A restaurant used to serve a distinct function — feeding its customers. Whether that was an opulent multi-course dinner, a quick sandwich during a workweek lunch, or a warm meal for a weary traveler.
Today the purpose of a restaurant, particularly quick-service restaurants, has expanded. On any given day, a third of Americans dine at one of the over 350,000 fast-food restaurants across the U.S. And for many, these restaurants have become the new community center or town square.
As restaurants have become more critical to our society, the most complex issues facing society have walked through the front door. Restaurants have found themselves in the middle of debates around homelessness, addiction, poverty, lack of housing, transportation and even access to technology.
So, what’s the restaurant industry’s responsibility to its diners, its 15 million employees and society in general? Is an open door policy or a cashless approach the answer? Should restaurants pay to keep their employees nearby or hire people who are frequently overlooked?
These are big questions, but the restaurant industry is brimming with people creating their own solutions. There are no easy answers, but questions without clear answers are sometimes the most important ones to ask.