Following an Eater tradition, we asked a group of restaurant critics, journalists, bloggers, and friends of the site to weigh in on the year in food. Their answers to the annual Year in Eater survey will be revealed in several posts. Next up, the dining pros talk about where the restaurant industry should move next.
Where do you think the restaurant industry should go next as it rebuilds?
Louiie Victa, Eater Vegas photographer and co-host of Two Sharp Chefs and a Microphone: Hopefully the pandemic would have taught us a few things about the restaurant industry that we didn’t use to pay attention to, that chefs, dishwashers, stewards, FOH staff, bartenders, and restaurant managers are in the business of serving and caring for their customers. They are essential workers and they also put their lives on the line so that you can instantly have your food or a great and unique dining experience. So I really hope that instead of making cuts in labor, pay, and healthcare, restaurants take this great opportunity to support and improve their staff’s quality of life. Or I hope patrons become generous with their tips, because industry people really need all the help and support they can get in order to rebuild.
Lorraine Moss, co-host of Two Sharp Chefs and a Microphone: Embrace the food that makes you feel passion. It was heartwarming and delicious when chef Sheridan Su opened Every Grain with a simple concept of lu rou fan, Taiwanese braised minced pork rice. The restaurant is dedicated to his mother and grandmother and what he enjoyed growing up. Everything tastes better when it comes from a place of love. You can feel it when you eat it.
Scott Roeben, Vital Vegas: My take is the same as with all businesses post-pandemic. The focus needs to be on providing value. It would be tough for service levels to get any higher in Las Vegas, so it has to be about providing exceptional experiences at accessible price points. Restaurants need to steer clear of annoying fees that have created a perception of nickel-and-diming over the last few years. There’s so much culinary talent in Las Vegas, let’s hope some of the folks who have left will return.
Melanie Lee, Eater Vegas: I’d love to see even more places offering expanded pick-up and family meal options for home. Even when things pick back up, I feel like there will be a lot of families who value their time at home more and having more family meal options will allow them the best of both worlds.
Bob Barnes, editor of The Las Vegas Food & Beverage Professional and Las Vegas writer for Gayot: Restaurants will need to continue to be flexible and find other ways to be profitable, such as takeout and delivery options and approachable price points.
Ken Miller, editor of Las Vegas Magazine: Keep everything they’ve adopted in place, including mask wearing and extra space between tables. Apart from that, I’m not sure.
Philip Tzeng, food blogger at Las Vegas Fill: Restaurants can get more creative in how they utilize their spaces. Socially distant dining does not have to be lame or a total buzzkill but could genuinely be fun and funny. Bubble spaces, crazy masks, super cool booths would all be features I would like to see.
Krista Diamond, freelance writer at Eater Vegas: I read an Anthony Bourdain interview where he was asked what the most important and overlooked food industry issue was, and he said racism. With that in mind, I think it’s worth examining how we can continue to make the restaurant industry more inclusive and equitable in the future.
Rob Kachelriess, Las Vegas writer at Thrillist: I’d like to see Strip resorts and restaurants reach out to the community in a meaningful way with locals-only specials, discounts and prix fixe menus. Of course free parking doesn’t hurt either. Caesars Entertainment went back to paid parking, but kept it free for Nevada residents. That’s the way it should’ve been all along.
Sonja Swanson, food and culture writer: I hope that pay disparities (along gender and racial lines, as well as front of house vs. back of house), and abuse in the kitchen are addressed as the industry rebuilds.
Susan Stapleton, editor of Eater Vegas: I hope there is more financial relief for restaurants in the near future. This pandemic is nowhere near over, and I hope that restaurants continue to come up with innovative ways to stay afloat while keeping staff and diners safe in the meantime. We’ll be here to tell their stories.
• All Year in Eater Coverage [ELV]