Why the restaurant community should be concerned about Amazon

With all the pressures of running a restaurant, costing, staffing, managing quality and consistency, marketing and the myriad other challenges, concern for Amazon’s impact on small restauranteurs is not likely to be given a 2nd thought. But perhaps it should be.

Amazon has become a modern convenience. Amazon Prime will deliver whatever tickles your fancy in a flash and for free. Who needs anything else? Even restaurants come to depend on the service, ease of ordering and delivering supplies to operate their businesses.

But restaurants don’t operate in a bubble. They operate in communities, neighborhoods, commercial centers and other places where humans congregate. Business districts are places where people explore, engage and enjoy goods, services, food and drink. Amazon isn’t simply a threat to small retail businesses, but its a threat to our communities. Amazon is changing the landscape of the places where we live, contributing to the movement to stay at home and have everything come to you. While this convenience appears priceless, it comes at a great cost to the fabric of our public spaces and neighborhoods. As people choose convenience they lose community. When those people no longer need to venture out, because all their goods are delivered to their homes in a clean white vans, the need to head out for everything from grocery shopping to running errands is greatly reduced.

With more options in a neighborhood, there is a greater opportunity for all the businesses in the area to thrive. When businesses thrive there is an increase in business to business economic activity and donations to schools and grass roots foundations. A strong business community contributes to our quality of life by keeping our streets safe and attractive pathways for our neighbors and children walking to and from school. When our businesses close, there will be less eyes on our streets, and less attention to our neighborhood residents. When our doors shutter, it will create a domino effect, putting the hurt on our local suppliers and professional support.

When only restaurants exist, they will become destination only businesses. There will be no reason to stay and linger on the block. There will no longer be happy chance drop ins at the restaurants after a day of shopping and errand running. This will hurt the restaurant business.

Amazon encourages people to be insular, stay home and stay alone. This is antithetical to what small restauranteurs do each day. In my small retail shop, I like to say that each day we are hosting a party. If we are hosting a party in our modest retail space, then restaurants are doing this on steroids, bringing people together at tables and in their domains. And isn’t that what restaurants and small shops are all about? Heading out and having memorable experiences? Amazon is trying to normalize the absence of the friendly grocery checker, the pet store employee who will make sure your dog gets to try 6 different foods to ensure that your he or she gets the diet that is just right for them. The shoe store clerk who will tell you how each pair of shoes fit differently and how to get the perfect pair for your unique feet. The gift store where you always walk away with the ultimate gift that so you’re batting 100 on those awesome thing you bestow onto your besties! These are the businesses that contribute to the overall vitality in their neighborhoods. These are also the businesses with employees who generate commerce in those very neighboring businesses. Our staff recommends customers up and down our street for other services and to our favorite places for coffee, chiropractors, kombucha, tacos and yen ta fo. I recently took a survey of the spending habits of our small staff of 6 people over the course of 1 week and e-mailed the results along with the following note to our neighborhood association:

Hello Neighbors!

In talking with many of you its sounding like things are a bit slow for many of the businesses this holiday season.

I wanted to say that it was so good to see so many Mississippi Ave business owners and employees out shopping on Giving Tuesday and since then! Its so great that we came out as a community to support Boise Eliot Humboldt School and each other. Thank you to Bryan for making that happen!

I did a little poll amongst the 6 of us who work at Black Wagon and here’s what our staff spent on Mississippi Ave just in the past week alone:

Coffee/Tea services:

15 transactions

Restaurant/Dining:

15 transactions

Retail:

9 transactions

Health/Wellness Personal Services:

1 visit/transaction

Just want to remind everyone to please let your staff know that we (and most businesses on the street) give a 10% discount to everyone working on Mississippi Ave.

Please consider Mississippi Ave as the ultimate destination for everyone on your shopping list. And please resist shopping at Amazon.

And lastly, recommendations from you and your staff to other businesses is so valuable! Thank you to everyone and all the employees who send customers up and down the street to shop and dine at the neighbors! All of us at Black Wagon are really geeked out about our street and our neighbors and take pride in helping our customers by recommending restaurants, other retail shops and great services, right here! And the Mississippi Ave Passport makes it really easy to recommend people up and down the street!

Thanks again for your support!

Happy, Healthy and Prosperous Holidays to you all!

As you can see, 1 little retail shop can generate a whole lot of business between both the staff that spends money in their neighborhood and by the constant referrals to tourists and customers needing a nudge or reminder to patronize a staff member’s favorite spot.

Retailers are ambassadors to our business districts and we need them. And right now, retailers need our restaurant and service brethren to stand beside us and say Hell NO to Amazon!

We can’t wait for a back lash to this culture to happen. We need to stand together, all small businesses and say “no thanks” to Amazon NOW. Amazon isn’t going away, but we don’t have to use it either.

I’ve heard from so many “small business sympathizers” that there are certain products they simply can’t find anywhere else. This is the way it’s going folks. Amazon makes no secret that its goal is market dominance. Pretty soon we’ll all be shopping at the “company store” where prices will be dictated by the fact that all the competition has been put out of business. They will begin to point to the high cost of fuel and delivery expenses as to the reason their unchecked pricing will balloon.

Businesses need to get smart and let their customers know that they can order by phone, web, e-mail and reach out to your business neighbors. We’re all in this together. Explain this to your landlords, management companies and the restaurants that create amazing experiences all day (and night) long.

Together we can fight the behemoth, preserve the fabric of our communities and culture and all be stronger for it! Restaurants and Retail must join forces in fighting off the community crushing Amazon.