What If …? A Fantasy


If you have driven on an interstate highway, you have probably seen the bumper sticker on most tractor trailers that reads “Without Trucks – America Stops.” There is no question that these four words make a compelling argument for the trucking industry.

Over the years I have heard many foodservice operators state that our industry’s value and contribution to the country’s overall economy have never been fully appreciated, and that motivated me to write the following “What if …?” fantasy.
“Good evening, America. This is Walter Rather. Let’s go right to the news for June 16. The nation’s foodservice industry shutdown continues. You will recall that ten days ago, the federal government announced that, in trying to balance its fiscal woes, it would slap a 20% tax on all meals eaten away from the home. After much lobbying by the foodservice industry in opposition to this tax, the government went ahead anyway. The industry said enough is enough and within days it was almost completely shut down. For an in-depth look at what this has meant to our economy, let’s go to our various reporters around the country. First, Tom Kuralt in Kansas City.”

“Walter, the shutdown certainly has had an impact on the stockyards. Without all fast-food hamburger operations and family steakhouses—to say nothing of the atmosphere operations that are closed—the American cattle industry is feeling the pinch. As one longtime observer said, ‘I guess no one ever realized what foodservice meant to our industry.’ A few years ago there was a popular television commercial where a little old lady asked: ‘Where’s the beef?’ Well, Walter, if she were to ask that today, the answer would be, ‘Here in Kansas City.’ ”

“Now, to Ted Jennings in Madison, Wisconsin.”

“Walter, the state of Wisconsin is full of it! Dairy products, that is. Cheeseburgers, milk shakes, ice cream, coffee cream, milk, and dozens of other dairy products that daily find their way to thousands of foodservice operations, are not moving. The governor here has said that because dairy products are so perishable, if this shutdown is not over soon it could become an economic nightmare for the state. It certainly drives home how important the foodservice industry is. Walter, the cows in Wisconsin may be contented, but the farmers are not.”

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“Now, to Peter Koppel in San Diego.”

“Thank you, Walter. California is about to become the world’s largest fruit and vegetable bin. Many farmers are starting to lay off workers. Thousands of trucks and their drivers are idle, and refrigerated cars by the hundreds sit motionless on rail sidings. One longtime resident told me: ‘We have had floods, mudslides, tremors, and blinding smog, but I can’t remember anything affecting the entire state the way this shutdown has.’ Hard to believe that all those mom-and-pop places could have this kind of impact, Walter. In a state where earthquakes are a way of life, the foodservice industry shutdown has registered an eight on the economic scale. Back to you.”

“What you have heard is only the tip of the iceberg. Millions of people are out of work as a direct effect of the shutdown, and millions more will soon be laid off. Federal, state, and local governments are concerned about the dramatic decline in tax receipts. Maine and Idaho report large drops in potato consumption. Florida is worried about a large surplus of citrus products, and the Maryland, Louisiana, and Texas seafood industries are operating with skeleton crews.

“The Great White Way is not so bright, due to the thousands of New York City foodservice operations that are closed. Countless numbers of people who depend solely on foodservice operations for their meals are going to government-sponsored ration centers. Hundreds of weddings, retirement parties, dinner dances, business luncheons, and other special functions that take place around a meal have been postponed. Much of the nation’s social life has come to a standstill. …

“I have just been handed this special bulletin. The federal government’s special tax on meals will expire at midnight. In a few hours, you will be able to be served at your favorite eating place.

“To sum it up, I think we all have a better understanding of how important the foodservice industry is to our everyday social, economic, and nutritional lives. It is unfortunate that it took a nationwide shutdown to make that point.
“In New York, this is Walter Rather, saying good night.” While the story is a fantasy, the results would be real.