People get the mistaken impression that the Triangle — with the state government in Raleigh, the pharmaceutical firms of the Research Triangle Park, and the major research centers of Duke, NC State and UNC — is recession-proof, says NC State economist Michael Walden.
But the area is also heavily dependent on the technology and financial services sectors, both of which were hit hard in 2001 and would likely suffer in another recession, he says.
"So we do go through economic swings just like the rest of the nation," he says.
At the Chapel Hill caterer, bookings have remained stable. But Walton has noticed some effects from the slowdown.
People aren't cutting back on the food they request, but they are being more conservative — maybe opting not to have as many waiters or to run the bar themselves.
"It's not as simple to say they're not choosing our upscale Menu No. II; they're picking moderate priced Menu No. III," he says. "In the long run, if the economy continues to tank or continues to find a further bottom, we may see more people who drop out of our level of entertaining."