Thursday, March 26, 2009

Buying from Mom and Pops

I was rather surprised when a friend of mine suggested we meet for dinner at an American chain restaurant one day. Although I'm not rabidly anti-American, I still prefer to eat where the money stays local. Since things like eating out are considered disposable income, let's spend it on the local economy. During a recession as hard as this one will be, this is particularly important, here are just a few of my reasons why.

Keeping it in our coffers

When you buy a burger at McDonald's, you pay GST and PST. The staff there pay income taxes, the building owner pays property taxes, but all that pales in comparison to corporate taxes. From what I understand (correct me if I'm wrong), McDonald's Canada, as a wholly owned subsidiary of McDonald's, has to pay "consulting fees" their American Headquarters. If profits are great one year, those fees goes up. If profits are low, the fees are too. In essence, these fees get written off as an expense and there's relatively little "net profit" on the books here. Our government gets completely cut out of the largest point of taxation.

Without those strong coffers, Canada will find itself slower to recover from the recession. Thanks to the insane tax cuts to the ultra wealthy already, we are in a weakened position. Please try to keep those dollars in the Bank of Canada rather than the US Treasury.

Keeping our vibrant culture

Unlike people who are employed by Red Lobster, Jack Astor's, and the like, Mom and Pop restaurant owners are not entitled to EI should their restaurants fail (and yes, they had to pay into it all the same). Losing the mom and pop shops will be a real blow to the vibrant culture of our city. Not only that, where will these people go? They have limited government benefits, and don't have the same cash flow to weather economic storms as big shops do. A lot of small business owners may find themselves in debt and perhaps even on the streets (and please, they started businesses usually because they're immigrants and couldn't find paid work so don't give me the "they took their own risks" bs). Its in our own interests to make sure that our cultural mosaic doesn't turn into one gigantic bland chain food fair. By patronizing mom and pop shops, we are doing ourselves a huge favour in the long run.

Eat healthier for the same cost

Its hard to compete with the price of unhealthy, over processed foods. Small shops tend not to have the prime locations as big chains and nor do they have the same advertising power. However, look at it this way. For most places, the price point for a meal is about the same. In a chain restaurant, money is spent on TV ads, decor, print ads, high rent, to name a few. In a small shop, those expenses tend to be kept down and the you're actually paying for the food as opposed to TV ads. If you compare a $25 meal at Jack Astor's, East Side Mario's, or Red Lobster vs. a $25 meal at a local sushi bar, noodle house, or schwarma house (if there's even anything that expensive on the menu), there's absolutely no question which one is more nutritious.

Coming from a family that depended on a family run restaurant as our sole source of income, this issue hits very close to home. Those of you who knew me growing up, know how many hours I spent as a kid toiling away at my parents' restaurant. My parents are on the brink of retiring now but there are many small business owners that need our support. Before spending a single dollar, please think twice about where you're buying from.



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