Every four years, politicians, reporters, volunteers and activists head to Iowa and New Hampshire as the presidential campaigning begins in earnest, and restaurants are most often the venue for candidates looking to take their messages to the people.
Google “restaurant” today and odds are the first page of results will include more than one story featuring a politician holding court at a coffee shop, family eatery or local watering hole; not only do eateries in the early states get a business boost from the hordes of hungry politicos and journalists, but many also take center stage as media platforms.
At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work.
As it turns out, at least one restaurateur sees the events as bad for business. Restaurant owner Jeremy Colby banned politicians from Colby’s Breakfast & Lunch in Portsmouth, N.H., last week, posting a sign reading “No Politicians No Exceptions” in response to complaints from customers tired of the disruption and the political messages over breakfast, Seacoast Online reported. Political visits make it difficult for the eateries to turn its 28 tables as quickly as it needs to, Colby said. “I find it incredibly rude. I also find it amusing that they talk about how the economy and small business is so important, yet they are OK with creating a disturbance that impacts my small business.”
Other eateries welcome the candidates. The Machine Shed in Des Moines, Iowa, welcomes the candidates and their volunteers who often take over the eatery’s dining room in the weeks leading up to caucus night, general manager Steve Britton told an ABC affiliate last week. The caucuses have a huge impact on local restaurants, hotels and other businesses, KIMT-TV in Mason City reported.
Some candidates choose their venues carefully, in an effort to address issues of importance to specific demographic groups. In Manchester, N.H., Newt Gingrich chose a packed Latino outreach event at Don Quijote’s Mexican Restaurant to outline his position on immigration issues, ABC reported.
And at least one regional chain found its name in the national spotlight. Candidates traveling across Iowa made frequent stops to meet, greet and speak at the state’s Pizza Ranch restaurants, the Sioux City Journal reported, leading to frequent national media mentions that would have cost the company about $862,000 in paid advertising, according to one media analyst. The chain’s 77 Iowa eateries have proven popular with campaigns because many are located in county seats and small towns that offer few other options for campaign venues.