When the economic apocalypse comes, I’ll have my entire face in a basket of chicken wings. That’s what I’ve concluded from this QSR piece about some fast-casual restaurateurs preparing for what they see as an imminent recession, hitting in 2020 or 2021.
It’s no question that recessions hit the restaurant industry hard. Our dining budgets are the first to tighten in hard times, leading to low sales and layoffs. And according to a consultant quoted in QSR, restaurant industry workers are the first casualties of recessions, though there’s no indication that those repercussions have been felt yet. But Matt Friedman, the CEO of the Atlanta-based chain Wing Zone, is confident his 85-franchise chicken dominion will do just fine not if, but when a recession hits. He believes the first to go will be third-party delivery (like UberEATS and GrubHub), and that selling 20 wings and fries for $20 is a recession-proof business model. Which, honestly? Fair.
Beyond a pending sense of doom, it’s not clear exactly why these folks think a recession is coming. And while the CEO of Darden (Olive Garden, Red Lobster, etc.) told investors the restaurant group was weakening a bit, the CEO of Starbucks, Kevin Johnson, said in August that the coffee empire was doing just fine. Sure, the GDP and employment rates of growth are slowing down, and sure, a great economy doesn’t last forever. Some economists think a recession might hit in 2021; as of January 15, Bloomberg’s recession tracker has the likelihood of a recession hitting in the next 12 months at 26%. But some restaurants are interpreting what could just be economic moderation to be a looming fallout.
In any case, if the economy does tank soon, at least we’ll be able to subsist on buck-apiece boneless, garlic parm BBQ chicken wings.