Detroit dining: Quiet layoffs behind the scenes

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"Hi, I'm Dirk, your waiter. By the time this meal is done, I won't be working here anymore, due to the underlying overexuberance of a saturated dining market."
  • "Hi, I'm Dirk, your waiter. By the time this meal is done, I won't be working here anymore, due to the underlying overexuberance of a saturated dining market."

We're never sure how much stock to put into these things, but is seems like it was a bleak weekend for Detroit service professionals. 

Namely, the half-dozen people who were laid off from various high-profile restaurants around town. For them, it was time to suck down a few extra drinks before putting out the feelers in the morning.

According to our source, one of the fired guys, it took place at a dive bar known for its low, low prices catering to the almost penurious. Hearing the depressing chatter, our guy asked for a show of hands of who got laid off that weekend and from where. The list of restaurants read like a list of some of the hotter, hipper eateries in Detroit.

Just a bit of scuttlebutt, or is it? Our source began spinning dark rhetoric, about how the money and customers for these new restaurants don't seem to be materializing. We were more cautious, considering that this is certainly a bit of second-quarter belt-tightening in a tough business with razor-thin margins. No need to overstate things.

But with dozens of restaurants opening in the city over the last few years, we're reminded of last time this happened: for the 2006 Super Bowl. In time, some of those restaurants lasted and some of them didn't. Do we expect anything different from this year's culinary boom? The fine-dining crowd in Detroit has never been that large, and it can be fickle.

We will hazard one prediction: If any storm is indeed coming, the places that are most solidly rooted in broadly serving neighborhoods will weather it best. Now may not be the time to mimic hot foot trends or craft finely tuned menus for a single  customer base. We hope we're just being gloomy and easily frightened. But what if we aren't?


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