Absence Makes the Stomach Grow Fonder

Not being able to get to any of my favourite Marlborough spots for a meal or a glass of something has really made me appreciate how lucky we are to have places like Arbour, Scotch, and Harvest, Gastro-pubs, brew-bars and too many winery restaurants, cellar doors and cafes to list.

Not to mention Grovetown Hotel. Where else can you rock up to a wee county pub on a main highway and enjoy local beers and wines, as well as authentic and tasty Japanese nibbles?

My excitement thinking about getting back to visit my faves once lockdown is over was tempered after reading Joelle Parenteau’s article highlighting the challenge restaurant owners face eeking out a profit while maintaining quality and looking after staff. And that’s without the challenges brought about by covid-19!

Even putting the virus aside, unfortunately for those of us who enjoy a meal out, I think a big part of the answer needs to be higher prices. As great as a chef and restaurant might be, working on skinnier and skinnier margins is not a recipe for success, not a recipe for financial sustainability.

At the risk of sounding a bit lockdown-looney, this feels like a restaurant-level example of a more fundamental issue.

As consumers, we’re accountable for what is produced and how it’s produced. If we pay a bit more for quality, guess what, we’ll get more quality. If we pay a bit more for organic production, guess what, more organic products. If we stop buying cage raised eggs, or sweat-shop produced T-shirts we discourage their production and discourage the exploitation of animals and people. Instead, if we buy free range eggs and fair trade t-shirts, even if it costs a bit more, we encourage and support those businesses, with better outcomes for those involved in their production.

The same applies to the producers all the way down the supply chain. It often costs more to produce better quality, pay your staff fairly, and buy raw materials from ethical and sustainable suppliers. If those things are important to us (yes!) then as consumers we need to value them, and reflect that value in the price we’re willing to pay.

In the meantime, I am very much looking forward to being able to go out for a drink and a meal at some of Marlborough’s great bars and restaurants when covid-19 restrictions allow. And if the prices have gone up, then that’s a price I’m happy to pay if it means those businesses will stick around. We need them to be financially sustainable too.

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