efficient model. Explain how much water and energy a new warewashing machine will save. Demonstrate the labor savings of a modern vegetable slicer. Help an operator create more storage space by redesigning his or her shelving. Show how upgrading tabletops can lead to increased sales.

After all, in life and in business, our job is to deal with the hand we’re dealt, not the hand we’d like. There’s plenty of potential business out there. And who knows? Maybe that bipartisan Congressional committee will work out some modest budget agreement. Maybe wiser, calmer heads will keep the crazies from burning down our collective house. Maybe we’ll finally get a farm bill and an immigration deal. Stranger things have happened.


Robin Ashton


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