In 1982, the Ann Arbor Development Authority counted 77 restaurants, cafes, and taverns in the 67 blocks of downtown Ann Arbor area they oversee. That number increased to 99 in 200 and 155 in 2011. By 2014, the DDA counted 171 restaurants, cafes, and taverns.
Main Street Ventures owns several restaurants in and around downtown Ann Arbor. On Main Street itself, they own Gratzi, Real Seafood, and Palio, with Mezzevino just around the corner on Liberty Street. Palio, my restaurant, opened in 1991 to a very different looking Ann Arbor. Since then, Ann Arbor has double the amount of restaurants. Many longtime residents of Ann Arbor have voiced a concern with the fall of retail, and pretty much anything else besides food and beverage. I wonder how the rise of the myriad of new restaurants has affected Palio, which has been open for 25 years.
Years ago, I was told that people go out to eat to be entertained. Initially I disagreed. No, people go out to eat because it’s convenient, I thought. Going grocery shopping, cooking, and then cleaning is such a hassle. Going out for dinner makes perfect sense. But then I started working in the restaurants, and seeing the height of the bills reach higher and higher. Please don’t think I’m complaining about large tabs. I’m not, that’s how I make money. And if you’re someone who orders appetizers and a bottle of wine, then thank you. My mind was slowly changed from thinking eating out was rational to realizing just how impractical it is for the wallet.
My manager who told me that people go out to eat in order to be entertained might be on to something. Serving tables is sometimes compared to being on stage. The waiter is often the determining factor in making or breaking the evening’s meal. I’ve been thinking about with the rise of all these new, hip restaurants, have waiters had to become more entertaining, charming, and knowledgeable? Go ahead and quiz me on gluten, I dare you. If my thought on entertainment is true, then I better brush up on some magic tricks.
This summer internship has been critical as I make choices deciding how my future will look. While it may not have been the most glamorous, big-name role in the show, I learned quite a bit about my own professional well-being and how to act within a high pressure high emotion environment. Next time around, I’d like to take a bigger step outside my comfort zone. While being in Ann Arbor was great, there is a lot more of the world to see. Regardless, I have the upmost gratitude towards everyone involved with my LS&A internship.