Broke Americans are still going out to eat, but they're ordering tap water more and bypassing the fancy San Pellegrino. What, do poor people hate America? How dare people cut into the margins of restaurants by not ordering a $10 glass of house red or an $8 Michelob Light?
According to the market research wonks at NPD, over the past five years, restaurant traffic might have be down one percent, but tap water has increased by 2.8 billion servings since 2006. Conversely, there's been a decline of 2.7 billion servings of beverages other than tap water. This sort of math is irrefutable: people are cheap.
Wrote the author of the report: "A key learning from this report is that much of the declines in beverage servings are tied to the price/value relationship the consumer perceives." Which means: things are expensive at restaurants and people are just getting drunk at home first.
Blame whatever you want: unemployment, the implosion of the middle class, that water is free, that water is delicious, or that Poor America is also Fat America and maybe they're watching their waistlines and not drinking a grilled cheese martini or whatever they serve at TGI Friday's these days. But if poor people keep this shit up, restaurants are going to have charge for water, making it more expensive for all of us. Thanks, poor America.