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Pappy's Grill and Pub (copy)

This photo from 2020 shows Pappy’s Grill and Pub, which is among more than 30 eateries participating in this year’s St. Joseph Restaurant Week.

Restaurants occupy a unique niche in the business landscape.

They serve not just as a source of nourishment but as a place for community, where many graduates will gather this month to celebrate their accomplishments. The term breaking bread has a literal and figurative meaning in the context of sharing food and conversation with family, friends or business associates.

In addition, restaurants are part of our culture and history. Many St. Joseph residents share fond memories of Jerre-Anne’s, the Swiss Chalet and many other eateries from long ago. It’s probably not just because of the food they ate but because of the people they were with and the memories they share.

But don’t forget, restaurants are also businesses. They serve as the livelihood for entrepreneurs and an income source for students and part-time workers. If they don’t make a profit, they will have to shut their doors. It’s a challenging environment with a high rate of failure, even in good economic times.

The last two years have presented tremendous challenges for these businesses. Many restaurants had to adjust to mobile delivery to survive the pandemic, absorbed a good deal of public griping during the mask mandates and now must deal with the impact of supply shortages, limited availability of workers and rising prices — all while trying to make a profit and stay in business. (Those who say “just pay more” for workers are probably the first to complain when they have to pay more for a burger).

Through it all, many of these establishments survived but some did not. Those that remain in business deserve your support.

This is one reason why the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce is presenting the third-annual St. Joseph Restaurant Week, beginning Tuesday, May 10. Participating restaurants will offer specials and experiment with new menu items. The promotion attempts to strengthen the viability of restaurants by attracting new and returning customers.

It’s a worthwhile effort. Take a look at some restaurants this week, but don’t forget about them after the promotion ends.

We would suggest that the challenge isn’t just to support restaurants with our wallets but also with patience and a kind word.

If your food is a little pricier, it’s probably because they have to pass on the rising wholesale cost. If the service is a tad slow, it might be because they’re having the same struggles with finding and retaining staff as any other kind of business.

Their struggles are our struggles.

In short, just be nice. Imagine a world without restaurants, where every meal came from home. It wouldn’t be much fun to celebrate graduation with a burrito from the microwave.

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