Andrew Zimmern Just Revealed The Biggest Issue In The Restaurant Business On Hot Ones

Chef Andrew Zimmern wants restaurants to put their money where their mouth is. Or, rather, to put more money into the things that go into people's mouths. Or maybe he wants them to put more money where the customers' mouths are, in the form of food. The point is, the former travel show host and current host of Magnolia Network's "Family Dinner" (via Parade), thinks that while it's true that the restaurant business has its issues, at least one problem can be solved by throwing money at it.

Zimmern was speaking to host Sean Evans on "Hot Ones," a YouTube show put on by First We Feast that encourages celebrities to eat increasingly spicy chicken wings while they simultaneously attempt to articulate thought. Zimmern was a champ at the challenge, having apparently disconnected his spice taste buds from his ability to do a good interview. But, as he told Evans, there is another disconnect we should all be worried about: the one between what people are willing to pay for food, and the economic system in place to get that food on the table at your favorite restaurant. It is, as Zimmern tells Evans, "The biggest issue in restaurant talk, that isn't talked about enough."

People aren't willing to pay what restaurants need

"If we can't pay the right amount for foods when it comes in the back door, to farmers, purveyors, cheesemakers, winemakers, et cetera, and we can't charge what it is, then the system becomes untenable, too brittle, and it collapses," Andrew Zimmern told Sean Evans between molten bites of "Hot Ones"' famously (or perhaps, infamously) spicy sauces. He was referring to the fact that restaurateurs walk a fine line between charging enough to cover their costs, and charging so much that customers scoff and go elsewhere.

To illustrate his point, Zimmern mentioned his friend and former colleague, Traci Des Jardins. Des Jardin, who ran an upscale restaurant in San Francisco called Jardiniére (via StarChefs). He recalled Des Jardins revealing that while her rent costs had risen by 4,000% over the 25 years that she ran her restaurant, the price of the "chicken dish" on her menu had only increased by about $4 over the same time period. According to Zimmern, Des Jardins had thought that maybe raising the prices on her menu would be a way to give her employees the benefits they desperately needed; things like paid sick leave. "I'm very, very worried about our food system, because we're not paying the right price for food, we're losing farmers by the thousands and replacing them by the single digits, and it's going to come to a head," Zimmern said ominously. A hot take fit for a hot wings champ.