The fact that as more people sign up for these apps, the marginal benefit they confer will go down and the marginal cost up.
TECHNOLOGY AND NATURALISM HAVE NOT ALWAYS WORKED WELL. YOUR OPINION? Well, when a technology comes along and offers convenience and a way to magically increase volume, it is very hard to say no. But technology has often come at the expense of autonomy and sustainability, as it did in post-war farming. Nitrogen-based fertilizers and pesticides and herbicides, based on war technologies, created extremely high yield for farmers in the short term. But they became one of many middlemen in the supply chain that ultimately took profit margin away from farmers and drove down costs in a way that made it next to impossible to make a living. And they damaged our soils, our ecosystems, our water and the quality and nutrition of our food. Also, a lot of the early high yields were because the natural soil health was leveraged. Farmers needed more and more of the expensive chemicals and fertilizers to get the same results—they became trapped in a sort of addictive cycle.
I see a parallel in the technologies restaurants are coming to depend upon. The early users have the most to gain, but could really lose in the long run. Like the old restaurant joke goes, “I’m losing money on every table, but I’m making it up on volume!” Our numbers do tend to work out over a certain threshold of sales; we have to have high enough sales to make money. But if we continue to give up our profit margin for the promise of sales volume, we will find ourselves in a precarious position of having lost our profitability and our autonomy. When sales drop, many restaurants will go out of business or have to drastically hack back their food and labor costs.
SHOULD A NEW RESTAURANT INCORPORATE THIS TECHNOLOGY? I would not. We take deliveries that customers place through those apps, although we might stop even doing that, but we are not signed up with any of them. There’s a real quality concern too, having a delivered meal be a customer’s first impression of your food. If the food shows up sloshed and depressed, the customer isn’t going to convert. I think restaurants, especially new restaurants, need to have total control of quality and first impressions. Delivery services do most restaurant food a disservice.
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