It would be an understatement to say that the world as we knew it has been flipped on its head. Our habits and behaviors have changed. That includes everything down to the very basic level of the food we eat and the restaurants we love to eat at. As a working family of chefs, we have a deep passion for the experience of sharing a meal. It bonds us together as people, creates opportunities to deepen relationships and often provides the ingredients (pardon the pun) to build lasting memories.
Restaurants have long served as our communal gathering space. The spaces have become bigger than just a place to go out for a special occasion. They have integrated themselves into a part of our everyday lives. From 2015 to our recent pre-corona times, Americans spent more money at restaurants than they did on groceries. With distancing measures and a changed culture, how will these places look in years to come?
It’s the sad reality, but we can expect many heartbreaking closures. Independent restaurants account for two thirds of restaurants in America. It’s the independent guys, our local spots and cherished eateries that are struggling the most right now. Supporting your beloved restaurants and treating yourself to your favorite menu item, to go is a win-win for you and your community.
One thing seems obvious, delivery and curbside pick up are here to stay. There is so much untapped potential in the realm of virtual and mobile technologies relating to how we experience restaurants. With a generation who is increasingly expecting an “on demand” lifestyle with everything from movies on Netflix to toilet paper delivered to your doorstep, it’s time that restaurants catch up. While third party delivery apps have gained traction in recent years, we can expect to see some creativity as restaurants desire more revenue control and direct engagement with patrons.
This pandemic has exposed many of the flaws and inequalities in the entire structure of the restaurant industry. The emergence of a new system appears to be a necessity. Many chefs and restaurateurs are anticipating the disappearance of tips in favor of stable wages. This disappearance would equalize pay between front of house and back of house, Ann Hsing, COO of Dialogue and Pasjoli in Los Angeles explained to FoodandWine.com. Paid sick leave and access to health care are also concepts that many in the industry are expecting to become reality as we emerge from lock-down a more health-conscious society.
In terms of menu offerings, chefs are predicting trends of simpler menus and an ever greater emphasis on hyper-local foods. Individuals who are practicing their at home cooking and recognizing what truly goes into the process of making bread will gain a greater appreciation for the craft. As a result of social distancing, people are craving a sense of connection more than ever. The intimacy of local farming and increase in self sufficient systems that don’t rely on a global food market are at play in shaping the new look of restaurants.
Ron Goodman, chef and partner at Ivy City Smokehouse in Washington, DC broke down the challenges the future holds:
“Damn, we have to create an atmosphere where our staffs feel like family and our customers feel like they are home cozy and relaxing by the their hearth; make food that is both nutritious, creative, and delectable; force our suppliers to begin to solve climate change with new and innovative sustainable solutions; be political fighters in the human rights movement; and we have to make money. Sounds like a breeze.”