When I was graduating from university in 1989, economist jobs were scarce. There was a joke at that time: What's the first question an econ grad asked on his first day of work? Answer: "Would you like fries or salad with that?" And no joke, I ended up asking that question myself when, for about half a year, I waited on tables at a popular restaurant chain in 1990.
Twenty-three years later, memories of my short career in the food industry came flooding back. This week, I was an economic observer at the National Restaurant Association's convention in Chicago. This is the world's largest trade show for restaurant owners, 2.67 million square feet of the latest trends in light-up menus, dry-ice demonstrations and snazzy pizza ovens.