In my very first job, at age 16, I was a Wendy's salad-bar girl in Panama City Beach, Florida. I lasted a mere two months, but I left with a new respect for the people who make restaurant work their profession. The National Restaurant Association is sponsoring a public-relations campaign to remind Americans how important restaurants are to each of us and to the U.S. economy. More than one-third of us have worked in a restaurant at some point during our lives, and the industry is America's largest private-sector employer.
But local restaurants have been hurting in recent months, and it's up to the community to give something back to them. When was the last time you tried a new place you've read or heard about? Come on -- set a date, make a reservation. If you can't afford a whole meal, just order appetizers or dessert. Don't wait for a special occasion. At the risk of sounding sappy, we suggest you take your sweetie out for a just-because-I-love-you dinner. We'd like to hear about your culinary adventures. Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we'll report back in a future column.