On a local list, there was shock at the closing of a favorite restaurant, the Crab Barn. I have heard that the Chat-a-While Inn, Maxie's on Carsonia Avenue, and Anthony's Trattoria (the old Charlie's Valley Inn near the Antietam pool) also closed. That's just in my mother's Pennside/Mt Penn area.
We are going to see a lot of this. Food and energy costs are up for restaurants, just as they are for us. People are not going out to eat. Older people and well-to-do people who are losing money in the stock market and 401K plans are especially not going out - and they are the bread-and-butter of better restaurants. If they do go, they now go to cheap buffets and eat fast food with coupons. Or they cook organic/gourmet at home - food gardening and cookbook sales are WAY up.
My advice to the group: eat at your favorite neighborhood eatery. Don't eat at chains or mall places - they are also threatened, and local support means nothing in their corporate board rooms. But it does mean something at an independent local restaurant.
You can keep a local place open by supporting it. Eat there, and ask your neighbors to eat there. If they have catering services, and you need event catering, hire them. Concentrate most of your eating-out dollars on one nearby place, and it may stay available for you when the chains close and gas gets too expensive to go driving around. Try for one in walking distance.
Get involved in this place that you like - meet the owner and chef. Tell them (nicely) what you like and don't like, so they can offer food you want to eat. Tell them how much you like seasonal food, or organic ingredients, or choices with no gluten. Offer suggestions about portion size and pricing: is the entree too big to finish and you would rather pay less for a smaller portion? Encourage them to buy local produce and meat, so their supply chain stays strong if national suppliers collapse or there are trucking strikes. Tip nicely, so the staff can afford to work there.
Don't forget to support local pizza. Pizza is in trouble. The price of dough flour is way up, and sometimes in limited supply. Instead of ordering from a coupon-driven chain, order from a family-run local place.
The national food supply is in trouble, and that means local restaurant owners are in trouble. If you still dine out or order out, make your dollar count locally.