by Brian Clarey

Let’s just say it: Times are tough out there. Early this week comes news that Ham’s Restaurants will close its flagship restaurant off Friendly Avenue in Greensboro as part of its reorganization under Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This comes on the heels of the news that 223 South Elm has closed, and though it wasn’t a casualty of the recession — this one was more of a landlord-tenant dispute — a restaurant with that name would have a hard time at any other location.

Time for Triad restaurateurs to think outside the box, like Casa Sanchez in California’s Bay Area, which resurrected a 1999 promotion offering one free taco a day for life to the first 50 customers to get its mascot Jimmy the Cornman tattooed anywhere on their bodies. So far three have signed up.

Denny’s now has a value menu. DQ sells half-size Blizzards. Chipotle is implementing solar panels at 75 of its locations.

Even Chili’s is shaking things up, undergoing renovations and menu revamps in its restaurants nationwide.

Meanwhile, here in the Triad, we press on. On Thursday, learn Cooking with Chocolate at Whole Foods Market with Chef Kevin at 6 p.m. Just $10 gets you a lesson in four courses, just one of which is dessert. Call 336.722.9233 for a reservation.

Saturday looks packed, with a WSJS Yard Sale at Piedmont Triad Farmers Market beginning at 7 a.m. — the first event of the season. The Fresh Market holds a cooking demo between 3 and 6 p.m. featuring mango pork and pineapple tacos with avocado cream and a side of red quinoa and poblano salad. And Charlie Headington hosts Introduction to Permaculture Gardening at 10 a.m. at his Greensboro home. The five-hour course is $80 for adults, $40 for students and promises to teach a practice that “that restores your land, integrates your home with your land, and creates a four-season landscape of food, ponds, diversity, and people places.” Reserve a seat by calling 336.273.7292 or e-mailing charlie’­ to reserve a space.

And Saturday night Liberty Steakhouse & Brewery in High Point hosts an oyster roast to benefit the Arc of High Point, which advocates for people with developmental disabilities.

And all weekend long, Total Wine & More will hold tastings of Rhone wines at all three Triad locations. None of them will be served from a box.