Timed, I suppose, for Valentine's Day, the L.A. Times reports Cost-conscious customers wreaking havoc on ailing restaurants, confirming many reports that people are ordering fewer dishes and drinks, especially at chains like Cheesecake Factory. And the Wall St. Journal says even supermarkets are being affected in Consumers Cut Food Spending Sharply, although sales of eggs and vegetables are up, yay! I can't go along with S. Irene's sweeping suggestion that we all go to restaurants and spend money to help them survive, because most of us can't afford to eat in the kind of restaurants she frequents in the first place. So what to do? EatingLA recommends:
- Try not to get further into debt just to help out restaurants, first of all. I'm working on that one myself. Take care of yourself first, then worry about the restaurants.
- Whenever possible, don't spend your money at large chains. Most of them will survive no matter what; it's the family-owned smaller places that could face real trouble. Choose My Taco over Taco Bell; Canele over Cheesecake Factory. But you knew that already.
- Cook, cook, cook. Use the best ingredients you can afford, and buy them as close to their natural state as possible. Brew your own coffee. Bake. Make breakfast at home. Pickle.
- Take advantage of L.A.'s ethnic restaurant bounty, as these places will almost always cost far less than the upscale spots. No liquor license? Inquire as to whether you can bring your own, mix cocktails at home before or after, or stop by a wine bar after dinner.
- Try the new recession-friendly nights, often just $15, at local restaurants such as the Park and Little Dom's. More on these soon.
- Get a water filter and stop buying bottled water. Use the money you save to eat and drink at locally-owned restaurants and shops, and tell them to serve filtered water, too! I bought one like this since I'm renting right now, but reverse osmosis is even better.