Restaurant Matches Strike Back

Restaurant Matches Strike Back

Food & Drink

Restaurant Matches Strike Back


By Cari Martens

The other night a colleague and I were on our way to have dinner at a nice white tablecloth restaurant. She’s a smoker, and was having difficulty getting her cigarette lighter to work that evening. No sweat, she figured, we’ll get some matches at the restaurant.

No such luck. The smoke-free eatery no longer carried matches.

That’s not at all unusual these days. The annual national sales of matches has declined from around $200 million back in the ‘70s, to about $30 million today. The fact that 31 states and the District of Columbia now have laws prohibiting smoking in restaurants has led to the plunge in sales.

But just lately, there seems to be a bit of a comeback going on, at least in the restaurant biz.

Writing for the New York Times, Katrina Heron reports that a number of fine dining establishments have brought back the familiar matchbook emblazoned with the restaurant’s logo, phone number and address (now, both brick and mortar and cyber). Among those cited in her story were Flora in Oakland, Calif., Pera in New York City, the Cheers bar in Boston, and Tavern on the Green in New York’s Central Park.

As Heron notes in her Times story, ‘In an era of instant information access and viral publicity, logo-bearing matches may have the edge as ambassadors that convey distinction in their very physicality.’ Heron quotes Jonathon Bradley, president of Bradley Industries, a manufacturer of matches based in Frankfort, Ill. ‘When matches are gone, people miss them and ask for them to be brought back. They’re collectibles,’ Bradley says.

Admit it. You’ve nabbed a few matchbooks or matchboxes as souvenirs from restaurants over the years. I know I have, and I’ve never been a smoker. It’s good to hear they’re coming back from the brink.

Because, hey, you never know when you might need to light the pilot light in your water heater.

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