Is Food Porn More Popular Than Food?

While celebrity chefs and other food personalities don’t seem to be hurting for gigs and endorsement deals, actual restaurants are feeling the economic pinch right about now. Does that mean that food porn is more popular than actual food?

Over the weekend the trade magazine Restaurants and Institutions linked on its site an article from the Baltimore Sun that made the case that a faltering economy is leading to scrimping among restaurant customers:

Amid gloomy economic trends - falling real estate values, layoffs and stock market volatility - many consumers are changing their spending habits. And eating out is among the first expenses they look to trim in times of economic uncertainty, economists say. Consumers can adjust “in terms of frequency, spending levels and venues,” said Bob Goldin, executive vice president of Technomic Inc., a food industry consulting and research firm.

On Monday, the blog Waiterrant ran a contemplative, though highly anecdotal, post about the recent decline in customer volume as well as spending per customer at the semi-fictional Cafe Machiavelli.

But even as the trade rags paint a bleak economic picture for restaurants, restaurant-related media shows no sign of slowing down. Last month, the Baltimore Sun reported on the continuing popularity of the Food Network:

Now, almost 15 years later, the Food Network is going strong. In 2007, it had 90 million subscribers, which, according to Derek Baine, cable analyst with SNL Kagan, puts it on a par with such cable stalwarts as ESPN, Nickelodeon and MTV.

Foodie-oriented websites continue to make headlines, such as last week’s New York Times roundup of the so-called “fat pack,” and even the New Yorker profiled a hot young chef in its last issue.

But for all the public’s appetite for food media, where is its appetite for food? Perhaps the glossy pictures, lingo-filled dialogue and industry gossip work as a stand-in for the real experience for those unable to spring for frequent restaurant meals in these lean times.

Frankly, we hope not. Eating out is a good way to make a regular old evening special and can be done on the relative cheap. Part of the fun in eating out comes with discovering that perfect menu for your budget. We happen to know a great website that can help with that. Just saying.

[Baltimore Sun, via Restaurants and Institutions]
Stagflation [Waiterrant]
From ‘dump, stir’ to reality, Food Network still cookingFrom ‘dump, stir’ to reality, Food Network still cooking [Baltimore Sun]
The Fat Pack Wonders if the Party’s Over [NY Times]
Abstract: Chef on the Edge [New Yorker]
Photo: Courtesy of Sisudave [Flickr]

Is Food Porn More Popular Than Food?