Monday, March 23, 2009

And now for the good news.

The media is full of bad news. I managed to work myself into a full-blown fit the other day before work because I made the mistake of watching the morning news as I got ready. By the time I got into the car I was a nervous wreck, ready to throw in the towel on everything we were doing to build our business. I have a pretty thick skin, which tells you how dramatically bad the commentary was that morning.

But just as the media started reporting on the recession long after it actually began, so they are lagging behind on highlighting the improvements we are seeing on the ground. My business – the restaurant business – is much like the canary in the coal mine of the economy. Eating out is almost completely discretionary for most people, so restaurants tend to be more sensitive to even minor changes in the economy. It doesn’t take much for people to decide to eat out less often, choose less expensive venues, and spend less on their meal when they do go out.

The good news is that sales in our restaurants are up – strongly up.

Digging into further research gave me even more reason to be optimistic that we’re seeing the bottom of the economy and are moving out of the recessionary period. Here are a few stats to consider, according to Gallup Research Polling rolling averages:

Consumer spending is up to $58*, an increase of 6 points
People who are “Not Worried” about their personal finances: 63%
Consumer mood: Happiness is up 10 points to 54%
People who feel “Energized” is up 3 points to 53%
People who think the economy is getting better: 27%, a 20 month high
Consumer mood has improved by 31 points over past 10 days
Support for nuclear energy: 59%, all time high
Economy trumps environment: for the first time, 51% of Americans say economic growth should be given top priority, even if the environment suffers for it

*Note: this number is still lower than it was earlier this year; however, there is no adjustment available to account for the lower prices people are paying for goods. So, while people may not be spending more hard currency, they are coming out and buying more goods – they’re just getting better deals due to reduced pricing.

This is great news for Main Street. When people start to feel better, they relax. When they relax, they open themselves up to possibilities and new perspectives – like, maybe the sky isn’t really falling after all. There are always caveats: Obama’s stupidity could easily derail this delicate improvement; China, Russia or any number of other countries could short circuit our recovery with their own problems because we owe them so much money at the federal level, and the Democrats in Congress are quite able to reroute any improvements to their own districts and then take credit for everything good that happens from here on out, and many banks are still making things difficult for business, and the Big O’s spending sprees have done absolutely nothing to improve that at any level.

I believe we will still see some job shedding in fat or outdated industries. However, with public sentiment swinging toward making the economy a priority over everything else including the environment, we will begin to see new jobs opening up in other industries by the end of the year – if we don’t let the Big O and Co. screw it up too badly.

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