Our brother in law is a noted designer of kitchens. Not yours or mine, but kitchens that house chefs in hotels, restaurants, hospitals, etc. Recently holding forth on this, he educated us more than he knew. Government is now our master chef.
He told us of restaurant chains relying on central kitchens that sent the food to each restaurant location to be heated and served. We heard of “Quick Chill” suppliers that provided restaurants with fresh chilled foods needing only a microwave to serve. The restaurants make only salads, toast, eggs and some entrees. Such places need no chefs.
We wondered in our blissful ignorance of such things, why such central kitchens did not compete with the restaurants in place of serving them. If a restaurant can resell their product at a markup on top of paying for the building and equipment and staff, there must be plenty of room to pay for the central kitchen to home deliver its food and still profit, since it does not have those expenses.
Our brother in law patiently explained to us, poor deluded fools that we are, that food is closely monitored by government at every step. From the farm onward, licenses, inspections, specifications and procedures are myriad. And every level and location, each state, county and city, has its own often conflicting regulations and licenses. A deliveryman must be licensed in every city, county, district etc. in which he plans to operate. On top of conflicting regulations, others are so specific that they prevent a number of uses of the food. A restaurant sits in one place; it faces a nuisance; home delivery is spread out, it faces virtual chaos unless it stays in a small area or tries to ignore the regulations. So, home delivery competition from central kitchens is an excellent idea for working families, but one for which the time has not yet come.
We note too, courtesy of our brother in law, that more and more restaurant work is being automated. Just like everything else in our ‘recovering’ economy. Chile’s has a little electronic box with a screen at every table, where we live. The screen displays all the menu items and provides for ordering them, sans waiter. There is a slot for your credit card to pay for them. When ready, they will be brought to your table. You can also order ahead, on your cell phone at restaurants with drive up windows now and Chile’s system accommodates it too. There is a machine on the market that takes your order and makes custom burgers, eliminating the cook and clerk both.
Enterprising folk have used the Internet to compete with the old line cab companies that are always at your service provided that you want a ride at an airport or a downtown hotel. They call it “ride sharing” and you may dial up a private driver on the Internet to take you from anywhere to anywhere else. It is giving the old cab folk fits; they are yelling at politicians and government is obstructing and shutting down the services as rapidly as it can manage. Cab competition from lots of private car owners is distinctly unwanted.
And of course, government is shipping in as many low-wage “immigrants” as it cam suck in to keep a lid on wages. Entrepreneurs who rely on government grants to bankroll huge enterprises that fund politicians are wanted; small business is just a nuisance that opposes minimum wages.
Next time your are adding up your restaurant tab, noting how much it has grown while the portions have been shrinking (for health reasons, naturally) you might reflect upon our brother in laws’ illumination. A big chunk of your bill for dinner exists only to satisfy government. It is growing fatter on what you eat than you are …
And we suspect that pretty much everything else is similar. Little wonder that we are such high cost producers that our goods are now made by Asians. And per our brother in law, there was no epidemic of food poisoning from which government has saved us. However, we do seem to have an epidemic of government and what will save us from that?