Thursday, July 30, 2009

Restaurants and The Recession

Every time I go out to eat these days - and I probably go out more than most people since I entertain for business - there are lines, people waiting, crowded bar areas. The first thing I think is "Recession? What recession?"

And if you were to gauge the economy this way I think one might think the recession is mostly over, or less than reported. But there are some counter-intuitive things going on here:

  • Fewer Seatings - Restaurants are reporting fewer turns per table per evening, meaning they might be getting only a single round of eaters instead of two, or even higher. And that one seating happens at "prime time", making the place look crowded as usual.
  • More Munchies, Less Dining - A lot of those people in the bar are having a drink and appetizers where before they would stay for a full course. Revenue per patron is actually lower even if the number of patrons in the place looks the same.
  • Fewer Weeknights - Even with less money to burn people are still going to go out once in a while, have dates, etc., especially towards the weekends. What you are not going to see is the "additional" eating out on other random nights out for the week for the hell of it. During my business dinners recently I find that things are pretty empty on Monday nights.
Add in the fact that places have lowered prices, are holding specials, coupons, etc. and we see a business that is having a tough time, although it might still be hard to get a table every once in a while.
Update: Restaurants Have 22nd Month of Decline

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Prediction: Power Couples Seek Divorce

Now that that it is common for women to be entering the executive ranks, the government wants to penalize them - if they are married to someone of the same stature. According to the WSJ:

The (health care tax) bill would place a 5.4% surtax on individuals and families with annual gross income exceeding $1 million. Individuals and families with annual income between $350,000 and $500,000 would face a 1% surtax, and those making between $500,000 and $1 million a year would be hit with a 1.5% surtax.

Those surtaxes for the last two categories would jump to 2% and 3% by 2013,

So if one individual makes $350K, they get socked, but if two married people each make $175K they get hit.

This doesn't count the other Obama tax increases and deduction limitations which hit individuals AND families starting at barely over $150K. Even two middle managers each making $80K will find it much cheaper to stay single than pay the ever increasing marriage penalty.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Pictures for Computers

Look at this "picture" for a moment. It is absolutely meaningless to a human - a random array of bits and dots. But when viewed by a machine, this picture has meaning. In this case data about a Microsoft product.

It is forecasted that in the next few years there will be more cameras built for computers than built for humans. For humans, cameras are for capturing, transmitting and storing images. For computers an "image" is rarely created. The data goes straight into the machine for interpretation, and a "picture" - or something that can be interpreted by a human - is rarely created.

Think back - if you had told George Eastman 100 years ago that the future is in building cameras for non-humans he would have thought you were crazy. But if you look how Kodak has done lately it looks like they should have worked a little crazy into the business model.

Monday, July 06, 2009

The Problem is Not Too Little Stimulus, It's Too Much Government

Amid talk of a "second stimulus package" (it would in fact be the third), it doesn't seem to dawn on anyone that it's the anti-business rhetoric, stances and regulations coming of Washington in that are creating more drag than any sort of stimulus could cure.

We have a situation where the people who hate business the most are in control of government, right when business needs the most support. Because the government doesn't create jobs, businesses do. And until businesses start to hire, unemployment isn't going to go down.

So while unemployment is skyrocketing we have a new energy tax passing the house, the promise of some beast of a health care plan encumbering businesses even more, increased taxes, and a array of new rules and regulations being issued almost daily. The rule of law is trumped for political favoritism, and the government is sinking money in money-losing industries and companies, propping up the losers at the expense of the winners. And in light of all these new burdens, businesses are just supposed to go out and hire more people? Why bother?

And why do the democrats think that getting consumers to buy a little more will help the U.S. economy? If consumer spending goes up a few percent all it means is that a few hundred more shipping containers arrive in ports on the West Coast from China and the lines get a little longer at Wallmart. All it does is put more money in the hands of the Chinese and maybe causes Wallmart to hire a few checkers. This is supposed to cure the economy's ills?

The wheels are coming off the car and the democrats in Washington are steering it towards a cliff.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Something to Think About As You Get On That Flight For the Fourth Weekend

Air France Flight 447 plunged vertically into the Atlantic Ocean intact at a very high speed...The plane seems to have hit the surface of the water on its flight trajectory with a strong vertical vests found among the wreckage were not inflated, suggesting the passengers were not prepared for a crash landing in the water

So basically the plane just fell like a brick out of the sky.