April 2019 Ruminations & Ronnifications

I am on the horns of a dilemma. I am just hoping that that the horns don’t gore me! With restaurant margins being squeezed by minimum wage increases (not opposed to this, only opposed to the rapid rise which makes it difficult to absorb) with a concomitant raise for those above the minimum wage, labor shortages, food cost inflation, third-party delivery fees, and the higher ELD freight (trucking industry) mandates … it is no wonder this will be causing major disruptions in the restaurant industry. No restaurant will go unscathed.

What should I do? What can I do to prevail?

All this while I am awaiting two lease extensions from landlords. In one location (since 1982) and the other (since 1996), I don’t know what to expect, though I do know, and am counting on the fact, that it is not so easy to rent retail space these days. We are all witnessing so many empty retail spaces for rent in the Big Apple, as well as on Long Island. It is in my favor that I have always paid my rent on time, and I try to comply with all the rules and regulations from the respective landlords. I even, personally, park in the employee-designated parking areas that the respective landlords have established over the years, even though it is a long walk for a 70-year-old whose time spent on his legs behind the deli counter is hard to calculate. In my years on this Earth, I can calculate, however, how many days and hours I have worked through the nearly 47 years spent behind that deli counter — probably two lifetimes of work.

I look back and say, “Why?”

My father used to tell me that Y is a crooked letter. But I know the real reason. Having lived in eight different places in the first 14 years of life, I had an overwhelming desire to be successful. Please note that I said “successful,” not how much money I have made and lost in the kosher delicatessen business. All I can say — and I tell this to my wife multiple times — is that, no matter what happens on this rocky road of kosher deli, we are a whole lot better off today than we were back in the day. And, in the end, that is what counts. Knowing how many mouths we have fed, how many more people we satisfied than disappointed, how many young employees went on to professional lives and how many employees made this their life’s work. And I always marvel at the many lifelong friendships that are cultivated at Ben’s, and that we have been the source for so many of life’s rites of passage….

With that knowledge, I persevere and gain the strength I need to get up and fight another day. I am confident that my 47 years in this business has taught me enough to make this work. My knowledge, and never-ending passion and dedication, will help me lead the way. We will be the one left standing as I still have one more lifetime of work, yet, left in me (or ahead of me — I couldn’t decide).

See ya at the Deli.


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