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How ‘Political’ Are You When Choosing a Restaurant?

For some customers, where they spend their money is about more than how good the food might be.EXPAND
For some customers, where they spend their money is about more than how good the food might be.
Photo by mentatdgt from Pexels

There are plenty of articles we’ve had over the last eight months that have included the message, "support your favorite restaurants."

It’s something that could be said in any era since the industry isn’t the most stable from a business standpoint, but during the pandemic, we’ve all seen small businesses in more peril than ever.

Perhaps that’s why when spending hard-earned money at a restaurant, some people feel even more strongly about where those dollars are going. It’s not just about who has an excellent banh xeo. It may be more about who’s making that banh xeo and what their beliefs are.

It’s a tricky thing — some people are going to say, “Just write about the damn food.” That’s fair, but it’s also true that plenty of people care well beyond the menu items.

We recently asked a related question on Facebook: Would you get food from a restaurant if you knew the owner didn’t believe the pandemic was a threat?

Jamil Bata (who has written a few articles for the Observer) was one of more than 100 people to reply.

“No. Respect the hustle and necessity of doing things to stay open during all this but that can be done while respecting the seriousness of the pandemic. Would rather ‘vote’ my dining dollars with those that are taking it seriously in hopes that my spend is put towards a tiny part of ensuring they make it through this,” he wrote.

The question came about because some people on Facebook were talking about an East Dallas restaurant owned by someone who might be a COVID-denier. The restaurant is following CDC guidelines, but it got us thinking — does the fact that the individual who owns a restaurant has such an opinion have an impact on whether someone wants to be a patron to their business?

For some, it does. (Keep in mind these are Observer readers, whatever you think that might mean.)

“Yes, I could eat to go, sanitize all the takeout containers etc. etc., but there are so many good places in Dallas and eliminating the ones who are reckless with community health helps with decision fatigue,” Observer critic Brian Reinhart responded.

“No, considering that I don't even talk to family members who don't think it's real, I'm not going to knowingly spend my money at an establishment whose owner thinks that same way,” Tiffany Tran said.

“That is a big, absolute NO for me. I would not support someone who puts the ‘Dollar’ above ‘Humanity,’” Gina Hahn wrote.

And it’s not just about the coronavirus; other aspects are at play.

“I can only believe that ANY restaurant owner [that] believes this is a Trumper and wouldn’t support their business for that reason independently from the COVID issue,” Lauren Berman wrote.

“I hate to say it, but if given the option, I’m going to start supporting Democratically owned small businesses. I’m already looking at building a directory. This is what our country has driven me to. If others do, then I can also politicize anything I wish! I want to support my own morals and values,” Annette Krausse said.

It wasn’t just Democrats responding to this post. Example: a user who previously had Trump branding in his profile picture had this to say:

“Would pay double” to the restaurant if they were COVID deniers, Micah Lauderdale wrote.

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In response to more politically aware consumers, Yelp is taking notice of its users and creating features related to this, such as a tool to search for Black-owned businesses and one for alerts of racism at restaurants.

Of course, for plenty of customers, it’s still simply about the food.

“Are they following the rules? If so, then how they feel about it isn't affecting me. Sure I would. If they aren't following rules and I feel like my safety is in peril, probably not,” Randy White said.

“Who cares what an owner thinks or believes about it, unless they are a restaurant owner/epidemiologist? As long as their facility is practicing legal mandates and I like the food, I'd go to support the food industry,” John Botefuhr said.

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