Does it seem like your neighborhood is full of restaurants and all anyone’s doing these days is opening up new small plate venues to sell artisanal pork belly? I thought that was just my coddled coastal mindset, but down in Texas Hill Country my in-laws recently took me to The Grotto in Bandera, Texas, and the NYT had an article about foodie-ism sweeping the rust belt.
At any rate, this seems to check out statistically. The chart above is basically the ratio of money spent at restaurants to the overall level of consumption spending. The data series doesn’t go very far back, but after trending vaguely upwards for a while it seems to be really accelerating as the economy pulls out of the recession. This is, I think, the economy’s structural response to the End of Retail. As there’s less need for physical stores, it makes more sense to use commercial real estate for restaurants. It’s another reason we need to take food service seriously as an economic sector.